Friday, December 23, 2011

The deal for the new executive director of JCOPE

As I write this, the new staff leadership of JCOPE is being decided. Barry Ginsberg is gone, and two long-time bureaucrats --Jeanine Clemente and Terri Schilacci – are providing guidance to the chair as needed. My guess is Terri wins the cat fight and is named acting executive director. And like everything else about JCOPE it will be done in secret behind closed doors.

Neither Clemente or Schilacci will be named executive director. That position – despite the claims of the JCOPE chair that she will select a group of commissioners to undertake the search that is underway and will be completed within 21 days (all in secret behind closed doors)– will go to someone who is known and acceptable to the governor and the legislative leaders.

I suspect a deal is being cut right now. It could occur in a number of ways, but one possibility is that the administration will get to place the executive director, but the Senate and Assembly will each get a counsel slot or co-deputies. This will allow the leaders to keep tabs on the commission.

My current thinking is that Jeremy Creelan won’t get the nod. He’s still too hot as the author of the famous Brennan Center report that laid bare the dysfunction of the legislature.

The nod will most likely go to a Cuomo associate whom the legislative leaders can live with. I’m sure this individual will be a competent attorney and solid administrator. The person will be a step up from Barry, but he or she won’t’ be truly independent.

This is a concern for me and ought to be a concern for everyone. (I’d say it ought to be a concern of the goo-goos, but, as usual, they are off somewhere with visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads or in Dick Dadey’s case visions of Cuomo attending his annual fundraiser.)

No, there’ll be no outsider brought in to serve as executive director of JCOPE. There’ll be no “follow the facts without fear or favor” person. And no, the stalwart meter maid committed to equal enforcement of the law won’t get the job either.

To be sure, the appointment of the new executive director will be portrayed as the carefully considered choice of the JCOPE commissioners acting independently, but the reality will be that the new person has “connections.”

When this happens it will be another cause to question JCOPE – along with its largely status quo appointments and flouting of open meetings and FOIL laws.

It really hasn’t been a good rollout for the new ethics panel. But I’m still hopeful. Perhaps it’s the holiday spirit, but I really want to believe that despite the initial missteps of this panel, it will finally get down to the business of ethics enforcement and it will do a good job.

That’s my sincere hope for the New Year.

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