Law dean appointed to help root out legislative corruption
Release Date: July 3, 2013
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s newly appointed investigative body charged with examining the state Board of Elections and looking at potential wrongdoing by legislators in campaign fundraising will include as a member University at Buffalo Law School Dean Makau W. Mutua.
The committee, established by an executive order under New York’s anti-corruption Moreland Act, will have subpoena power as it conducts its work. Similar panels in past decades have resulted in lengthy corruption probes and arrests.
Cuomo issued his order after his proposed legislative reforms failed to gain traction in the state Legislature, and following the filing of federal bribery and embezzlement charges against several state lawmakers.
“This commission will restore trust by telling the truth,” the governor said Wednesday at UB Law School in detailing the commission’s work and Mutua’s appointment. “If this government has something to hide, this commission will find it.
“The government is not the enemy, the government is us. And together we can do great things.”=
The 25-member Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, with the input of five “special advisers,” will be chaired by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, Syracuse District Attorney William Fitzpatrick and attorney Milton Williams. It includes 10 sitting district attorneys and a former U.S. attorney.
The panel will investigate the Board of Elections to ensure compliance with campaign finance laws. It also will probe weaknesses in state lobbying and ethics laws that open the door to bribery and other corruption. The commission is required to file a preliminary report by the end of the year and a final report by the end of 2014.
In addition to Mutua, the governor named to the panel Frank A. Sedita III, Erie County district attorney and a 1986 graduate of the UB Law School.
“You have legendary law enforcement talent on this commission, and this is a powerful, powerful signal,” Cuomo said Tuesday in announcing formation of the commission. “It sends a signal to two audiences. One is the elected officials in the state of New York. We’re going to raise the bar on public integrity, public trust. And second, to the people of the state. I want to say to the people, ‘look, we have the best people watching.’”
Mutua has been the law school’s permanent dean since May 2008 after serving for an academic year as interim dean. A member of the law school faculty since 1996, he is a SUNY Distinguished Professor and since 2006 has served as the Floyd H. and Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar.
Widely known on the international stage, Mutua has conducted numerous human rights, diplomatic and rule of law missions to countries in Africa, Latin America and Europe. He is a vice president of the American Society of International Law and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. From 2002 to 2003, he chaired the Task Force on the Establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which recommended a truth commission for his native Kenya.
Since its founding in 1887, UB Law School—the State University of New York system’s only law school—has established an excellent reputation and is widely regarded as a leader in legal education. Its cutting-edge curriculum provides both a strong theoretical foundation and the practical tools graduates need to succeed in a competitive marketplace, wherever they choose to practice. A special emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, public service and opportunities for hands-on clinical education makes UB Law unique among the nation’s premier public law schools.