EDITORIAL: Let voters decide on ex-officials’ impeachment

Gov. Andrew Cuomo provides an update on COVID-19 on Monday in New York City.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo provides an update on COVID-19 on Monday in New York City.

There was no smoking gun in the state Assembly’s investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s conduct regarding sexual harassment allegations, his handling of the covid response and his efforts to publish a book about his leadership during the pandemic.

Most of that was already covered in the report issued by state Attorney General Letitia James earlier this year and reinforced in the text of testimony her office released earlier this month.

But the Assembly report, issued earlier this week, did provide more damning details, particularly into the timeline for the book deal and efforts to soften the impact of the administration’s nursing home policy.

All those reports combined have renewed calls to impeach the former governor.

The purpose of an impeachment trial in this case obviously wouldn’t be to remove him from office.

Seeing the political writing on the wall and perhaps trying to avoid the spectacle of an impeachment trial, Cuomo opted to resign in August.

The purpose, now, would be to ensure that he’s held officially accountable for his actions and to prevent him from holding any other public office in the future.

The ex-governor was still quite popular at the time of his resignation, and he has an aggressive public relations effort ongoing to fight the allegations. And when he left office, he had about $18 million remaining in his campaign fund, more than enough to support a return to office should he be able to restore his reputation.

But that wouldn’t sit well with some lawmakers, who feel the governor dodged responsibility for his actions by quitting before they could put him through an impeachment trial.

The state constitution is unclear about whether impeachment would extend to ex-office holders like Cuomo.

Some state lawmakers want to fix that by clarifying the definition of impeachment to include ex-officials and to subject them to the same trial and conditions of guilt as other officer holders.

One bill (S7336), sponsored by Queensbury state Sen. Dan Stec and cosponsored by local Sens. James Tedisco and Daphne Jordan, would amend the state constitution to extend the power of impeachment and trial of impeachment to any former office holder for offenses committed in office. It also would disqualify convicted individuals from holding public office in the future.

A companion bill has been filed in the Assembly by Glens Falls Assemblyman Matt Simpson, but doesn’t yet have a bill number.

While impeachment trials can be expensive, time-consuming and distracting, it is also important to hold unethical public officials accountable and prevent them from capitalizing on their popularity to take back their office. Any legislation should also specifically strip convicted officials of any pension or taxpayer-funded retirement.

Even if the Legislature passes the bill, voters in the state would still have the final say on whether to authorize the change.

Since the people are most affected by corruption, they should decide whether putting ex-public officials through the impeachment process is worth the time, effort and cost.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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