More from Moreland a Must

More from Moreland a Must

More from Moreland a Must
January 30, 2014

With the next legislative session in Albany right around the corner and a flurry of important bills on the horizon, it could be easy to lose sight of the critical ongoing work of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.

Let us not forget that the report issued by the Commission on Dec. 2 was, as intended from the outset, solely a preliminary synopsis of its findings. Though Gov. Cuomo officially announced the Commission on July 2, it was not until mid-fall that it was fully staffed, meaning that the Commission had only a little more than a month of operating at its fullest capacity prior to having to meet its mandated report deadline.

There is still a lot to be done. The areas the Commission is probing are highly sensitive and complex, and populated by players whose self-interest lie in stymieing the Commission’s ability to pull back the curtain on them. The Commission still needs more time to delve into the practices of the lobbying industry, to assess the influence of real estate interests on policies like the 421a tax exemption, and to offer specific recommendations as to how to reform the woefully inept and institutionally corroded New York State Board of Elections.

Then there is the glaring omission of any mention of the Committee to Save New York in the Commission’s preliminary report. The Commission needs to have the opportunity to address CSNY to clear the air of any allegations that the governor has tried to meddle with the independent body, and to put to rest the accusation that the Commission was called into existence purely to conduct a witch hunt in the state Legislature.

Another valuable reason for the Commission to continue its work in 2014 is so it can monitor Albany while it is in action, grappling with difficult decisions that must be made with the utmost care and transparency, like casino licensing, a particularly vulnerable and tempting process to manipulate, as we saw with the shameful way the AEG bid was handled during the Paterson administration.

Those who have criticized the Commission for not turning up any bombshells through their investigations to date have unrealistic expectations (and, I would argue from having attended the devastating grilling of BoE officials in Manhattan, are also wrong). Serious investigations take time. The Commission’s charge is not just to expose activity that is illegal but also to bring to light that which is currently permissible but probably shouldn’t be.

Who believes that a labor of this magnitude can be wrapped up in a month or two? Cleaning up the Augean Stables was a cinch compared with taking on all the ordure in Albany.

Morgan Pehme