Eric Schneiderman

Schneiderman Definitively Says He’s Not Running For Governor

Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at Thursday’s Politico New York lunch gave a definitive answer when asked, directly, about whether he would run for governor in 2018.

The answer? A straight-up no.

In an interview with Politico New York’s Capitol bureau chief Jimmy Vielkind, Schniederman ruled out running to succeed incumbent Andrew Cuomo.

“Can you rule out a run for governor in 2018?” Vielkind asked, according to a video of the event.

The AG responded: “Yeah, I’m not running for governor in 2018.”

The statement was a little overshadowed, in part, due to the ongoing dispute between Schneiderman’s office and online fantasy sports websites he has sent cease-and-desist letters to in recent days.

Cuomo, a Democrat first elected in 2010, has signaled he intends to run for a third term that year, re-naming his campaign committee as such, while a former top aide predicted the governor would seek a third term as well.

On the GOP side, 2014 nominee Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, is considering running again, while Rep. Chris Gibson said in an interview this week he is “very seriously” considering a run for governor as well.

Schneiderman: ‘No Hatians’ Newspaper Ad Discriminatory

schneidermanAttorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Monday released a letter sent to the president of a health-care company that in a job placement ad that called for “no Hatians” to apply, warning the company that it was illegal to discriminate in hiring practices.

The newspaper ad was placed by Interim Healthcare Inc. of Nanuet, a Rockland County-based company that had advertised for a “laid back nurse, Haitians.”

Assistant Attorney General Diane Lucas in a letter to company president Katherine McNally wrote the firm should turn over all relevant documents that led to the ad being written and placed.

“The advertisement violates federal and state civil laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring on the basis of national origin,” Lucas wrote in the letter.

Specifically, the attorney general’s office is calling on the company to turn over documents pertaining to “remedial steps” it has taken after the ad was published, including efforts to discontinue it and revisions to future ads.

The AG’s office is also seeking documents related to the advertisement’s origin and who at the company was responsible for placing it.

“If Interim Healthcare is unable to respond to any inquiry in full, please provide all available responsive information and a detailed explanation as to why a more complete response is not possible,” Lucas wrote.

The ad was printed in the Oct. 15 edition of the New City Pennysaver.

Here’s the letter:

Ad Letter by Nick Reisman

Erie County Executive Explains Investigation; AG’s Office Says Case Closed

It was story that around lunchtime appeared to have the potential to shake-up the race for Erie County Executive.  Just hours later, the Attorney General’s office seemed to mute the “alarm bells” Mark Poloncarz’s opponent was ringing.

The report, which was published online by City and State NY, detailed an AG investigation into the Erie County Department of Public Works.  Specifically, the report referenced wrongdoing by county employees, failing to competitively bid the first two phases of a reconstruction project.

“He has an obligation to come out and say what he knew, when he knew it and why he’s been keeping it a secret for the last four years,” said Poloncarz’s GOP Challenger Ray Walter.

Just minutes after Walter’s Tuesday afternoon press conference wrapped up Poloncarz called one of his own to, as Walter put it, “say what he knew.”

“I run a clean administration and people are out there trying to use this, especially since it’s election season to say Mark Poloncarz’s administration was involved in an investigation.  My administration uncovered the information and the evidence that pertains to potential improprieties,” Poloncarz said.

According to Poloncarz, the accusations date back to 2010 and 2011, under the administration of former County Executive Chris Collins.  After installing his own DPW Commissioner and Highway Department personnel, he said possible falsified claims for Consolidated Highway Improvement Program or C.H.I.P.S were brought to light.

The county, working with the State Department of Transportation, re-appropriated $2.5 million of questionable reimbursements to other projects.  Rather than go public Poloncarz decided to turn things over to the Attorney General.

“I didn’t want people to think that I was leading an investigation to basically kick dirt on the grave of Christopher Collins. I felt it was important that this matter be reviewed by an independent source,” Poloncarz said.

That source, the AG’s office, confirmed to Time Warner Cable News it did look into the matter.  A spokesperson released this statement:

“In January 2013, County Executive Mark Poloncarz requested that our office look into alleged past issues related to competitive bidding for projects at the Erie County Department of Public Works. After a thorough review, and with the full support and cooperation of County Executive Poloncarz, our office closed the case with no further action.”

Poloncarz told us to the best of his knowledge nobody who was under investigation still works for the county.  Poloncarz hopes speaking out will bring the matter to a close.

