Attorney General Letitia James visited Long Island Wednesday for conversations about opioid addiction, and met with the Newsday editorial board for a wide-ranging discussion regarding what she’s been up to during her first few months on the job. Wednesday marked her 100th day in office, James said.
Besides the opioid crisis, James said she’s focused locally on zombie homes and wage theft, among a host of other issues. She’s also studying the claims the state must pay out due to bad behavior by state officials and employees. At the top of her list: the state Department of Corrections. James said she’s working with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to establish an accountability program so she can analyze the amount of claims the state is paying out, and whether there are ways to catch or change poor behavior, through retraining and other means, before it ends up costing state taxpayers.
In the course of her discussion with the editorial board, James answered questions sent by Point subscribers. In response to one about housing diversity and exclusionary zoning codes, James noted that it often takes a referral to get a case started regarding civil rights violations in housing, but that she’s also attuned to the issue and looks for ways to make a case from what she hears at town hall meetings and discussions with her regional representatives.
In response to a question regarding the attorney general’s lawsuit against 3M and other manufacturers of harmful chemicals known as PFOA and PFOS, found in firefighting foam and other products, James said she had no estimate of how much it would cost to clean up the toxins on Long Island or around the state but that she is “seeking some financial damages.” She noted that the litigation came out of specific regional offices, but she could amend the complaint to reflect Long Island or statewide pollution if warranted.
But even as she works on those local issues, James’ attention is drawn also to federal topics, from the environment and the Affordable Care Act to the Census and entities affiliated with President Donald Trump. She said the state is negotiating with the Trump Foundation to come to a settlement that would dissolve the charity, ban individuals involved with it from being on other non-profit boards -- including Trump family members -- and distribute any assets to other, reputable charities.
The next big date on James’ calendar: April 23, when she will head down to Washington to hear Supreme Court arguments in the Census case, in which New York is taking the lead among a coalition of 18 states. The case challenges the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.