ALBANY, N.Y. Former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr has filed complaints against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying the taxpayer-funded ads his administration ran in North Carolina to promote New York’s business climate violate the Hatch Act. The complaints filed with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and a New York state ethics panel say the ads attempted to interfere with the gubernatorial and legislative races in North Carolina, illegal under the Hatch Act laws which prohibit federal, state and local employees from using their official authority to influence the outcome of an election. The commercials, which ran in June around the height of the controversy over H.B. 2 public bathroom laws, were funded by the state of New York and described it as “where the true leaders are” and “where we understand the value of diversity.” Orr’s complaint said the ads go “beyond appropriate economic-development recruitment,” saying: “By using public funds to promote New York as supporting certain policies and implicitly criticizing contrary political decisions made in North Carolina, an ethical imitation has been breached.” Prior to the ads Cuomo issued an order banning all “non-essential” travel by New York state employees to North Carolina.Cuomo’s ad campaign, run by Empire State Development, New York’s economic development agency, is getting heat at home for its $53 million price tag and reportedly limited effectiveness. A report out earlier this month showed the Start-Up NY program which creates tax free zones on university campuses and other select areas produced only 408 jobs over two years and is projected to create only 4,140 by 2020. The ad campaign has also run in other states, appearing to call out conservatives across the country, including Texas, painting them as anti-LGBT. “For hundreds of years, New York State has stood as a beacon a beacon to welcome those unwelcome in other places,” a woman says in one of the Texas commercials.Ricky Diaz, campaign manager for Gov. Pat McCrory, told the Wall Street Journal “despite Gov. Cuomo’s efforts to trash North Carolina with boycotts and false ads, his residents continue to move here for lower taxes and job opportunities because New York is the second worst state for business while North Carolina is one of the best.” In October, Cuomo signed an executive order that expands state non-discrimination protections allowing transgender individuals to use the public locker rooms and bathroom of their choice. The N.Y. Assembly also passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act in May, but the bill has not been signed by the governor. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio signed an ordinance on gender bathroom policy requiring all single-stall bathrooms be gender-neutral, while multi-stalled restrooms remain designated to one gender.
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