Some lawmakers expressed concern today about an inter-agency agreement that allows the New York Department of Taxation and Finance to share state employees’ and legislators’ tax records with the Inspector General’s Office in connection with investigations.
Commissioner Thomas Mattox told legislators at a joint Assembly/Senate budget hearing that the state agencies have had a formal working relationship in this area since at least 1996. Following a reorganization of the Inspector General’s Office last year, the Department of Taxation and Finance no longer has on staff a deputy inspector general, who automatically came under the requirement to maintain secrecy.
The two agencies signed a memorandum of understanding specifying that dozens of employees of the inspector general would have access to the records, provided they received special training.
That didn’t sit well with Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, a lawyer. He believes the memorandum of understanding provides overly broad authority to investigate state employees, without needing to go through the court system to get subpoenas.
“The inspector general is allowed to ask for information that he or she feels is necessary for an investigation. There’s nobody that there to have a check and balance over that request,” he said.
The Department of Taxation and Finance and the Inspector General’s Office just released a statement defending the memorandum of understanding, which the agencies have not released publicly. The Times Union published a story on the memorandum of understanding today.
“The story that appeared this morning in the Albany Times Union was misleading and inaccurate. The Department of Taxation and Finance’s Office of the Deputy Tax Inspector General previously reported directly to the State Inspector General, but was housed within DTF. To promote efficiency, the Office of the Deputy Tax Inspector General was consolidated into the Office of the New York State Inspector General. In light of this consolidation, the agencies entered into a memorandum of understanding to ensure that the Deputy Tax Inspectors General maintained the same authority and function as they always had. The MOU does not and was not intended to expand or diminish any authority or function, and to assert otherwise would be wrong.”
The Times Union posted the memorandum of understanding: