The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (“JCOPE”) announced today that it and the Legislative Ethics Commission (“LEC”) have reached a settlement agreement, including a $10,000 fine, to resolve its investigation into violations of the Public Officers Law by former state Senator Marc Panepinto for making unwanted sexual advances towards a staff member and attempting to obstruct JCOPE’s ensuing investigation.
In the settlement, Panepinto admits that he violated Public Officers Law §§ 74(3)(d) and (h) and agrees to pay the $10,000 fine to the LEC. His admissions were based on facts he acknowledged in his guilty plea in 2018 to federal criminal charges brought by the United States Attorney for the Western District of New York.
Panepinto admitted to making unwanted verbal and physical sexual advances to a female staffer and then offering her money or future employment if she refused to cooperate with JCOPE’s subsequent investigation into the allegations regarding that misconduct.
The LEC referred Panepinto’s improper sexual conduct to JCOPE after it was provided with an internal investigation report by the state Senate following the staffer’s resignation from Panepinto’s office. Upon receiving the matter in 2016, JCOPE began investigating Panepinto, but, at the request of the U.S. Attorney, agreed to defer its inquiry and share information to facilitate the criminal prosecution. Panepinto’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors provides for a two-month prison sentence, one year of supervised release, and an additional $9,500 fine.
JCOPE appreciates the assistance of the United State Attorney’s office, as well as the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, in resolving this matter.