The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics investigates 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 subject will receive written notice of the Commission's allegations of the violations of law and the subject will be afforded 15 days to respond to this notice. This letter does not serve to commence a substantial basis investigation under the law. The statute provides that the Commission must vote before an investigation of the matter can be commenced to determine whether a substantial basis exists to conclude that a violation of law has occurred.
As a matter of law, such Commission proceedings are confidential and thus, complainants may not be notified of any Commission action regarding their complaint unless and until there is final action that can be publicly disclosed pursuant to Executive Law § 94. 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.
A hearing is conducted by an independent hearing officer in accordance with JCOPE’s adjudicatory proceeding regulations set forth in 19 NYCRR Part 941.
- Within 60 days of the hearing's conclusion, the hearing officer issues findings of fact and a proposed penalty, if appropriate.
- Within 30 days of the hearing examiner's findings, Commission staff prepares a proposed Substantial Basis Investigation Report that addresses the hearing officer’s findings.
- The respondent also has an opportunity to submit a response.
Substantial Basis Investigation Report
Within 60 days of receiving the proposed Substantial Basis Investigation Report, the Commission must vote as to whether to adopt, reject, or modify the hearing officer’s findings and issue a final Substantial Basis Investigation Report.
- This report must be made public within 45 days after its issuance.
- All communications and records related to the investigation and hearing are confidential unless and until JCOPE issues a Substantial Basis Investigation Report.
Adjudicatory Proceedings and Appeals Process
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)