I recently got a call from a well-known reporter who, much to my surprise, questioned me rather aggressively about my focus on ethics enforcement. He said: “What difference does it really make if there’s a state ethics panel?”
At first, I thought the reporter was kidding. I simply couldn’t imagine a member of the LCA not recognizing the need for an independent, aggressive ethics panel in New York.
Someone later suggested to me that the reporter might have been simply posing a provocative question in the hope that I would give him a tip for a story. And, indeed, the reporter did ask me whether I thought there were ongoing ethical transgressions that should be investigated.
I said there are several issues that should be investigated – not the least of which was a recent article about the Cuomo administration making unusual payments to certain unions. I also told the reporter to read my recent blog entry on that topic, and I also told the reporter to stay tuned for another installment of our “Insider” series.
In this regard, another individual has come forward with an insider account that raises some provocative questions. The insider, whom I call Insider Z, said he believed that the Cuomo administration had violated state ethics law by engineering “a media hit” on Port Authority Chief Chris Ward.
Full disclosure: This particular insider is a prominent person in New York City who is close to Ward, and who is definitely no fan of the Cuomo administration.
Insider Z began by calling my attention to article about Ward that appeared in the New York Post on Monday.
“Ward was being slapped by the administration, and everybody who read that article knows it. But think about how they did it. The administration provided the reporter with a draft audit that hadn’t been released yet.”
“Is that proper? Go back to Troopergate. The Public Integrity Commission ruled that Spitzer’s people had used “government information for political purposes.”
“Isn’t that precisely what the Cuomo insider did when he gave the draft audit to the reporter?”
Insider Z cited “another level of irony” related to Cuomo’s role in Troopergate.
“In his original report on Troopergate, Cuomo said the Spitzer administration ginned up a negative story on Bruno. Isn’t that exactly what Cuomo and his people did with Ward?”
Insider Z claimed that the same people involved in writing Cuomo’s original report were involved in the “hit” on Ward. “And they went to the same media outlet they always use to undermine their perceived opponents.”
Insider Z even claimed that Cuomo, himself, was involved in the effort, and that the entire episode, if not a violation of law, was “an example of hypocrisy at its worst.”
My thanks to Insider Z for providing his account. As usual, I make no claims regarding the veracity of the account. I do, however, believe that this and other insider accounts point out the need for having truly independent and aggressive ethics enforcement in New York.
This space will continue to be available to those who want to make a reasoned argument on matters of ethics and policy, and I will continue to press for the establishment of a state ethics panel.