The Commission on Ethics in Government and Lobbying has jurisdiction to investigate potential violations of the state's ethics laws (Public Officers Law §§73, 73-a, and 74), the "Little Hatch Act" (Civil Service Law §107), and the Lobbying Act (Legislative Law Article 1-A) as they apply to State legislators, candidates for the Legislature and legislative employees, as well as the four statewide elected officials, candidates for those offices, executive branch state employees, certain political party chairs, and lobbyists and their clients.
Investigations Intake and Review:
- The Commission may begin an inquiry on its own initiative, which may occur through information or allegations obtained by the Commission through media coverage, internal audits, or any other public source in which information indicating a potential violation may be obtained.
- The Commission may receive a complaint, which may be filed in written form by any person as a tip or in a complaint form or may be orally provided by calling the Commission's hotline at 800-87-ETHICS (873-8442).
- The Commission may receive a referral from a government entity containing information or allegations that may constitute a violation of the laws under the Commission's jurisdiction.
Initiating an Investigation
The Commission will review and investigate all matters where there is specific and credible evidence that a violation of Section 73, 73-a, or 74 of the Public Officers Law, Section 107 of the Civil Service Law, or article 1-A of the Legislative Law by a person or entity subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission.
If the preliminary collection of information warrants elevating the matter to further investigation and/or enforcement, the subject of the allegations will receive written notice of the alleged violations of law and be given 15 days to respond. The notice to the subject of the allegations will contain a statement of the allegations and a description of the evidence already gathered. However, the Commission may redact any information that which would compromise the integrity of the investigation.
The Commission will then consider whether to close the matter, proceed with a confidential due process hearing on the matter, settle the matter, or to continue gathering evidence.
If the commission, after consideration of a staff report, determines by majority vote that there is credible evidence of a violation of the laws under its jurisdiction it shall provide the respondent timely notice for a due process hearing. A hearing is conducted confidentially before an independent arbitrator, in accordance with Executive Law 94.
Public Reporting of Investigatory and Enforcement Matters
Commission proceedings are generally confidential but for certain exceptions outlined in the Commission regulations. Complainants will be notified when a matter is closed. If at any time the Commission wants to resolve a matter, it can vote to approve a settlement agreement. That agreement is then made public.
If, following a confidential due process hearing, the commission has found, by a majority vote, a substantial basis to conclude that the individual or entity has violated a law under the Commission’s jurisdiction to enforce, the Commission shall issue a report, to both the complainant and the subject of the allegations, containing its determinations including its findings of fact and conclusions of law. The commission shall publish such report on its website within twenty days of its delivery to the complainant and subject.
If, following a confidential due process hearing, the commission has found, by a majority vote, a substantial basis to conclude that a member of the legislature or a legislative employee or candidate for member of the legislature has violated any provisions of Sections 73, 73-1, or 74 of the Public Officers Law or Section 107 of the Civil Service Law, it shall prepare a written report of its findings and provide a copy of that report to the legislative ethics commission, and to such individual in violation of such law. The commission shall provide to the legislative ethics commission copies of the full investigative file and hearing record.
Adjudicatory and Appeals Regulations
These regulations were amended through an Emergency Adoption on January 25, 2022, and are in effect from January 25, 2022 to April 25, 2022. An additional Emergency Adoption was submitted on April 25, 2022, which now makes these regulations effective until June 24, 2022. Revisions increase transparency regarding agency operations and the status of long-standing investigations. Among other things, they provide for expanded notification and disclosure to various parties, including the complainant, subject, witnesses, and others as appropriate, when the Commission takes action on a matter. In addition, the revisions provide that the Commission may disclose confidential information, and staff may make certain general public statements, concerning investigative matters when it is in the public interest to do so. Moreover, the regulatory amendments provide for additional investigative information to be released on a regular basis on the Commission’s website or in the Commission’s annual report, as appropriate. (Posted 1/28/2022)
The regulations provide guidance and procedures regarding the conduct of adjudicatory proceedings and appeals for matters arising under the Commission’s jurisdiction.