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BatteryPark.TV has been the only source to report on the conflicts of interest and ineptness within JCOPE: the “ethics commission” created by Governor Cuomo and Sheldon Silver. Not only should JCOPE had investigated the BPCA for various scandals yet failed to do so, but the President of the BPCA, Shari Hyman, is married to the head of JCOPE , creating conflicts of interest.
Now, in the wake of the arrest of Sheldon Silver, and the controversial closure of the Moreland Commission by Governor Cuomo, critics in Albany are pointing to JCOPE as a sham organization. Daniel J. Horwitz, husband of the BPCA’s Shari Hyman, runs JCOPE, and he was the defense lawyer for the convicted Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff. (Yes. You read that correctly. The man in charge of ethics oversight for the State of New York defended the biggest crook in the history of New York).
The WSJ reports, “When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo helped create the Joint Commission on Public Ethics in 2011, he hailed it as part of his plan to clean up Albany, calling it “a true independent monitor to investigate corruption.”
In the halls of the Capitol, however, some Democratic and Republican legislators refer to it as “J-Joke,” a derisive play on its acronym, JCOPE.
JCOPE was created by Messrs. Cuomo and Silver, both Democrats, and Republican Senate President Dean Skelos early in the governor’s first term as part of the “Clean Up Albany Act.” A 14-member, full-time, taxpayer-funded commission, JCOPE is tasked with rooting out public corruption in state government.
The agency is responsible for reviewing annual ethics disclosure forms from lawmakers, but JCOPE first learned of a federal investigation into Mr. Silver’s outside income from media reports, members said.
The agency has been embarrassed, one member said. “I don’t think we’re satisfied we’ve done a good job.”
Some in Albany said the agency from the start has been hamstrung by its structure, which calls for the governor and legislative leaders to appoint commissioners. Letizia Tagliafierro, the commission’s executive director, is a former Cuomo administration official. JCOPE members are also allowed to veto the agency’s investigations, and its meetings are often closed-door, members said.
The governor’s office is under federal investigation for its handling of a separate ethics agency called the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption. The governor shut down that commission in a deal with legislative leaders, which he said paved the way for new ethics laws. His office has said it is cooperating with the federal investigation.”