Monday, September 20, 2010


I’m starting to notice a similarity in the way the media is treating the Public Integrity Commission and the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee. HUH? How do I make that connection you ask?

The media has seen the commission make error after error, make laughable denial after denial and take indefensible action after action. Just a partial list:

The leaking of information in Troopergate
Ignoring the DA’s warnings about the leaks
Failing to investigate Herb’s actions
Ignoring the IG’s report about Barry and Herb
Ignoring the governor’s call for mass resignations
Giving Herb a vote of confidence a week before he resigned in disgrace
Letting Herb use vacation time he may or may not have had prior to his departure
Ignoring Herb hitting a deer with his state issued car on a Sunday
Apple Picking
Miscalculation of lobby totals two years running
Yankee ticket immaculate deception
Barry’s wife getting that helpful phone call
Due dates and the changing there of
Conflicts of interest for commissioners

And the list goes on and on.

The media used to report on the commission missteps, even editorialized once in a while but now the bar has been lowered so far and the expectations dumbed down to such a level that the commission gets away with being an embarrassment because everyone knows it already. It’s an old story.

Will the same thing happen in the governor’s race? Will the fact that Paladino has made so many outrageous statements allow him to avoid media responsibility for the next ones that we are all sure are coming?

I can tell you from first hand experience when the media accepts the pest as an inevitable guest at the party you end up infested with pests. Disclosure is the best exterminator.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I ran into a fella that knows more than most about the ethics law and lifetime bars. I asked him if I was missing anything in Ralph’s bogus allegation that my legal representation of a client before the commission on a matter the commission commenced of their own volition 3 years after I left state service could violate the lifetime bar. After laughing for a bit he said no but that doesn’t stop this crowd from coming to whatever conclusion they want.

As he said he doubts many of the commission lawyers have actually read the law. That resonated because when I was at the lobby commission we would say that all the time, you would think the lawyers involved in a case would actually read the law before acting but they rarely did.

With that thought in my head I visited the commission to drop off some client filings and got chatting with a couple of my former coworkers and an ethics commission employee when who walks in with a dopey grin on his face? Not Barry but someone who looks like he could be related to Barry with a little Danny Devito thrown in. He just stands their staring at us without saying a word, walks out, comes back in, stares again until one of the former coworkers says “your office is up those stairs to the right push the button for the elevator and get off on the 2nd floor”.

At that moment I realized there is nothing I can do to make Ralph and Barry be rational about what they are doing because you can’t fix dumb.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I want to thank the public integrity commission’s executive director Barry Ginsberg for helping me clear my writers block.

It’s been 3 days since I blogged about the greatest show in pinstripes and I just couldn’t muster the outrage to keep writing the same piece over and over again.

So I decided to take a trip downtown to grab a dog at Eggy’s (perhaps the finest lunch truck in existence) visit with some friends from the commission (you would be surprised how many I still have and I am always surprised how many I lost because they were afraid of retaliation from the suits) to see if that provided inspiration.

But I came up dry, nothing, nada until I got the mail and lo and behold there it was a letter from Barry.

Now I’ve been expecting something from Cherkasky as I have written him every week reminding him of what responses he owes me. And sure enough Barry answered three of them and it shows you just what type of man Barry is and what type of agency he is running.

First response – yes you asked for an opinion on a widely attended event but it’s 6 months away and you will get it when we give it to you until then piss off (that’s my rough translation). Barry I asked for it 3 months ago, you’ve given responses in as little as a day when it came to clearing ex-commissioner Alonso on his gift question and since you clearly never learned anything in the private sector (I guess The Mintz group never put on events) these things take time and money to plan, its not like going apple picking. You clowns want the lobbying community to ask your permission on events but then you won’t give an answer. You are like cockroaches it’s not what you steal it’s what you touch and ruin for everybody else.

Second response – when it comes to your opinion on the lifetime bar don’t rush us we are letting your old friend Ralph get a little payback and write it so he doesn’t have to keep taking shots from you with his hands tied behind his back (again my rough translation). Barry I’ve told your chairman before I don’t need a staff opinion and I only need a formal commission opinion if the chair believes that Ralph’s bogus allegation of a lifetime bar has any validity. A formal opinion that applies to all former state employees like ex-governor Spitzer and Pataki, your commissioners Celli, Spinelli, Apuzzo and Peters and former commissioners Shechtman and Bulgaro along with former ethics executive directors Rivkin and Sleight etc etc etc. and not one crafted by the goon squad to apply only to the person saying the commission is acting like a king with no clothes.

Last response – Barry says he’s finally going to answer the question of “did the commission change the way it determines due dates since July 16, 2010 and here’s his answer word for word:

“Finally, with respect to your public inquiry after the Commission’s August 12 meeting. The Lobby Act authorizes the Commission to impose late fees on lobbyists and clients and the Commission has administered its late fee program consistent with the applicable law. The commission’s late fee program provides an adequate mechanism for contesting late fees that are imposed. A lobbyist or client may seek a waiver or reduction of a late fee by providing a written justification. Further, a lobbyist or client whose request for a waiver or reduction is denied may challenge the Commission’s final determination by initiating a proceeding pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Procedure Law and Rules”

That’s your final answer Barry? The state pays you over $150k a year for that?

