Press-Republican

July 3, 2013

Local DAs named to corruption panel

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — Two North Country district attorneys were named by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to a state commission to investigate corruption among public officials.

Franklin County DA Derek Champagne and Essex County DA Kristy Sprague will serve on the newly created Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.

Each was also named a deputy attorney general by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to carry out commission duties, “which include all matter that involve public peace, public safety and public justice,” according to a news release from the Governor’s Office.

Members will have the power to subpoena lawmakers and others to testify and produce documents, just as the Attorney General’s Office can.

‘HONORED’

Champagne, who has been Franklin County’s district attorney since 2002, said the governor has spoken a number of times about the need for reform in Albany “to restore confidence in the government of the state of New York and the Moreland Commission regarding public corruption.

“The governor reached out to me about 10 days ago,” he said. “I think it is an honor to be asked to serve, and I’m looking forward to serving.”

Details about how often and where the commission will meet have not been determined, and there is no information yet on whether inquiry panels will be convened or on a structure of possible subcommittees to study certain issues in depth, he said.

Sprague, who was sworn in as DA in Essex County in 2010, said, “I’m just honored, flattered and privileged to have been selected to serve with such a diverse and esteemed panel of professionals.”

BARRETT ON PANEL

The commission is chaired by a three-person team: Milton Williams Jr., a former federal prosecutor; Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick; and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

Other members with ties to the region include J. Patrick Barrett, chairman of the Olympic Regional Development Authority Board, and Warren County District Attorney Kathleen Hogan.

Sprague said she was especially glad to serve with her colleagues Champagne and Hogan to bring about changes that will not only impact their upstate counties but the state as a whole.

Sprague and Champagne were in Albany Tuesday morning with the other commission members for the governor’s announcement.

COMMISSION GOALS

The commission’s duties were outlined: to create a system to weed out wrongdoers and a framework of enforcement, checks and balances so public corruption will be more easily identified and quashed in state government, political campaigns and elections.

Cuomo said he failed to get his “Clean up Albany” legislation package through the State Legislature but made good on a promise that if the laws were not passed, he’d create the commission, using powers provided under the Moreland Act to accomplish the same goal: restore the public’s faith in state government.

The commission will look at existing laws and make recommendations for change, Cuomo said.

“New Yorkers want real reform and expect and deserve the officials they put in office to be working to serve the public interest, not their own,” Schneiderman said.

The commission “will be able to conduct a top-to-bottom investigation” on any aspect of the state’s government, he said.

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com