“I felt that the truth needed to get out and I didn’t want people to assume that my administration did something wrong because that’s not the case. We did nothing wrong.”

Walter still questions why a source told City and State that the target of the investigation was a “recently” terminated county worker. Following Poloncarz’s press conference a Walter spokesperson said “we look forward to further tough questions from the media.”

Former County Executive and current Congressman Chris Collins declined comment on the matter telling us it appeared everything had been cleared up.

Schneiderman Report Touts Foreclosure Progress

schneidermanA report released on Wednesday by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman touts the progress made on helping homeowners and families prevent foreclosures in the wake of the fallout from the housing crash of the last decade.

The reporting highlights three programs that Schneiderman’s office has undertaken that are designed to boost counseling, help families in the wake of a bank foreclosing on a home and an effort to provide mortgage loans that pay off mortgage arrears.

“This report is a sign of the great progress we have made in reaching tens of thousands of New York families in need of foreclosure relief,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The free, high-quality services provided by my office’s network of housing counselors and lawyers often mean the difference between a refinanced mortgage and homelessness. I will continue to work hard to give New York families a fair shot in their negotiations with the banks. The victims of the housing crisis deserve justice.”

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Cuomo Issues Executive Order For Turner Case

cuomonaacpGov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Monday issued an updated executive order to empower Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office to review, investigate and potentially prosecute law enforcement officials in connection to the death of Raynette Turner.

Turner, a 52-year-old Mount Vernon woman, died in a holding cell on July 27 while she was awaiting arraignment.

Schneiderman earlier in the day on Monday announced he would investigate the death of Turner under the powers of an executive order Cuomo issued earlier this year that supersedes the local district attorneys when it comes to the deaths of civilians related to police and law enforcement. More >

Schneiderman’s Office To Investigate Death Of Mount Vernon Woman (Updated)

schneidermanAttorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Monday announced it would investigate the death of Raynette Turner, a 42-year-old black woman who died on July 27 in a Mount Vernon holding cell.

The investigation is the first Schneiderman’s office is launching since Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order granting the attorney general special prosecutor status in police-related killings.

The executive order, which has been staunchly opposed by local district attorneys, gives Schneiderman’s office the authority to investigate and prosecute law enforcement-related deaths of civilians.

“My office’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit will investigate the death of Raynette Turner, consistent with Executive Order No. 147 and a conforming order to be issued by the Governor at my request,” Schneiderman said in a statement

More >

After Libous Conviction, AG Renews Ethics Reform Call

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office had a hand in the investigation that led to the conviction yesterday of now former Sen. Tim Libous, called the Binghamton Republican’s political demise “sad,” and said it should reignite calls for additional ethics reform in Albany.

“These cases are always sad cases,” Schneiderman said of his former Senate colleague during a CapTon interview last night. “To have someone who is supposed to be in public service, swears to uphold the public trust, found to be guilty of a crime, it’s never happy.”

“And it really is, again, another reminder, in my view, that the structure in Albany has to be dramatically changed if you’re going to change the culture,” the AG continued.

“It’s really something that has been happening way too often, and it’s not going to stop. I proposed some very drastic reforms myself, proposed legislation. And I think either that or something like that has to happen, or people will continue to be investigated, and the public trust will be further eroded.”

In the wake of the corruption scandal that brought down former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver at the beginning of this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a package of ethics reform measures and vowed to force the Legislature’s hand in accepting it as part of this year’s budget deal – even if that meant shutting down the government.

In the end, however, Cuomo comprised on ethics reform.

He focused mostly on more disclosure of lawmakers’ outside income, got some – but not all – of what he wanted, and ended up with changes that good government advocates and others said were not significant enough to really address Albany’s pervasive corruption problem.

Schneiderman went considerably further in his ethics reform proposals, which included a call to ban moonlighting by state lawmakers and giving them a big pay raise to compensate for their lost outside income.

The AG called on Cuomo to stick to his guns on reform, saying a late budget would be a “small price to pay” for systemic change in Albany.

After Libous’ conviction of a single felony count of lying to the FBI about using his public post to get his son, Matthew, a job at a politically connected law firm – a decision that automatically ejected him from his Senate seat – six good government groups renewed their call for a special legislative session to address ethics reform.

