Opinion

New York’s ‘ethics watchdog’ is worthless by design


New York state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics sounds like the body to look into the Cuomo nursing-home scandals, but it (sadly) is of little use in any anti-corruption efforts — especially when it comes to the governor, who basically controls it.

The panel’s chairman, a Cuomo appointee, stepped down Wednesday and is slated to be replaced by an ex-staffer to the gov. Yes, new chief Camille Joseph Varlack is a respected attorney and consummate professional, but JCOPE is toothless by design, as the 12 political appointees that form the commission serve to block all real investigations.

In its first decade, JCOPE executive directors and top staff have routinely had ties to Gov. Cuomo as former aides, though Varlack’s appointment marks the first time that JCOPE’s chair is an alumnus of Camp Cuomo.

Last year, a group of state legislators led by Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) introduced a constitutional amendment to give JCOPE teeth by making five of its members be appointed by judges and just four by elected officials. It may not be the best answer, but without big changes the “ethics” commission will be useless against Albany’s culture of influence peddling and corruption.


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