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Albany needs ethics reform

The conviction this week of Joseph Percoco, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s former aide, on three felony charges is further evidence that Albany is in serious need of significant ethics reform. That need has been apparent for years, and lawmakers—including Cuomo—continue to say that it is a priority, but the scandals roll on.

Percoco was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and one count of soliciting bribes.

Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, called the verdict “a wake-up call to Albany to do something to clean up its ethics act.”

But there have been plenty of wake-up calls in the past—see the upcoming retrials of former state leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos as evidence—and little seems to have changed as a result.

Republicans across the state lined up to weigh in on the Percoco verdict.

Some—like Assemblyman Joseph Errigo of Conesus—simply took a shot at the Cuomo administration and its connection to the scandal, though Cuomo himself has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Others—like Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb of Canandaigua and Assemblyman Peter Lawrence of Greece—took the opportunity to make the latest call for ethics reform.

“This conviction illustrates the need for absolute transparency through our government, especially when handing out government contracts,” Lawrence said.

Those calls for reform must not go unheeded. Ethics reform must not be a partisan issue.

An official abusing their power—or their access to power—is reprehensible no matter the party of the offender.

It would be nice to think that officials can be expected to behave with integrity and in the best interest of their constituents, but that is clearly not the case.

New Yorkers need to be able to trust that their elected officials are working to benefit the state, not themselves. And lawmakers should put party interests aside and do everything in their power to make that reality.

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