The groups said the failure to address outstanding issues – like closing the LLC loophole in the campaign finance law, which is now the subject of a lawsuit by some of the same entities – is “indefensible” and “shockingly irresponsible”, and the governor should demand the Legislature’s speedy return to Albany.

Schneiderman declined to go quite that far.

“I think that there is a lot more support than people think in the Legislature itself for dramatic reforms,” the AG said. “A lot of the younger members in particular from the Senate and Assembly have said to me, ‘Yeah, we actually like this idea,’…we’ve got to hermetically seal them off, to the extent we can, from money in government and from money in politics.”

“…Albany has become a place where everyone drives 90 miles an hour, and if you pull them over, their first reaction is not, ‘Oh, I’m breaking the law,’ it’s, ‘Why are you pulling me over? Everyone here drives 90 miles an hour.’ It’s something that really has to be shaken up in a big way, and I think the sooner the better.”

The AG declined to criticize Cuomo for failing to wrest a more significant reform deal from the Legislature, saying the governor had a “lot of things on his plate” and an unusually difficult legislative session that saw the ouster of not one, but two conference leaders as a result of corruption scandals.

“I do think that support is building, and will continue to build,” Schneiderman said. “And this is going to end with a bigger reform movement, it’s going to end with some kind of comprehensive reform. Otherwise, this is going to keep happening.”

“And I tell this to my colleagues, most of whom are completely honorable public servants in the state Legislature: You’ve got to do something about this…this is the kind of stuff that makes people lose their confidence in government.”

Schneiderman defended himself – and Cuomo – for calling for closure of the LLC loophole and then turning around and using it to raise campaign cash by saying that unilateral disarmament is “not the right answer” and has “not worked traditionally.”

Schneiderman Confident He Can Work With DAs

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday said he was confident he will be able to smooth over differences with district attorneys around the state upset over an executive order empowering the AG’s office to investigate police-related killings of civilians.

“I’m confident we’re going to work something out,” Schneiderman said on The Capitol Pressroom. “It was met with some surprise and outrage by some DAs, but I think at the end of the day these are good public servants who want to see justice done.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this month granted Schneiderman’s office the power of special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute cases in which police kill civilians — a power the attorney general had sought since December following a grand jury declining to indict a police officer in the choke hold death of an unarmed black man on Staten Island.

The order was signed after Cuomo and state lawmakers could not agree on a package of legislative changes, such as new grand jury transparency requirements and a special monitor for cases in which civilians die in encounters with police.

Cuomo has said he will try again next year on a criminal justice bill. Schneiderman’s special prosecutor role expires after 12 months, but can be renewed.

But the move has been met with criticism and skepticism by district attorneys after Cuomo and Schneiderman raised concerns over whether the local prosecutors had a conflict of interest in seeking charges against police.

“When you hear the pain of those families you want to give them the comfort that there’s no perceived conflict of interest,” Schneiderman said in the interview.

Schneiderman’s office last week sent a memorandum and letter to district attorneys informing them they have the power to respond first in police-related killing cases, such as questioning witnesses and collecting evidence. They do not have the power, however, grant immunity or question witnesses before a grand jury.

DAs have raised the possibility of a legal challenge to the executive order and believe the memo from Schneiderman conflicts with the concern that prosecutors are too close with police.

But Schneiderman today insisted he’s trying to work with DAs to develop a system in which the public can have restored faith in the criminal justice system, which the AG said is in need of broader changes.

Schneiderman met with the statewide district attorneys association soon after the executive order was signed by Cuomo.

“I’ve been engaged with them since day one,” Schneiderman said. “We’ve been having a dialogue ever since with them. I’m confident this will be worked because these cases are too important.”

Schneiderman And DAs Trade Letters On Police Probe Authority

District attorneys are continuing to push back against an executive order that designates Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the special prosecutor in cases in which police kill civilians.

At the same time, Schneiderman in a letter to the president of the District Attorneys Association wrote this week that some members have sought to “create uncertainty where none is warranted.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week signed an executive order granting Schneiderman’s office special prosecutor status in police killing cases. The move was opposed by district attorneys, who criticized Cuomo’s claims that DAs have a “perceived” conflict in cases involving law enforcement.

Schneiderman, in turn, released a memorandum to the state’s 62 district attorneys lays out their role in cases in which police have killed a civilian.

The attorney general’s office, in sum, granted powers that were previously possessed by district attorneys such as questioning witnesses, drafting search warrants and preserving evidence.

However, the district attorney offices may not confer immunity on witnesses or elicit testimony in grand jury proceedings.

District attorneys have bristled at the memorandum, questioning why Schneiderman is, in essence, bestowing power to them they had prior to the executive order.

In a letter released by the district attorneys association, Broome County DA Gerald Mollen suggested Schneiderman’s memorandum and the executive order were in conflict.

“Beyond substantial legal concerns,” Mollen wrote in the letter dated Thursday, “remains the obvious logical inconsistency of superseding all 62 elected District Attorneys due to a perceived conflict of interest and loss of confidence, only to immediately designate them to perform crucial tasks at the most critical time in the investigation of one of these controversial incidents.”

Schneiderman’s office in response released its own letter that was sent on Wednesday in response to concerns raised by DAs.

The letter points out the then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in 1972 suspended the powers of DAs in New York City for certain corruption crimes over the course of five days — a move recommended by the Knapp Commission, which was upheld by the state Court of Appeals.

At the same time, Schneiderman wrote there is no legal restriction on DAs taking action begin an investigation in the wake of an incident in which a police officer kills a civilian.

If the DA fails to take action in the case it will be “because of the choice by the District Attorney not to take appropriate actions.”

Schneiderman’s office in a statement said the attorney general will continue to work with local district attorneys to enact the executive order.

“As we have consistently said, the Attorney General is working in good faith to cooperate with the District Attorneys to ensure the Executive Order is implemented in a way that promotes justice by ensuring a thorough and impartial review of any cases that arise,” said Schneiderman spokesman Damien LaVera.

Cuomo signed the executive order this month after state lawmakers could not agree on a package of criminal justice reforms that had been called for after a spate of incidents in which police had killed unarmed black men.

Speaking at a gathering of the NAACP this week, Cuomo said the executive order empowering Schneiderman as special prosecutor could be a national model.

DAASNY Mollen to AG Schneiderman 7 16 2015 FINAL .pdf by Nick Reisman

Schneiderman Mollen 071515 by Nick Reisman

In Memo, Schneiderman Outlines DAs Role (Updated)

A memorandum sent by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office to district attorneys around the state outlines their role in investigations involving police-related deaths of civilians.

The memo grants some powers — previously possessed by DAs — when it comes to specific cases, despite the executive order granting Schneiderman the role of special prosecutor.

The memo states that DAs may question witnesses, draft search warrants, preserve evidence, but may not confer immunity or elicit testimony in grand jury proceedings.

From the memo, which was provided by Rensselaer County DA Joel Abelove:

“In such matters, I hereby designate you, the Distract Attorney, to exercise such powers and perform such duties in your county of jurisdiction as you deem appropriate under the circumstances until such time as you are direct otherwise in writing by the Special Prosecutor. This includes, but is not limited to, questioning witnesses, drafting search warrants, preserving evidence, and supporting the investigation of the incident, but does not include, without prior authorization from the Special Prosecutor or his designee, conferring immunity on any witness, eliciting witness testimony in grand jury proceedings, or entering plea or cooperation agreements.”

Schneiderman’s office was empowered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo through executive order to investigate and prosecute cases in which civilians are killed in encounters by police, a move that has angered local DAs who otherwise would have jurisdiction.

Schneiderman personally gave a presentation alongside Cuomo counsel Alphonso David to the state DAs association in Saratoga Springs last week on the executive order and special prosecutor’s office that’s now under his jurisdiction.

In a letter accompanying the memo, Schneiderman writes to DAs that the outline of duties for the DA is a “first step in that coordination” that he pledged at the conference.

The responsibilities outlined by Schneiderman are aimed to “give you the latitude to operate in the crucial hours after the incident.”

Abelove, in an interview on Fred Dicker’s Talk-1300 show, said a legal challenge to the executive order by the DAs association was being considered.

Cuomo signed the executive order last week after state lawmakers did not pass broader criminal justice reform measures called for in the wake of a spate of incidents involving unarmed black men being killed in encounters with police.

The statewide district attorneys association has blasted the order, calling it “gravely flawed” for taking power away from the local elected officials in police-related cases.

Updated: Schneiderman spokesman Damien LaVera released a statement.

“The Attorney General is committed to working with the District Attorneys to implement the Executive Order in a way that ensures a thorough and fair review of any cases that arise,” he said.