By Jon Campbell
ALBANY Subpoenas targeting information from state lawmakers are necessary because of the "systematic corruption" within the New York Legislature, while complaints over their breadth are "absurd," a co-chair of the state Moreland Commission said Tuesday.
In a radio interview, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick dismissed concerns from lawmakers that the expected subpoenas from the anti-corruption panel violate New York's separation of powers. Fitzpatrick is one of three leaders of the Moreland Commission, which was created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman earlier this year to investigate wrongdoing in government.
Fitzpatrick pointed to a slate of lawmaker arrests in recent years, including the indictments of four sitting legislators this year alone.
"The problem is clearly that there's systematic corruption within the New York State Legislature. It needs to be addressed," Fitzpatrick said on public radio's "The Capitol Pressroom." "The vast majority in the Senate and Assembly are good, decent people who I think strive and want a good life and existence for New Yorkers as much as I do.
"But when you have that level of criminal justice reaction and indictments and convictions, to sit back and say this is over-broad or overstepping the separation of powers, that's just absurd."
The Moreland Commission, which is comprised largely of sitting district attorneys across the state, has received pushback from lawmakers on the receiving end of a request for a list of their income and clients from their employment outside of the Legislature. A formal request sent in August to lawmakers who earned more than $20,000 in non-legislative income last year was rebuffed, and the commission signaled last week that subpoenas would be forthcoming.
Spokesman from the Legislature's majority conferences declined comment on the subpoena threat last week. The panel faces a Dec. 1 deadline to issue a preliminary report on its findings.
Fitzpatrick again defended the independence of the commission in the face of Daily News reports that Cuomo's staff has interfered with subpoenas destined for the state Democratic Committee and its ad-buying firm. Last week, the commission said it was investigating all parties -- Republican and Democrat, major and minor.
The Onondaga County Republican said he has had "many conversations with the governor," but Cuomo hasn't interfered. Cuomo has denied he's directing the commission.
"He has been nothing but supportive and helpful," Fitzpatrick said. "Whatever else we are, we are independent."