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Senator DeFrancisco says Cuomo's Moreland Commission is a risky proposition

The commission that’s been delving into public corruption in New York state will release a preliminary report to Gov. Andrew Cuomo this weekend. The Moreland Commission, appointed by Cuomo, has held several hearings on the issue, and has been investigating the connection between private money and public officials, with an eye towards making policy proposals. One high ranking New York state senator has concerns though whether the commission’s work will be tangled in a question of separation of powers.

The commission, made up mostly of prosecutors, including Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick, has been issuing subpoenas to employers of lawmakers, to gauge their income outside the part-time salary of a state legislator. Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans are going to court, asking a judge to quash those subpoenas. Syracuse Republican Senator John DeFrancisco, agrees with the legislators tactics, calling the governor’s creation of the Moreland Commission a risky proposition.

"If the governor can appoint a commission at anytime he wants, so he can get information and try to pressure the other branch of government to do something, I don’t think that’s what the founding fathers were really looking for in a democracy," DeFrancisco said. "So it’ll be decided in the courts whether this goes too far or not, and I think it’s an important constitutional issue to raise.”

DeFrancisco says so far the rhetoric hasn’t reached a fever pitch, even though lawmakers are pushing back in the courts. He also says it's too early to say whether Cuomo’s creation of a commission will interfere with any future ethics legislation in Albany.

"The relationship between the governor’s office and the legislature still hasn’t been damaged," DeFrancisco said. "It just depends upon where it goes from here, where the court rulings are. The governor certainly can bring up ethics legislation, as can the legislature. Whether there’s a better or worse chance of something getting done, that depends on what the report says.”

Cuomo created the Commission last spring, after lawmakers failed to move ahead on Cuomo’s proposed ethics agenda. Lawmakers are arguing that the subpoenas are a violation of the separation of powers, being used to intimidate lawmakers.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.