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Croci calls for oversight of Cuomo panels that dole out aid

A Long Island senator has introduced a bill that would increase legislative oversight of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s appointees to regional economic-development councils which have handed out billions of dollars in state aid.

Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) said his proposal doesn’t stem from an ongoing federal probe of state-backed economic-development projects. But the investigation underscores the need for more oversight, he said. His proposal would make a governor’s appointments to the 10 regional councils subject to state Senate confirmation – and make them subject to the same financial disclosure law as legislators and other state officials.

“With what’s been going on, it’s just makes sense that anyone in contact with the distribution of billions of dollars in state aid should be held to the same standards as other state officials,” Croci said. Currently, “there’s no oversight of the REDCs other than the executive branch.”

Cuomo’s office didn’t immediately comment. Croci’s bill doesn’t have a sponsor yet in the Democrat-controlled state Assembly.

Federal investigators have subpoenaed Cuomo’s office, known as his “executive chamber,” as well as a number of state agencies, the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute and private businesses as part of a probe of state-supported projects.

Cuomo launched the economic-development councils in 2011, saying it would provide a better and more competitive way to distribute certain amounts of state aid to localities. Legislators have complained the process cuts them out and gives the governor control of discretionary spending.

“Due to the fact that the Regional Economic Development Councils were never formally adopted in to statute, the governor has had the unrestricted ability to appoint the individuals who are responsible for determining the future of the state’s economic development,” Croci wrote in a memo accompanying the bill.

“Further, because the individuals who are unilaterally appointed by the governor are not subject to the financial disclosure requirements of the public officers law, there is no means of ensuring that these individuals are serving the best interests of the state, and not engaging in,” he continued. “Finally, by subjecting members of the regional economic development council to the code of ethics, we can ensure that the members are acting in the best interest of the state. The public must trust that their tax dollars are being allocated in a manner that best serves the interests of our great state.”

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