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CITY BAR URGES CONSIDERATION OF SINGLE, INDEPENDENT ETHICS COMMISSION

Single Model Avoids Confusion, Promotes Accountability and Public Confidence

New York , January 6, 2009 – The New York City Bar Association urges consideration of a single, centralized ethics commission overseeing the State Legislature as proposed in Governor Paterson’s State of the State address tonight. A single, independent commission would structurally ensure that the Executive and Legislative branches do not have exclusive control of their own ethics oversight, while avoiding confusion and promoting accountability and public confidence in the system.

Proposed in a similar form last May, the Governor’s plan unveiled tonight would create one independent commission with oversight in Albany. This is in stark contrast to the current system, in which legislative ethics issues are overseen by appointed Assemblypersons and Senators, and to reforms proposed last year by legislators, which aimed to create four separate ethics commissions in Albany. That legislative proposal (A.9032/S.6064 and amendment bill S.6157) was passed by the Assembly but has not yet passed the Senate.

Last November, the City Bar urged the Senate to give further consideration to the unitary model proposed in the State Government Ethics and Campaign Finance Act of 2009 (S. 5738). We recognized positives of A.9032/S.6064 and S.6157, including its focus on increased ethics enforcement, expanding financial disclosures, and restricting who can be members of ethics commissions. However, we took issue with other parts of the legislation, including the small time frame of its sunset clause and potential problems with even numbers of commissioners on each commission.

Our report recommended the Senate not pass A.9032/S.6064 and S.6157 but work with the Governor to “create a comprehensive and rational ethics system” for New York State. The consideration of a centralized legislative ethics commission would be the first step in that process

About the Association

The New York City Bar Association (www.nycbar.org) was founded in 1870, and since then has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the profession, promoting reform of the law, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.