Last week, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe declined comment on the role Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office played in the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption’s now-defunct investigation, citing an ongoing probe by the U.S. Attorney’s office into the commission’s abrupt shutdown.
On Monday, Zugibe apparently changed his mind.
Hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo publicly addressed claims in a lengthy New York Times investigation published last week, Zugibe issued a three-paragraph statement denying he ever threatened to resign from the Moreland Commission. The Times reported Zugibe, a Democrat who was one of the panel’s 25 members, had discussed leaving the Moreland Commission amid frustrations caused by Cuomo’s office’s interference with its work.
“At no time during my tenure with the Commission did I ever threaten to resign from the Moreland Commission,” Zugibe said in the statement. “This blue ribbon group under the guidance of the co-chairs did incredible work, recommending substantive policy changes and pursuing investigations that would strengthen ethical standards and provide comprehensive oversight. I am proud of the work we accomplished through this landmark effort to practice and promote the highest standards of ethical behavior in New York State government.”
Zugibe’s statement mirrors comments Monday from Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen, who also said he never threatened to quit the Moreland Commission. (The Times’ story doesn’t say the commissioners “threatened” to quit the Moreland Commission, but rather “discussed” it.)
The statement strikes a different tone than comments Zugibe gave to Gannett’s Albany Bureau earlier this year.
In May, Zugibe was critical of the package of laws Cuomo agreed to in exchange for disbanding the commission a month prior. Those laws included tougher bribery penalties and a more-independent office to investigate election-law violations, but didn’t include several recommendations of the Moreland Commission — including the closing of a loophole allowing individuals and companies to flout campaign-contribution limits by opening multiple limited liability companies.
“I cannot fathom when the governor sent over the recommended legislation, why would they negotiate out the LLC loophole or the limitations on the housekeeping accounts?” Zugibe said in May. “Did their constituents want that? Of course not. It was self-preservation.”
On Monday, Zugibe said he’s confident other reforms recommended by the commission will be implemented.
“The proposals developed by the Commission to bolster transparency and restore integrity in Albany were endorsed by the Governor and contained in his proposed budget,” Zugibe said in his statement. “While some of the proposals fell victim to the budgetary process, I am confident that the will of the people for a further strengthening of the ethical duties for those who hold office will ultimately bear results.”
Last week, Zugibe said he would decline comment on the Moreland Commission until U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara finished his investigation of its work. Zugibe confirmed he and the other commissioners had received subpoenas ordering them to produce documents related to the Moreland panel’s work.
“In light of the active and ongoing inquiry presently being conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office, any further comments regarding the Moreland Commission during the pendency of this investigation will be deferred,” Zugibe said in an email Thursday.