Nick Reisman

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IG Asks For End To External Audit By SUNY (Updated)

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher this afternoon caleld for special meeting of the Board of Trustees in order to discuss the system’s Research Foundation the same day Inspector General Ellen Biben announced she would audit the organization.

At the same time, Biben has asked SUNY call off an external audit, which is looking at Research President John O’Connor, the alleged no-show job to Sen. Joe Bruno’s daughter Susan and the American Ditchley Foundation — a move that Zimpher embraced.

Earlier this month, the Commission on Public Integrity alleged O’Connor gave Bruno a “no-show” consultancy job. O’Connor is asking Biben to open an investigation into the CPI, including leaks to the press and its handling of ethics inquiries.

Here’s the full statement:

“Upon consultation with the chairman of the Board, SUNY is calling for a special meeting of the SUNY Board of Trustees on Friday, June 3, to discuss an outside expert’s report on the Research Foundation and its relationship with the University.

“Separately, SUNY has been asked by the Inspector General to cease pursuing an external audit or any other audit activity surrounding John O’Connor and the Ditchley Foundation. The Office of the Inspector General has informed us that they will undertake a review of these and other matters. We fully endorse this action, find it eminently responsible, and pledge our total cooperation.”

Cuomo Withdraws State From Secure Communities Program

As NY1 scooped earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is suspending the state’s participating in the controversial immigration-tracking program known as Secure Communities.

“There are concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As a result, New York is suspending its participation in the program.”

Some state leaders have signaled growing concerns in recent days over the Immigration and Customs Enforcement program that is designed to find illegal immigrants accused of felony crimes.

However, civil liberties and immigrant-rights groups have said the program is flawed and possibly illegal.

Cuomo said in the statement that his office has received complaints about the program also from law enforcement officials, who believe the program’s usefulness is an hindrance to fighting crime.

And he said the Department of Homeland Security has failed to provide “basic information” about the workings of the program.

Earlier today, Cuomo dodged a question about whether the state would withdraw from the program, saying only it was being looked at.

SUNY Touts Its Economic Impact

The State University system today released a long and detailed study of the economic impact on local communities and the state by its 62 campuses.

Ther report came the same day that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy and legislative leaders held a public meeting to discuss SUNY 2020, a grant program designed to aid the major university centers of Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton and Stony Brook.

The grant program will initially consist of $35 million per campus, with $20 million being distributed by the Empire State Development Corp.

How SUNY Matters

Cuomo: One Way Or The Other, Albany Will Be Cleaned Up

Gov. Andrew Cuomo would not give details on the progress of talks over a possible ethics bill agreement, but did say he was still prepared to unleash a Moreland Commission on state legislators if they failed to approve a measure.

“I said if we don’t pass an ethics bill a Moreland Commission I think is an appropriate vehicle to pursue the same goals. One way or the other, we will have a vehicle to cleanup Albany,” Cuomo said following a meeting on SUNYNY2020.

As Liz reported earlier, a potential ethics package could include disclosure of direct clients who have business before the state, a duel executive-legislative ethics commission and more specific disclosure of outside income.

But as Cuomo has said ad infinitum about nearly every piece of legislation, there’s no agreement until one is firmly in place — adding that doesn’t want to negotiate through the press.

“We do not have a three-way agreement yet on any of these issues. I’m optimistic that we’re going to have accomplishments by the end of this session,” Cuomo said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, also indicated that he was confident an agreement could be announced soon.

“We’re not there ‘til we’re there,” Silver said. “The governor and I are there but we’re trying to negotiate a three-way package with the Senate.”

“It’s a big bill, it’s an important bill and I’m confident we’ll get there,” he added.

32BJ Praises Cuomo On Secure Communities Withdrawal

32BJ of the Service Employees International Union is praising the reported news that Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to temporarily withdraw the state from the federal government’s controversial “Secure Communities” program.

The program, which federal officials say makes it easier for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to track and monitor illegal immigrants, has come under fire from civil libertarians.

From Hector Figueroa, Secretary Treasurer of 32BJ:

“Governor Cuomo is right to suspend implementation of the deeply flawed Secure Communities program which does nothing to make anyone any safer. By targeting the people who take care of the sick and elderly, baby-sit our children and perform many of the jobs we all count on, Safer Communities runs counter to the best interests of our cities and towns.

