One state senator from Central New York stands far above his colleagues from the region when it comes to personal wealth. Newly required filings by the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics reveals the outside income, savings and investments of all officials elected to state office.
The disclosures are part of a package of ethics reform initially proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his first State of the State message in 2011. Political experts see the good and the bad that comes from revealing outside money. "How does he make all his money or she. And does that cause a conflict," said Robert McClure of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. "It's a reasonable question to ask."
The six senators representing a multi-county Central New York region include: Joseph Griffo of Rome, David Valesky of Oneida, Patty Ritchie of Watertown, Jim Seward of Oneonta, John Defrancisco of Syracuse and Michael Nozzolio of Seneca Falls.
Each of the senators filed reports that include outside income, savings and investments. Salary from the state senate position and primary residences are not included in the statements. The income level or value of an investment are described in a range. For example the forms might show a savings account holding between $1,000 and $5,000. We chose to estimate the total wealth conservatively by using the lower end of the range.
Senator John Defrancisco is the wealthiest of the senators from Central New York. He lists $5.7 million on his disclosure forms which includes income as an attorney, income property and significant investments including stocks and mutual funds.
Senator Seward has $110,000 which includes a position on a bank advisory board. Seward is the only local senator who lists a significant debt. He owes American Express.
Senator Valesky has $252,000 which includes a modest income from playing music at church, plus retirement investments.
Senator Griffo has $281,000 which includes the value of the home where his parents reside and investments.
Senator Ritchie has $430,000 which includes property owned in the north country and savings.
Senator Nozzolio has $791,000 which includes income as an attorney and retirement investments.
Do these public disclosures improve accountability or the public's trust in government officials? What about showing the disparity in wealth from one public official to the other. "It increases our skepticism and cynicism and since we can find the numbers and we keep publishing the numbers all the time," said Professor McClure. "We make John Defrancisco look bad, whether he is or he isn't."
You can browse the public records by going to the Public Ethics Commission website.