Conflict of Interest, Leaked Memo Cloud De Blasio Accusations

In Gotham Gazette, David Howard King  writes:

“The revelation that it was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chosen enforcement counsel at the Board of Elections who sparked an investigation into Mayor BIll de Blasio’s fundraising activities, in the mayor’s 2014 effort to flip control of the state Senate, has raised a number of questions about motivation and independence.

De Blasio has asserted his innocence, saying that he and his associates followed the letter of the law. He and his lawyer have used Risa Sugarman, the BOE enforcement counsel who used to work for Cuomo, and the leak of her referral to investigators to discredit allegations that the fundraising he spearheaded broke election laws. Analysts say these arguments, in which de Blasio has repeatedly questioned Sugarman’s “motivations,” are at least somewhat effective because the governor has a long history of stacking state watchdog organizations, boards, and agencies with his friends, long-time employees, and political donors.

“There is pervasive conflict of interest under Governor Cuomo, including in the areas of ethics enforcement he has a hand in,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany. “Risa Sugarman should not be the enforcement counsel at BOE, just as Seth Agata should not be executive director of JCOPE. They are seen by many as Cuomo loyalists, not independent actors. Their relationship to Cuomo colors everything they do, including investigating the governor’s political foes.”

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