I bet Ellen B. and John M. are surprised today about how much news they made at their first JCOPE meeting.
I was surprised, too. In no particular order, here are some of the noteworthy developments:
I was surprised that the commission discussed Ellen’s delegation of authority in public session. That’s never been done before. John even provided me a document that delineates that authority. I can assure you that this matter has never been broached in public before. In fact, I asked several times for it in years past and made formal FOIL requests, but all such requests were denied by Walter “Got Scotch” Ayers.
The document itself was surprising because it references a schedule for late filing fees that the commission has approved. I’ll be asking for that today because COPI never approved a schedule in its public meetings, and never announced approving one after exiting its executive sessions. The only schedule I’m aware of was approved by the Lobby Commission many years ago and it does not provide for late fees for registration amendments.
I was also surprised that the commission released its organizational chart. And I have to agree with some commentators that if you are going to release the organization chart you should release the job descriptions, qualifications and salaries. Having said that, the transparency is very encouraging and it allows me to draw some conclusions.
It appears that Ms. Biben will be beefing up the investigatory and enforcement arm, while reducing the program and administrative side. This means they are going to be hiring additional lawyers who will need to get up to speed quickly. It also means that some existing program people at the commission will be let go.
I’ve said over and over that an excessive focus on prosecution is a mistake. But it’s Ellen’s show now, and she deserves a chance to prove herself and her approach. She’s sharp. She and John are reading the papers this morning and they know that they are under the microscope. Some of their comments from yesterday clearly left the wrong impression – Yes, JCOPE is in the Executive Branch. But everyone cringed at the comment that implied it was under the control of the Governor. I think what they meant to say is that JCOPE is an Executive Agency in the sense that the Comptroller’s Office and AG’s office are Executive Branch entities. They are all funded out of the Executive Budget, but they are not under the “control” of the governor. They are independent.
That needs to be made clear, and I bet they try to clear that up in the days ahead.
It was, on balance, a good meeting yesterday. It was more open than at any time in recent memory. More openness means more scrutiny, but that comes with the territory.
Alas, the weirdest thing about yesterday was that the Chair, Ms. DiFiore, still has an aversion to using the public parking lot just across the street. But this time, at least, she had her driver sitting in her vehicle outside the JCOPE office. Did he put quarters in the meter? No. He just sat there. No tickets resulted because the vehicle was occupied. I guess I should consider this progress?!?