Committee Reports

Testimony before the New York Ethics Review Commission regarding the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE)


The New York City Bar Association presented on Oct. 14, 2015 before the New York Ethics Review Commission and offered a series of recommendations that could be taken immediately to strengthen the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE).

Building on the work of its 2014 report Hope for JCOPE, which was issued jointly with Common Cause/New York, the City Bar expressed concern over “JCOPE’s lack of both actual and perceived independence” and its failure “to instill in officeholders, much less the public, any serious confidence or concern that JCOPE can or will deter, uncover or punish unethical or criminal conduct.” The testimony and supporting exhibits identified steps JCOPE can take right now, without legislative action, as well as necessary legislative amendments, to ensure that it is operating independently, vigorously and fairly to provide meaningful ethics enforcement for New York State.

“It is unfortunate in our view that JCOPE has largely chosen to seek unnecessary new authority rather than to use its existing authority under the State Code of Ethics in a robust and purposive manner,” said the City Bar in its prepared statement. The testimony reiterated the City Bar’s belief that “vigorous ethics enforcement is in both the public interest and the interest of the many, many public servants who obey the law.”

The City Bar was represented at the hearing by members of its Government Ethics Committee, former President Evan A. Davis and Daniel E. Karson. The Committee has spent the last several years studying the effectiveness of JCOPE and was vocal in supporting the appointment of the Review Commission to ensure JCOPE realizes its original promise.