Attorney General Cuomo And Legislative Leaders Announce Agreement To Reform Local Initiative Grant Process

ALBANY, NY (March 22, 2007) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders today announced a historic agreement to reform the process of community project fund contracting.

Under the terms of the reform, the two main goals of disclosure and accountability will be assured by adding Disclosure and Accountability Certifications to member item contracts for not-for-profit and for-profit corporations. Governmental bodies, such as cities, school districts and fire districts, will not be required to file the certifications.

The Disclosure and Accountability Certifications will have the organizations receiving grants attest to any conflicts of interest, the public purpose of the taxpayer funds, and the bona fides of the organization’s good standing. The agreement comes as lawmakers negotiate a new state budget.

“Member items have been a source of increasing public concern,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “While my Office continues its review of member item contracts, it is important that the public be assured that, going forward, such spending will be transparent and accountable. I applaud the legislative leaders’ cooperation in maintaining the pace of reform.”

Majority Leader Bruno and Speaker Silver are supportive of a continuation of the process by which the Attorney General required that recipients of such items publicly disclose that state funds are used for projects that have a “public purpose,” all vital information concerning the grantee, and any potential conflicts of interest. The 2006-2007 certifications were devised with input from legislative leaders, who supported their implementation.

“This agreement with the Attorney General represents exactly what the Senate has been pushing for – openness, transparency and accountability,” Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said. “Last year, the Senate announced that we would line out all member items in the budget and called on the Executive and all State agencies to do the same. The Senate budget we adopted this month clearly lined out all spending and eliminated the lump sums proposed by the Governor because we believe openness and transparency works for everyone.”

Silver said, “Legislative initiatives fund worthwhile efforts by community-based organizations across our state. They support job training, legal services for domestic-violence victims and other local efforts that enhance the quality of life in our communities. The Assembly Ways and Means committee has provided a rigorous and thorough internal review of these initiatives, and the Assembly encourages the oversight of the Attorney General in the administration of the contracts that deliver the benefits of these programs to a broad spectrum of New Yorkers. The process we are announcing today will ensure the effective and legal use of these funds.”

Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm A. Smith commended Attorney General Cuomo for his work on the member item issue, and said, “Full disclosure on member items is essential in our efforts to restore the public’s faith in their State Government. This measure will help us to ensure that public funds are being used for public purposes.”

Assembly Republican Leader James Tedisco said, “Over the years, the member item process has become symbolic of all that is wrong in Albany. This reform is a step in the right direction of more transparency and accountability for the spending of taxpayers' money. Certainly much more needs to be done but Attorney General Cuomo deserves credit for helping to advance this reform and taking these important steps.”

Governor Eliot Spitzer said, “Attorney General Cuomo is making an important contribution by bringing the leaders together to help ensure greater transparency and accountability in member item spending.”

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