Sometimes you discover a proposal for a state law in New York that makes you think, “You mean this isn’t already a law?”
That’s the case with a new bill proposed by state Sen. Daphne Jordan that should expand public access to documents in the governor’s office and other executive departments.
Right now, according to the bill sponsors, the law limits the types of documents that must be retained by the governor’s office to only a handful, including daily journals and documents related to clemency. Beyond that, the governor has wide discretion to determine what records he retains and what he doesn’t.
Given the numerous scandals plaguing the outgoing Cuomo administration, securing documents and making them available to the public and the judiciary is crucial to exposing malfeasance and ensuring that purveyors of unethical or illegal activity are brought to justice.
That’s why Jordan’s bill requiring that more documents be preserved is needed.
The bill (S7334) would require that records of the executive branch — including the governor’s office and its agencies, commissions and departments — would have to be retained for at least two years. That would include all paper and electronic records, including emails.
In the past, Cuomo’s office eschewed email communications in favor of Blackberry PIN-to-PIN messaging — which allowed him, his staff and department heads to avoid having to reveal the content of the messages, since PIN-to-PIN messages were not saved to servers and could not be retrieved after being deleted, as emails can.
In addition, the bill requires that any materials that might be ‘reasonably related” to anticipated litigation be retained for at least five years, or two years after the threat of litigation has passed.
Asking executive departments to retain such documents isn’t too much to ask, given the complexity of state government and the potential for improper or illegal activity going undiscovered.
So far, the bill only has Republican cosponsors, including North Country Sen. Dan Stec, and no Assembly sponsors.
With Democrats controlling the Legislature, it’s easy to see why this bill wouldn’t have a chance.
But Democrats might find such records helpful should they one day want to uncover corruption of the opposing party.
And by showing support for this bill, incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul would demonstrate her commitment to transparency in her own administration.
This is good, common-sense legislation that should have been in place well before now.
It can’t wait any longer.