ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Included in Governor Kathy Hochul’s 2022 priorities is restoring trust in government. One way she plans to accomplish this by replacing the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, known as JCOPE.
“I will introduce legislation to replace [JCOPE] with a new ethics watchdog,” Hochul said in her State of the State address. “One with real teeth, one that answers to New Yorkers, not to politicians.”
Critics have said JCOPE is too secretive, and that it can’t be truly independent when its members are politically appointed.
Hochul wants to fix that by implementing a rotating board of 5 members made up of the deans of New York’s 15 accredited law schools.
Cam McDonald from the Empire Center for Public Policy feels this decision came out of left field, and he thinks a diverse array of appointments would be more fair.
“I think there’s some merit to a ‘team of rivals’ approach to populating the commission,” McDonald said.
It’s unclear whether the existing commission members, some of which were appointed by Hochul last year, will remain involved.
The deans of New York’s law schools issued a joint statement saying they share Governor Hochul’s commitment to ensuring independent enforcement of the state’s ethics laws.
“Along with the public, we will follow developments related to the Governor’s proposal when it is formally proposed to the Legislature,” part of the statement reads.
Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group explained that Hochul’s plans to subject the new entity to open meeting and foil laws could be critical.
“You can’t have a state agency that’s not publicly accountable. The devil is in the details, which we assume we will start to see, if not sooner, no later than when the governor’s budget comes out in a couple weeks,” Horner told NEWS10.