The state’s ethics commission on Friday charged the president of the research foundation of the State University of New York, John J. O’Connor, with giving a no-show job to the daughter of the former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno.
The commission said Mr. O’Connor in 2003 hired Mr. Bruno’s daughter, Susan Bruno, to a position for which she was unqualified, and then employed her for years as a special assistant even as she rarely came to the office and “did virtually no work” on behalf of the foundation.
The commission called Ms. Bruno’s $70,000-a-year job “an unwarranted privilege” that consisted of little more than making a few phone calls for the foundation and dropping the name of her father, who was among the state’s most powerful politicians during his 14-year stint as majority leader.
Ms. Bruno resigned from her position in 2009, a few months after an article in The Times Union of Albany raised questions about her job qualifications.
Her father, meanwhile, was indicted on federal fraud charges in January 2009, only six months after he retired from the Senate. He was later found guilty on two felony counts, though his lawyers are seeking to have his conviction overturned following the landmark Supreme Court ruling last year that limited the scope of the “honest services” law under which he had been convicted.
Mr. O’Connor has served since 2000 as head of the research foundation, a private, nonprofit corporation that solicits external funding for SUNY, including grants and philanthropic contributions. It oversees the disbursement of more than $1 billion each year in research grants across the SUNY system.
He also works for SUNY itself, serving as senior vice chancellor for research and innovation and secretary of the university. For five months in 2009, he led SUNY on an acting basis before its current chancellor, Nancy L. Zimpher, took office.
Mr. O’Connor faces a fine of up to $10,000 for violating the state’s Public Officers Law. His lawyer, Karl J. Sleight, on Friday accused the ethics commission of its own violations of state ethics laws saying it had leaked details about its investigation of Mr. O’Connor to the news media. (Mr. Sleight was an executive director of the state’s Ethics Commission, the predecessor to the Commission on Public Integrity, which came into being in 2007.)
In a letter to the state inspector general, Mr. Sleight called the commission’s action “absurd on its face and obviously a vindictive reaction” to Mr. O’Connor’s request for an internal investigation into the leaks.
A spokesman for the research foundation and a spokesman for SUNY declined to comment on the charges against Mr. O’Connor.