Do state legislators have even the slightest idea of how they are perceived? Do they realize that the New York State government remains a world-class embarrassment, even after years of promises to clean up Albany?
Apparently not. Here’s the latest—you may recall that last year four women filed sexual-harassment allegations against Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez. There was some question about how Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office handled the complaints. A full and impartial investigation was ordered, and rightly so.
Now legislators are demanding the opportunity to edit the results of the full and impartial investigation conducted by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a state agency. Apparently, the lawmakers fear that the investigation was just a little too full and impartial.
Here’s the worst part: the co-chairs of the bipartisan Legislative Ethics Commission are behind the effort to edit—some might say “censor”—the as-yet-unreleased report about the Lopez scandal. Reports indicate that lawmakers object to any discussion of how the Lopez matter was handled, even though that was the impetus for the investigation in the first place.
All of this is unfolding in the midst of a corruption scandal that has led to the arrest of several top-ranking legislators in recent weeks. If legislators are worried about public perception, they have an odd way of showing it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, an old Albany hand, knows that legislators are not keen about outsiders snooping around the Capitol. As The Observer reported, the governor doesn’t want what he dubbed “Scandalmania” hijacking his agenda. That’s why his recent threat to empanel a Moreland Commission—an independent investigative body that could look into broad ethics complaints—was a shrewd one.
If lawmakers can’t be shamed into getting serious about ethics reform, the governor’s threat may simply force the issue.
Sadly, it may be the only way to change the culture in Albany.