“By pushing immigrants further into the shadows, and driving a wedge between them and everyone else, Safer Communities is actually undermining our security by destroying the trust police depend on with residents to do their job. Furthermore, asking police to take on immigration enforcement at a time of severe and crippling cuts to local services is a distraction few cities and towns can afford.

Cuomo is expected to make a full and formal announcement later this week.

Goo-Goos Hope To Reignite Redistricting Debate

Remember the battle over independent redistricting?

Well, the news cycle, legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo seemed to all drop the issue of redrawing legislative lines by an independent commission at once with a loud thud as Albany’s fruit-fly attention span turned to an ethics overhaul, a property tax cap and same-sex marriage legalization.

But now Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union, and other good-government groups, are back in Albany to again lobby on the issue.

“Legislators today are again hearing firsthand how important redistricting reform is to their constituents,” Dadey said in a statement. “It is the 11th hour for redistricting reform in Albany, and advocates have a clear message: honor your campaign pledge and reform the redistricting process by the end of the legislative session. The general public deserves and demands a more fair and independent redistricting process for the 2012 elections.”

Dadey, along with the League of Women Voters and the New York Public Interest Research Group are conducting an afternoon lobby day on the issue.

Cuomo, who is touring the state on the big three agenda items that do not include independent redistricting, has said he would veto any lines drawn by the Legislature.

Redistricting for state and federal offices must be completed before the 2012 elections.

Carroll On Cuomo’s Q-Poll ‘Clean Sweep’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ran the table in today’s Quinnipiac Poll and his popularity may be helping individual members of the Legislature, spokesman Mickey Carroll said.

“The overall numbers for him are so good that individual assemblymembers and senators come up positive. You have to imagine some of that tracks from Gov. Cuomo.”

“In this poll it’s a clean sweep for Gov. Cuomo,” he added.

Carroll said it was especially surprising to see Cuomo do well with the on-time state budget, an area that garnered 57 percent approval from voters.

“Budgets are politicians graveyards,” he said. “At this stage of the game, Gov. Cuomo is riding high and eveything is coming up roses for him.”

Dozens Of Authorities Could Get Ax

Be prepared to kiss that parking authority or urban renewal agency goodbye.

The Senate will consider two bills Wednesday that eliminate dozens of public authorities identified as inactive by the Authorities Budget Office.

The bills can be found here and here.

Many of the authorities slated to be abolished are defunct parking authorities for upstate cities like Poughkeepsie and Elmira.

An authority is a quasi-public entity that can operate outside of the normal process for bonding and are created for a special project like economic development. Critics have charged authorities operate as shadow governments will little oversight or accountability.

When campaigning last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also called for a reform of the authorities system, writing in a campaign book that:

Run by hundreds of unelected board members, authorities are responsible neither to the governor nor legislature. Many currently operate outside of their original purpose and engage in imprudent practices, such as excessive “backdoor borrowing.”

Authorities reform was a passion project of former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who launched an unsuccessful bid for attorney general last year. Brodsky championed the authorities reform law, which created the Authorities Budget Office.

The list of authorities due to be abolished is far smaller than the 125 or so recommended late last year in a proposed Assembly bill.

A full list of the authorities slated to be abolished after the jump. More >

Ethics Commission Finds ‘Reasonable Cause’ For Boyland

The Legislative Ethics Commission released a report today finding reasonable cause that Assemblyman William Boyland, D-Brooklyn, received a lucrative no-show “consultant” job at Brookdale Hospital, according to a reasonable cause report released today.

In the report, the commission found that Boyland “impaired his independence of judgment in the performance of his official duties” by accepting the consulting job and that the lawmaker violated the public officers law.

Boyland was indicted in March for a widespread bribery scheme that also included indictments for Sen. Carl Kruger and lobbyist Richard Lipsky. Both Boyland and Kruger are yet to resign their posts.

Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, was accused of accepting cash in exchange for ushering through hospital contracts.

NORCboyland

Citing Pennsylvania Problems, Fracking Study Delayed

As the Associated Press reported over the weekend, State Director of Operations Howard Glaser quietly sent a memo to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens asking that his agency take more time studying the safety of hydraulic fracturing.

The controversial natural-gas extraction method involves using a mixture of chemicals and water to blast through rock. The DEC original was due to release its draft environmental review of the process, commonly known as hydrofracking, in June.

The memo takes special note of the April incident in Pennsylania, in which a natural gas suffered a blowout and spilled thousands of gallons of chemicals.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, meanwhile, filed a lawsuit against the federal government today for refusing to study the safety of hydrofracking.

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