Friday, December 23, 2016

Cuomo quietly seeks sweeping powers over Port Authority

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. | Office of the Governor of New York

Ryan Hutchins and Dana Rubinstein report for Politico:

New York and New Jersey, including the authority to unilaterally remove and appoint commissioners, under draft legislation that has been privately circulating among Albany lawmakers this week and was obtained by POLITICO.

Under the proposal — just one piece of a larger ethics measure — New York's six appointees on the board of the massive, bi-state agency would serve at the pleasure of Cuomo or his successors. The governor could remove any New York appointees "at his or her discretion without the advice or consent of the [S]enate,” something now required, and then could fill those vacancies "whether the [S]enate is or is not in session.”

Beyond that, the draft legislation would create a new inspector general, appointed by the governor, to focus solely on New York issues at the agency. The inspector general would also be designated a “district attorney” under New York state law, even though the Port Authority already has an inspector general who can be cross-deputized by U.S. attorney's offices and by district attorneys to act as a law enforcement officer.

The proposal is dated Sunday and was still a topic of heated discussion on Wednesday. By evening, though, Cuomo's office said it was no longer interested in the appointments changes, with spokesman Rich Azzopardi emailing just before 9 p.m. — five hours after POLITICO first inquired — to say the draft was "bad information."

But the proposal, after circulating for days, had some agency observers warning about lasting consequences.

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