Roundup of Albany Ethics Reforms

The Albany Times-Union’s Rick Karlin and Matthew Hamilton have compiled a list of the various ethics proposals kicking around Albany. We’ve reprinted it below.

The ethics package outlined by the governor and Assembly speaker Wednesday incorporates just some of this year’s the ethics reform proposals. Here’s a look at what various lawmakers and groups are seeking:

Cuomo-Heastie plan

  • Requires detailed disclosure on sources of outside income including the naming of clients for payments about $5,000. Includes lawyers with some exceptions.
  • Verification required for per diem travel expenses. May involve a swipe card for lawmakers to document their whereabouts.
  • Constitutional amendment to go to voters which would strip wrongdoers of government pensions.
  • Limits on use of campaign funds. No country club membership, mortgage payments or other similar uses.
  • Mandatory disclosure of soft money, or independent expenditures which are not officially coordinated by candidates but which can support their platforms.

Senate Republicans

  • Bill by Senators Carl Marcellino and Pat Gallivan would mandate public listing of executive chamber and state agency officials pay and their expenses. The data is already kept by the comptroller but this would put it on a dedicated website.
  • Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
  • A complete ban on outside income for lawmakers, accompanied by a salary hike to at least $112,500 compared to the current $79,500 base pay.
  • A cap on reimbursements for legislative travel.
  • More equitable division of funding among legislators.
  • Giving legislators more individual power to move a proposal to a floor vote.
  • Increase terms of lawmakers from two years to four years.

Good-government groups

  • Make Limited Liability Corporations, or LLCs subject to the same political campaign contribution limits that apply to individuals and other types of corporations.
  • Keep all state agency and executive branch emails for seven years rather than purging non-critical ones after 90 days.
  • Grant more authority to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and breaking some of its ties to the executive branch.
  • Establish outside income limits similar to Congress, which limits income to 15 percent of a lawmaker’s salary.

Group Statement: Ethics Proposal by Governor and Speaker is an Improvement Over Status Quo

Good Government Groups See Agreement That Still Leaves Much Unfinished Reform on the Table

The ethics measures advanced by the Governor and Speaker are an improvement over the status quo – stronger and more complete disclosure of outside income, pension forfeiture risks for all public officials convicted of corruption, per diem reform with verification, and marginally tighter restrictions on personal use of campaign funds.

But partial solutions are no longer sufficient to fully address the growing problem of Albany corruption.

What is notable is what is not in the agreement – legislative compensation overhaul, desperately needed stronger ethics enforcement with greater public transparency of votes, comprehensive campaign finance reform with public financing that closes the LLC loophole and bans all personal use of campaign funds, strong disclosure and accountability for all executive and legislative discretionary lump sum funds, and a commitment to undertake the necessary examination and full-scale overhaul of our ethics and campaign finance laws.

This agreement while an improvement over the current state of affairs also shows how much still remains to be done in bringing about the sea change that is needed to finally transform the practice of ethics in Albany. The work must continue.


Dick Dadey, Citizens Union
Larry Norden, Brennan Center for Justice
Susan Lerner, Common Cause New York
Sally Robinson, League of Women Voters of New York State
Blair Horner, New York Public Interest Research Group
John Kaehny, Reinvent Albany

Cuomo’s 90 Day Email Retention Policy is New, Not a Continuation

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The NY Times reports that Governor Cuomo’s 90-day automatic deletion of emails is a mere leftover from previous administrations. It’s not true. This email deletion policy was implemented in June 2013, and the State’s own memos prove it.

In June 2013, Karen Geduldig, General Counsel of the NYS Office of Information Technology Services wrote in a memorandum to all agency general counsels:

As of June 30, 2013, the State will be implementing a standard 90-day email management system for all State agencies. Email sent and received on or after June 30, 2013, will be retained for 90 days after the date on which it was sent or received unless otherwise deleted.

(Emphasis in original). That doesn’t sound like a continuation of a historical policy. In fact, the very next line explicitly spells it out:

Under this new system, email that must be retained longer than 90 days can and will be saved.


General Counsels should take the following steps to prepare for implementation of the new email management system.

And finally:

This new standard may change how some users manage their email. ITS staff will provide your agency staff with technical guidance…

Geduldig certainly seems to be under the impression that the policy she’s announcing is new. Again, that memo is dated June 2013.

A month later, a July 2013 memo from Jean O. Quarrier, Deputy General Counsel of the NYS Department of Health to all employees of the NYS Department of Health, began with:

The Department of Health (“the Department”) is transitioning to a new 90-day email retention policy for all staff.

And continues:

Starting on July 30, 2013, email sent and received by persons working for the Department of Health and who are on Office 365 will be subject to a 90-day preservation period.

At no point does this memo, like the Geduldig memo, refer to this policy as a continuation of existing practice. It repeatedly describes the 90-day automatic deletion as “new.” In fact, the Quarrier memo notes:

You may have a significant amount of email in your DOH active mailbox that pre-dates July 30, 2013. You will have at least 30 days to review old email in your active mailbox.

Again, DOH employees may have had a significant amount of email in their DOH mailboxes as of that date, because this 90-day deletion policy was brand new in 2013. If this policy had actually existed since 2007, the Quarrier memo would not have acknowledged that users would have had “a significant amount of email” that pre-dated July 30, 2013. Or that “starting” soon, email would be subject to a 90-day preservation period.

There’s more: on February 20, 2015, New York State’s CIO Maggie Miller wrote a memorandum to all NYS commissioners and agency heads, where she specifically said:

As you are aware, on June 30, 2013, the State adopted a standard 90-day email management and preservation policy. This is a reminder that the standard 90-day email management and preservation policy continues to apply in Office365.

This policy simply did not begin in 2007.

A few days later, on February 23, 2015, William Cross, Director of Business Solutions for the NYS Office of Information Technology Services wrote a memo to all employees of the NYS Department of State in which he said:

As a reminder to all DOS users, a 90-day email retention policy was adopted by the State in June 2013. Since that time, users have been required to delete any email older than 90 days…

In 2013, GovTech wrote about the migration of New York State agencies to a single Office 365 email system. Their article interviewed several high-level employees of New York State, including then-CIO Brian Digman. GovTech wrote “John Norton, CIO of the health cluster with the New York State Office of Information Technology Services, said that those users were put on Office 365 more quickly by migrating only the most recent 180 days of email to start with…”

If New York State had truly begun deleting emails older than 90 days in 2007, there would not be 180 days’ worth of email to transition. Even more bizarrely, in the GovTech interview, Norton explains that the move to Office 365 is “starting” with 180 days of email, implying that users have even more email.

And in 2010, the New York State Archives Government Records Services department published a set of principles and best practices for email retention, titled Developing a Policy for Managing Email. The Archives noted in its section on retention and disposition:

Purging all emails after a defined time period is not an acceptable retention and disposition strategy.

It is simply unbelievable that two NYS CIOs, general counsels and CIOs of various state agencies, and the New York State Archives themselves are all unaware of a policy dating back to 2007.

Statement: Transparency Groups Call On Gov Cuomo To Issue Exec Order Saving Emails 7 Years.

Letter asking Governor Cuomo to save state emails for at least 7 years