ALBANY — The state ethics board under a court order confirmed Thursday that it took a vote on whether a former Cuomo aide should be investigated for using state offices and resources while running the governor’s re-election campaign.
But the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics board still won’t say what that vote called for.
“I was present at a meeting of the commission on Jan. 29, 2019, at which time a vote was taken on whether to commence a substantial basis investigation based on the complaints,” stated JCOPE’s general counsel, Monica Stamm, in a letter to the court dated Thursday.
JCOPE spokesman Walter McClure wouldn’t comment further.
State Republican Party chairman Ed Cox had lodged the complaint involving Joseph Percoco, the former top aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo until his corruption conviction last year, and brought the issue to state Supreme Court in Albany to force JCOPE to vote.
“JCOPE’s actions, despite hard evidence, including sworn testimony from the federal Percoco trial, to continuously protect Governor Cuomo from prosecution have been nothing short of corrupt,” Cox said Thursday. “They are making a mockery of our legal system and we will not rest until justice has been served.”
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the governor knew nothing of Percoco's activities and would cooperate fully in any investigation.
The case stems from testimony in the corruption trial of Percoco. In that trial, Cuomo officials confirmed that Percoco, while he was Cuomo’s campaign manager, routinely used his former office and state resources while Percoco was on leave from his state job. Prosecutors said Percoco used the office at least 68 days from May 2014 to December 2014, making 837 phone calls on state phones.
In March, Percoco was convicted of taking more than $300,000 in bribes from developers who handled state contracts and whose principals were big donors to Cuomo’s campaigns. Cuomo was never accused of wrongdoing.
“If anyone denies that JCOPE is broken and busted now, they are delusional,” said David Grandeau, the former executive director of the state Lobbying Commission that was dissolved to create JCOPE.
Cuomo created JCOPE in 2011 as a new board to handle ethical behavior as well as enforcement of lobbying laws. But JCOPE was quickly criticized by good-government groups for its rules, which allows it to keep complaints and investigations secret unless someone is sanctioned, exempts itself from the state Freedom of Information Law, and allows a member to block a probe that could be aimed at the leader who appointed the board member. An original member, Ravi Batra, resigned because he said JCOPE, headed and staffed mostly by former Cuomo staffers, was too close to the governor.