NY ethics agency refers alleged Cuomo leak to AG for investigation
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo may be out of office, but his legal troubles aren’t over just yet.
An alleged leak to Cuomo from someone inside JCOPE, the
state’s ethics agency, about a private vote regarding alleged
misconduct by one of his top aides was referred for a criminal
investigation to the Attorney General’s Office Thursday.
Members of JCOPE also voted to refer a separate, but related, investigation to the AG’s office over the state Inspector General’s probe into the alleged leak, which came up empty.
The votes came a day after Democrats in the state Legislature held a public hearing on how to strengthen the state’s ethics laws and enforcement, including JCOPE. Lawmakers are weighing a replacement for the agency.
At Thursday’s meeting, some members of JCOPE wanted to discuss the leak in executive session, which means the commission closes deliberations to the public so members can speak privately. But that didn’t happen.
A majority of commissioners voted to discuss the matter in public session, rather than executive, after Wednesday’s hearing from the Legislature.
“Every detail of that leak was stated in open session at the New York state Legislature,” said JCOPE Commissioner Marvin Jacob. “You flip over to this morning, we come into a meeting at JCOPE and we have objections around the table that we can't talk about it because it's confidential. Well, that simply doesn't line up well."
First reported by the Times Union, the leak allegedly came from someone inside JCOPE to Cuomo, who was told about a commissioner’s vote in support of an investigation into one of his top aides. Cuomo then allegedly called Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to complain about that vote.
The commissioner whose vote was leaked to Cuomo had been appointed to JCOPE by Heastie. That was important, because the vote was over whether to investigate Joseph Percoco, who was considered one of Cuomo’s closest confidants at the state capitol.
Percoco had been accused of using space in Cuomo’s state government office in New York City and its phone line, while running Cuomo’s 2014 reelection campaign. Percoco had taken a leave from the administration to run that campaign.
That information first came out in testimony during a federal corruption trial against Percoco, who was ultimately convicted of accepting bribes from entities with business before the state while he served in the Cuomo administration.
There were also questions about whether Cuomo knew Percoco was allegedly using state resources at the time and didn’t take action against his former aide.
After the leak came to light, the state Inspector General’s Office opened an investigation. The probe reportedly concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to substantiate the claim that the leak to Cuomo had come from within JCOPE.
Now, the state Attorney General’s Office will probe both the leak and how the Inspector General’s Office went about investigating its origin.