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Court rules ethics commission violates state constitution

Sep 11, 2023 12:55 pm

Brendan J. Lyons reports in the Times Union that on Sept. 11 state Supreme Court Justice Thomas Marcelle ruled that New York’s new independent ethics commission violates the state constitution because it was formed without a constitutional amendment. Marcelle also said the ethics commission wrongly takes authority from the governor, and improperly administers and enforces ethics laws that are “the exercise of executive power belonging to the executive branch.” The ruling came in a case from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who wants to stop the ethics commission’s efforts to investigate a $5 million deal that he received for writing a book about his administration’s handling of the pandemic. The investigation is into whether Cuomo unethically used government staffers to work on his book rather than taxpayer business. Marcelle wrote, “Our constitution, which so carefully allocates power among the three branches, will not permit those powers to be transferred to (an) independent commission amounting to an unsanctioned fourth branch of government.... The government belongs to the people of the state of New York. They established it, and only they can alter it. … If the people should choose to be governed by those who are not politically accountable to them or their governor, who swear no oath of allegiance to them, and who come as a class composed of urban academics and who are not reflective of the cross-section of the people whom they govern, the people may do so. But it is for the people to decide and only the people. Here, the Legislature has done by statute what was required to be done by constitutional amendment.” Read more about this story in the Times Union.

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