Contact: Colleen Roche (212) 788-2958 or Jennifer Chait (212) 788-8479
MAYOR GIULIANI AND DISTRICT ATTORNEY MORGENTHAU ANNOUNCE LAWSUIT AGAINST CITY COUNCIL'S INDEPENDENT POLICE INVESTIGATION AND AUDIT BOARD
--CHARGE THAT BOARD VIOLATES CITY CHARTER AND PREVIOUS
COURT RULING THAT FOUND BOARD INVALID--
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau today authorized the Corporation Counsel to commence litigation against the New York City Council to invalidate Local Law 91 of 1997, on the grounds that it alters the powers of the Mayor and his appointees, and of the District Attorney, without a voter referendum. The local law seeks to establish an "Independent Police Investigation and Audit Board," with power to conduct independent investigations of alleged police corruption and subpoena witnesses. The complaint was filed today in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York.
The complaint states that this local law, which is similar to a 1995 law that was struck down by an unanimous appellate decision in 1997, intrudes upon the appointment and executive powers of the Mayor, as well as upon the investigatory powers of the District Attorney. Among its provisions, the local law seeks to involve the City Council in appointment of members of the Board, a role that is not lawful for the Council as a legislative body, according to today's complaint. In addition to its legal defects, Local Law 91 puts at risk the efforts of the Mayor, the Police Commissioner, the district attorneys and others to investigate and counter alleged police corruption.
"As I said in my veto message in October, an independent board, not clearly accountable to any official, will interfere with the ongoing investigations of these officials and could jeopardize the safety of police officers and the agents of other offices who engage in field investigations," Mayor Giuliani said. "This law is substantially identical to Local Law 13 which was deemed invalid by the Courts. The law takes appointment power away from the Mayor which the Court found to be in violation of the City Charter.
"Conceptually, this is no different from our challenge to the line item veto. The Congress, there, has attempted to readjust the Constitutional powers of the Executive and Legislative branches -- something that can only be accomplished through an amendment to the Constitution.
"My Administration, including the Police Department and its thousands of honest, committed police officers, remains fully dedicated to the effort to combat corruption. The Police Department is, and should continue to be, the first line of defense against police corruption. Unfortunately, this legislation threatens those efforts and violates the law. That is why we have filed this litigation."
In bringing the lawsuit today, the Mayor welcomed the participation of District Attorney Morgenthau.
"I've joined in this lawsuit because the law in question is virtually identical to earlier legislation passed by the City Council which was declared invalid by the Appellate Division First Department," Robert M. Morgenthau said. "The new law, Local Law 91 of 1997, does not cure any of the defects inherent in the earlier law that was invalidated by the courts."
According to the Corporation Counsel, the broad changes in the structure of City government that the Council is attempting in this law can only be accomplished by a referendum amending the City Charter. The Courts struck down Local Law 13 of 1995 which made a similar attempt to circumvent a referendum to change the City Charter.
In February 1995, Mayor Giuliani signed an Executive Order establishing a five-person independent Police Commission to combat police corruption. The Commission was modeled closely on the recommendations of the Mollen Commission. Now chaired by former prosecutor Richard J. Davis, it has closely reviewed internal Police Department procedures in its three years of existence.
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