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Senate, Assembly told to preserve Moreland records

ALBANY -- U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has told New York's Legislature to preserve all its records related to the Moreland anti-corruption commission, which had been investigating legislators.

Spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo didn't immediately respond to repeated requests for comment Tuesday on whether the governor's office received a similar notice.

The U.S. Attorney is requiring Assembly and Senate members and their staffs to preserve "all records and documents (whether in paper or electronic form, and including documents stored on personal e-mail accounts and electronic devices) related in any way to the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption," according to memos obtained by Newsday.

Officials confirmed written memos were sent to Assembly and Senate members Tuesday. The Assembly memo was first reported by the Daily News.

"We are happy to comply," said Michael Whyland, spokesman for the Democratic majority and Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

"We are complying and we're moving forward with it," said Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Republicans, who share power in that chamber with a small group of Democrats.

Members of the Moreland Commission also have been told by Bharara to retain all of their records. The commission has hired a defense attorney at state expense to close operations and turn over cases to Bharara, Cuomo confirmed Tuesday before the U.S. Attorney's Office order was made public.

"The commission is disbanded, but it still has work to do," Cuomo said in Manhattan. "It's in the process of referring cases to other offices and follow up on those referrals. So that's an important part of the job and closing it down in the right way."

Cuomo abruptly ended the Moreland Act commission in March after he struck a political deal with the Legislature for some of his ethics proposals. He had created the commission a year ago and it had begun several investigations into the Legislature before it was disbanded.

The cases were turned over to Bharara and his Southern District office based in Manhattan. In an April radio interview, Bharara didn't rule out investigating the governor's office.

The federal probe involving the Moreland commission has become a topic in the governor's race. Cuomo promised in his 2010 campaign to clean up Albany and has enacted two packages of ethics measures.

"If your commission did nothing wrong, then why did it just hire criminal defense attorneys?" asked Rob Astorino, the Republican nominee for governor.

Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa had said: "The Moreland Commission was designed and formed to be a short-term, temporary commission to recommend and spur legislative action, which it did successfully."

The "litigation hold notice" to the Senate and Assembly obtained by Newsday called for retention of all records related to the Moreland Commission's "funding, formation, operation, management and dissolution" and records related to all "actual or potential" investigations.

The order involves more than papers. It requires retention of all emails as well as "back-up tapes, digital media, servers, portable hard drives, thumb drives, and audio and visual records such as voicemail messages, videotapes, and CDs."

"Outside counsel has advised us that failure to comply may result in court-ordered sanctions," the Assembly memo obtained by Newsday said.

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