It was a yes or no question and if you think that nonsense is going to fool anyone you’re more delusional than I give you credit for.

Maybe you will answer the question during discovery at a deposition when you are under oath. I’ll show you the email and ask you if you have ever seen it before You’re not blind are you Barry I wouldn’t want you to slip out of a perjury charge because you didn’t see the exhibit.

As an aside you make a great case for why there is no lifetime bar on this It’s the Lobby Act that authorizes you to impose late fees. Your commission administers it consistent with applicable law. My state service 3 years ago has nothing to do with it. As far as I know the only open proceeding left from the lobby commission is Abbruzzese and I swear I have done no work for him nor will I.

Over a month and still no answer. I wonder how many lobbyists and clients have paid late fees that the commission its staff and chairman know where improperly imposed? I’m guessing it’s a lot of money Seems like it ought to be a crime.

By the way anyone notice the last batch of late fee letters now start counting the day after a report is due? You are all welcome when I get them to admit they changed the way they determine due dates you can all ask for refunds of your late fees.

Whew as you can tell Barry has cleared my blockage Thanks Barry I needed that.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


And commission executive director Barry Ginsberg’s word ain’t worth s**t.

I know those are strong words but let me tell you what these clowns just did. It used to be that I would advise anyone who spoke with commission staff to get the answer in writing because certain staff members would change their positions after the fact to cover their incompetency. Now getting it in writing doesn’t help.

Ginsberg sent me a letter telling me the commission would take no action to collect the late fee they had illegally imposed upon one of my clients until they decided if the lifetime bar applied to my legal representation of this client (a complete joke as I have blogged about before and thank you to all the former state employees high and low that have told me so). Barry’s letter was a reasonable position even if Miccio’s allegation was a transparent threat and attempt to silence this blog.

So imagine my surprise when the client called to tell me they got a collection letter from the special counsel Ralph imposing additional fees and threatening to refer the matter to the Attorney General (here’s a hint Ralph that’s right where we want to be talking to the AG about you and your agency. It never hurts to give the next governor a sneak peak at how truly screwed up you guys are).

Now aside from the fact that Ralph is violating attorney disciplinary rules by directly contacting a party that he knows is represented by counsel (and I will deal with that don’t worry) Ginsberg is the one who bears the blame this time.

If he knew Ralph was sending the collection letter than his word is worth s**t, he’s a liar and a person who cannot be trusted. Getting it in writing doesn’t matter because he has no honor.

If he had no clue what Ralph was doing he’s just an incompetent bungling fool that doesn’t have the ability to run a lemonade stand much less the Public Integrity Commission.

One way or the other the commission should get rid of one or both of these lawyers before they really hurt themselves and the commission.

Oops too late maybe Ginsberg et al should stop reading “management for dummies” and take the advice of a famous Canadian who said that "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence" (Dr Laurence Peter, 1919-90, Canadian academic, from the 1969 book, The Peter Principle, written by Dr Peter and Raymond Hull - Peter was the academic; Hull the writer).

Without a doubt Ralph and Barry have risen to new heights.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I was reading the news accounts of Speaker Silver’s stock holdings and the good government groups call for additional disclosure of the value of the stock holdings public officials should be required to provide and it got me thinking about how the good government groups and the media always miss the point when it comes to disclosure.

Now aside from the fact that the article about the Speaker was a cheap shot against a man that I think deserves a lot more credit for his attempt to achieve ethics reform this last session (and the fact that he wanted to get rid of the public integrity commission makes him an integrity hero in my book) the article completely missed the point. The disclosure of equity holdings of public officials is available for anyone that wants to see it and draw their own conclusion about it’s meaning (memo to self foil Minority Leader Skelos’s financial disclosure report since he is the opposite of an integrity hero – you can’t vote for the ethics bill and then refuse to override the veto of that bill and be taken seriously by anyone in favor of reform).

Yet even though the financial disclosure reports show us a public officials equity holdings the goo-goos want more. According to them we desperately need to know how much the holdings are worth. WHY? It’s just disclosure voyeurism, the ethics equivalent of a peeping tom. You may get a thrill from seeing it but it doesn’t accomplish much.

It’s not how much that matters but when the equity was acquired. It’s really no different than insider trading. I want to know when a public official buys or sells equities. That is meaningful disclosure. This matter of knowing when a stock is traded is important because it is at least conceivable that an elected official could obtain inside knowledge of something that would affect the stock price and then act on it. That's a problem. A big problem. With that piece of the puzzle we can tell far more about the motive than knowing how much they own.

Think of it this way, one of the tawdriest scandals in recent memory involved ex-governor Spitzer having sex with a whore. The media gave us that disclosure, they even told us how much the whore got paid along with sundry other facts a peeping tom would enjoy but it was the disclosure of the timing that I found enlightening. With the dates of when Spitzer set up his investment in this carnal stock you could determine if he violated the Public Officers Law by using the state plane for a non state purpose.

