New York needs a Knapp-like commission to find the root causes of two successive corruption scandals involving the State Police and the governor's office and to prevent it from happening again, says Assemb. Hakeem Jeffries.
The Brooklyn Democrat says he will be seeking legislation "to address systematic misconduct and the recurrence of political interference infecting the law enforcement activity" of the State Police, and will outline his plans Sunday.
The legislation would create a panel to investigate the State Police's actions in both the current scandal that prompted Gov. David A. Paterson to bow out of this fall's gubernatorial race, as well as allegations involving the State Police that arose under Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
"It would be like the Knapp Commission," said Lupe Todd, a Jeffries spokeswoman, referring to a panel that investigated police corruption in New York City in the early 1970s.
Allegations that Paterson and State Police officials interfered in a case involving a Bronx woman who said she'd been assaulted by a Paterson aide prompted a public furor that led to Paterson on Friday to quitting the race for governor. Saturday, The New York Times reported that the commander of Paterson's State Police detail contacted the woman on at least three occasions. Paterson vows he did nothing wrong and has refused calls for his resignation.
Although state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office is currently investigating the Paterson matter and previously issued a critical report about Spitzer's use of the State Police, Jeffries' spokeswoman said such a panel was necessary to prevent such scandals in the future.
A state attorney general spokesman declined to comment Saturday on Jeffries' proposal, and State Police officials could not be reached.
African-American and Hispanic leaders, many longtime friends of Paterson, met Saturday at Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem to explore ways of making his remaining days in office productive. The group, convened by the Rev. Al Sharpton, agreed to seek a meeting with Paterson to discuss "how to cohesively move forward" on the budget, economic development, education and other issues, according to a statement from Sharpton.
In the meantime, the political fallout from Paterson's announcement last week has left Cuomo as the clear-cut favorite for the Democratic nomination for governor. Saturday, Erie County Democrats called on Cuomo, still undeclared, to formally announce his candidacy.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy says he has no immediate plans to enter the gubernatorial race. He had considered jumping into a Democratic primary race with Cuomo and Paterson until the governor announced he wouldn't seek re-election.
But in the wake of Paterson's decision, numerous sources in the GOP say that Levy may wind up replacing Rick Lazio as the GOP's nominee for governor, particularly if Levy decides to switch parties and organizes a bid to run under the GOP, Conservative and Independent party lines.
John A. Graziano, chair of the Albany County GOP, said Saturday that he''s "all but formally endorsed" Levy for governor, and wants him to change his party affiliation and run as a Republican against likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee Cuomo.