JCOPE going on with investigation into sexual harassment allegations
The state ethics commission is now fully investigating a scandal in Albany that began with sexual harassment allegations against Assemblyman Vito Lopez. But the embattled agency had some false starts before approving that investigation. As our Zack Fink reports, some have already lost confidence in the commission.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- After meeting for the second time in the wake of the Lopez scandal, ethics commissioners voted for an investigation and then finished their meeting on Monday by saying they're on the right track.
"I have higher hopes for this than anything I have seen in government before. I see no hidden agendas," JCOPE Commissioner Mary Lou Rath said.
But some say the agency known as JCOPE is already tainted.
"That meeting yesterday restored the confidence that the public's supposed to have in JCOPE? I'm afraid not," consultant David Grandeau said.
Not only did it take a couple of meetings to approve a full investigation into the Lopez allegations, which includes the Assembly Speaker's role in approving a secret settlement, but at times it has seemed like the leaders who appointed the commissioners were calling the shots. The commission is supposed to be independent.
Grandeau said, "It's unseemly when the governor says he thinks you should investigate somebody and within two days, we are having an emergency meeting to do just that."
Ravi Batra, who was appointed to JCOPE by Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, quit Friday after hearing the governor say this.
"John Sampson appointed some members. And yeah, I think everyone is responsible for the people they appointed," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
Batra said, “My choice was either serve on JCOPE enslaved without any independence or quit."
There are some who believe that even if JCOPE does a thoughtful and thorough investigation, people will still be able to dismiss its findings by pointing to its early stumblings.