Sources: Cuomo to announce state ethics deal

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has struck a tentative deal with legislative leaders on the major elements of an o

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has struck a tentative deal with legislative leaders on the major elements of an overhaul of ethics enforcement in state government, three people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

The tentative agreement, struck Thursday, was scheduled to be announced as early as Friday, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment before the announcement in New York City.

The reform will replace the current Commission on Public Integrity, created in 2007 under ethics reform by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who later left office in a call girl scandal.

The new agency would for the first time police the executive and legislative branches and lobbying. Lawmakers would have to disclose information about their law clients.

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said Thursday there was no final deal.

“This isn’t horseshoes — close doesn’t count,” Vlasto said. “We don’t yet have a deal.”

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos wasn’t available for comment Thursday, but a spokesman said talks were ongoing.

“While talks continue on a few outstanding issues, Senator Skelos is working extremely hard to forge an agreement with the governor and the Assembly on historic ethics reforms,” Skelos spokesman Scott Reif said. “We expect to make an announcement as soon as we have a final agreement.”

A request for comment left for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Thursday wasn’t immediately returned.

Last week Cuomo, Skelos and Silver announced a deal on a bill to cap the growth in property taxes, only to acknowledge after press reports that negotiations continued.

This week, Cuomo predicted the ethics deal would be announced before the end of the legislative session, which has eight days left. He said Wednesday he was “optimistic we are going to have accomplishments.”

“Ethics is a difficult, complex issue,” Cuomo said in a news conference. “It is an imposition on the legislators that they don’t now have. It’s disclosure that they don’t now do. The independent joint board that would have jurisdiction over the legislative and executive is complicated, so I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Cuomo made “cleaning up Albany” a major campaign theme. Since 2007, Spitzer and then-Comptroller Alan Hevesi resigned in disgrace, former Gov. David Paterson paid a fine to settle an ethics charge, former Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno was convicted of federal corruption charges, former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. was accused in corruption charges and several other lawmakers have been charged and investigated in state and federal investigations in an unprecedented string of cases.

Cuomo’s hammer in the talks was his threat to enact an investigatory commission to probe the Legislature similar to the historic Moreland Commission, which operated for decades. Under state law, a governor can establish the independent commission “to examine and investigate the management and affairs of any department, board, bureau or commission of the state.”

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