Letter to the Editor on Ethics Reform

August 8, 2011
To the Editor,

When citizens elect public officials to office, they do so with high hopes and expectations. Government officials and employees are expected to be responsible and remain accountable to those whom they serve. Sadly, the actions of a few have tainted the image of government for the many.

Fortunately, in the most recent legislative session, we passed legislation that will bring ethics reform to Albany (A.8301/S.5679). I am confident that this new law, signed by the governor, will restore people’s faith in government by bringing a new level of accountability and transparency to New York. It will strengthen ethics oversight, increase disclosure of outside income requirements for public officials, and stop the unfair use of taxpayer money to fund pensions of officials convicted of felonies related to their positions. Recently, a colleague of mine was convicted of using legislative member items to pay a non-profit which was then paying him. This new law would guard against such practices and impose severe penalties on those who do.

The public has a right to know their legislators’ sources of income, which is why this law also requires that state employees with outside employment disclose the names of any clients who may have matters before the state; this is to avoid a situation in which there could be a conflict of interest. Lobbyists are also required to disclose the name and compensation amount to state employees with whom they have had a “reportable business relationship.” New Yorkers have demanded transparency in government, and this will certainly help bring it about.

Under current law, officials convicted of a felony related to their office still receive their taxpayer-funded pension benefits. The ethics reform legislation aims to correct this wrong by either eliminating or reducing pension benefits in such cases. Taxpayers’ money must be used carefully and wisely. Using it to fund the pension of someone who abused his or her power is not acceptable.

I strongly supported this new law, and I am hopeful that it will help restore New Yorkers’ faith in government by making sure that unethical behavior will not be tolerated.

Sincerely,
Sandy Galef
Assemblywoman, 90th A.D.