The commission’s opinion on plane usage is clear if the stated purpose of the travel was just a pretense than the use of the plane is a violation. Spitzer said he needed to go to Washington DC to testify before congress. But that testimony was scheduled after he booked the hooker, that’s a pretense and an open and shut case for the crack team of investigators at the commission.

Keep your socks on though I got a hunch that bunch would rather be peeping toms.

Monday, September 6, 2010


I was at the commission last week right at 9am to drop off some filings (I never mail anything to this bunch I always get a copy stamped to prove it was actually delivered. Since I don’t sleep with the boss I know I’m not getting that helpful phone call reminder. Come to think of it after this blog it wouldn’t surprise me if they treat me differently than anyone else and I don’t mean in a good way. Can’t say I blame them I might not sleep with the boss but I am ******** him.) Anyway who comes strolling in a little after 9am? He’s hard to miss, looks like a character from a Damon Runyon novel. That’s right Walter. Now I know Walter is a diligent hard working employee (he sends me emails denying foil requests all the time) so I asked how come he gets to come in late. The answer – TARDY POINTS.

Now I’ve never heard about TARDY POINTS and I worked for the Lobby Commission a long time in fact I ran it so I should have known what TARDY POINTS are. But I didn’t and don’t till now. It appears TARDY POINTS are something you earn from being at the commission and then you can use them to be late for work. Isn’t the commission a great place to work Lets add up all the TARDY POINTS that are used by commission employees then reduce the payroll by a corresponding amount more cost savings during these tough economic times.

Then I got to thinking is this just another state worker scam or is it a function of the culture at the commission? I decided it’s the culture. They are TARDY with lots of things besides getting to work on time. Here’s a list of the ones I know about. Lord knows how many others are out there, but if you know of some let me know and I’ll add them to the blog.

A hearing on the Abbruzesse case – going on three years

An opinion on due dates requested by a lobbyist I know – over a year

The resignation of all commissioners as requested by the governor – over a year

Michael Cherkasky’s client list – I asked for it at the first meeting Mike chaired over a year ago.

Written guidance to a lobbyist who terminated a client and then wanted to withdraw the termination after starting lobbying for the client again some months later – waiting since March for written documentation of the verbal advice (I’ll blog on this shortly since the lobbyist has not been able to file any reports since the termination has not been withdrawn)

An opinion I requested on behalf of a client regarding the widely attended event exception – since June

Then there are all the foils Walter has denied including Mrs. Ginsberg’s filing work flow notes, commission emails, policies, internal controls etc regarding due dates, audit reports the list goes on and on.

The status of the investigation I requested into Barry Ginsburg’s actions in responding to my question regarding former commission member Dan Alonso – 5 months

The status of my complaint regarding special counsel Ralph Miccio’s actions as regards his retaliatory threat of a lifetime bar violation resulting from my legal representation of a client challenging the statutory authority of the commission to impose late fees on registration amendments – over a month but I doubt they ever get the cojones to admit how wrong Ralph was

Oh and of course an answer to the simple question of DID THE COMMISSION CHANGE THE WAY IT DETERMINES DUE DATES – now 23 days and counting

I guess the commission is just going to use its TARDY POINTS it’s just a shame they haven’t done enough work to actually bank any TARDY POINTS

Which brings me to the question of - if a lobbyist has filed all required reports on time do they build up tardy points that would allow them to be late with a report once in a while? After all what’s good for the goose should be good for the Gander.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Ok Judge Kaye’s report is in and we’ve all had time to digest it. To me it’s a little like Christmas.

Christmas. is that because the report is like a present under the tree all neat and tidy wrapped with a bow? No although I must admit it is a present that just keeps on giving

It’s like Christmas because the last time this happened a star rose in the east three wise men showed up and we had a virgin birth as the result of Immaculate Conception.

Now I’ll defer to those with far more knowledge of bible passages and virgin births like the commissions press flak Walter but I’m pretty sure this type of event is rare.

But sure enough it happened again in the commission’s handling of the governor’s Yankee tickets.

The star rising in the east was Blair Horner of NYPIRG filing a complaint about the governor receiving world series tickets and the three wise men who arrived bearing gifts where Fred Dicker who brought a question asking if the governor paid for the tickets, Barry Ginsberg who brought a 15 day letter asking the governor to explain why the tickets were not a gift and the governors communications director Peter Kaufman who brought the gift of communications malpractice by telling the governor to pay for the tickets after the fact.

And where you ask was the Immaculate Conception? For the first time ever a public official was deemed to have received a gift but no one gave it to him. The governor got but no one gave.

Now let me be clear I do not think the Yankees gave the governor an illegal gift. If attendance at a world series game by a governor who is legally blind doesn’t meet the widely attended officially related exception to the gift ban than what does. I just don’t understand how anyone can say a gift was received when one was never given.

Be that as it may the commission gave the governor a good screwing on this one and 9 months later that activity has given birth to a bastard of a scandal. And once the governor lied about a check he didn’t see we had the integrity equivalent of an immaculate deception.

I’ll let you figure out for yourself the rest of the characters in the manger that is the Public Integrity Commission.