The shuttering of the Moreland Commission may have been “premature,” but there’s not proof it was a federal crime, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement this afternoon.
The commission, a panel of district attorneys empowered to root out corruption in state government, was created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo—who abruptly disbanded it just halfway into what he had said would be an 18-month term.
“After a thorough investigation of interference with the operation of the Moreland Commission and its premature closing, this Office has concluded that, absent any additional proof that may develop, there is insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime,” Mr. Bharara said in a statement.
Elkan Abramowitz, Mr. Cuomo’s attorney, said the executive chamber had been confident there’d been no crime.
“We were always confident there was no illegality here, and we appreciate the US Attorney clarifying this for the public record,” Mr. Abramowitz said.
Mr. Bharara seized the records of the commission, which had been looking into the outside income of lawmakers. He went on to prosecute Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver—Mr. Bharara has said he merged his ongoing investigation into Silver’s outside income with information from the Moreland Commission—and Senate Leader Dean Skelos, both of whom were convicted of fraud last year. He indicated today he’d keep following the leads in the Moreland files.
“We continue to have active investigations related to substantive inquiries that were being conducted by the Moreland Commission at the time of its closure,” he said.
But Mr. Bharara’s famous “stay tuned” remark had led many to wonder whether the governor was in his crosshairs—and it was widely reported that the prosecutor had been investigating the closing of the commission itself. Mr. Cuomo has said he closed the commission because he achieved his goal of enacting ethics reform in the State Legislature—legislation that most good government groups say did not go far enough, particularly after the convictions of Silver and Skelos.
In July 2014, the New York Times published an investigative report showing a top aide to Mr. Cuomo had directed prosecutors to pull back a subpoena of a company that had done business with the governor, among other examples of alleged interference with the commission. Both houses of the legislature—led at the time by Silver and Skelos—also sued to block the commission’s subpoenas.
The decision not to pursue charges in the Moreland probe comes just days before Mr. Cuomo is set to deliver his State of the State address in Albany. Last year, Mr. Bharara indicted Silver just days after the speech.
Mr. Cuomo may still have to “stay tuned” yet—Mr. Bharara is also reportedly investigating the contracting in Mr. Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” economic development program.