Another weekend another ethical glitch at JCOPE.
Last weekend it was the computer filing system that experienced a “glitch”. BTW it wasn’t a glitch it was pure managerial incompetence. If you run out of disk space the weekend before a filing deadline someone or someone’s didn’t do their job. If it takes upper management a full day to realize it they are asleep at the switch or out of touch with their customers.
This weekend the ethical “glitch” is wholly owned by the head of JJOKE, Ellen Biben. Reacting to an editorial in the Times Union, Ms. Biben authored a letter to the editor titled “No conflict at ethics group”. I think it’s great that Ms. Biben is sharing with the common folk her view of “Ravigate”. Finally we get to see what the head of JJOKE thinks.
Not surprisingly she comes to the defense of her chairwoman, while at the same time giving Ravi a mini slap. The long and the short of it is that the head of New York’s ethics agency thinks Ravi overreacted and the chairwoman reacted appropriately.
Taken to its logical extreme Biben believes a commissioner could work for or have as clients lobbyists as long as they recuse themselves “when appropriate”. She may even be technically correct under the Act, but the problem arises when they don’t recuse. For example, DiFiore presided over the hearing on source of funding. If the District Attorneys Association should be registered lobbyists I’m sure it would have been “appropriate” for DiFiore to recuse. She didn’t.
Ms. Biben assures us that JJOKE will continue to hold ITSELF to the highest ethical standards. Whew, I feel better now, it sounds as if Lloyd Constantine and the Spitzer crowd are back in office.
Putting aside that bit of arrogance for the moment, and trust me I will return to it, Ms. Biben also shows us her command of the Lobby Act when she states that the chairwoman, as a sitting District Attorney, would be exempt from the definition of a lobbyist when acting as a “public official discharging her official duties”. Biben happens to be correct except that the exemption does not relieve the District Attorneys Association itself from the registration requirements of the Act if they or their members and/or officers lobby and exceed the threshold.
And therein lays this weekend’s glitch. Don’t worry about the chairwomen resigning from this organization or other organizations that she and/or other commissioners are members of, focus on the fact that JJOKE and Biben should be investigating if the District Attorneys Association should be registered as a lobbyist!!!!! That’s the fundamental fact that Biben et al are ignoring. And have been ignoring since DiFiore got appointed to JJOKE.
Now back to that scrutiny that Biben seems to be encouraging. How about explaining what you have been up to since you where appointed over 4 months ago, or what the commission has been doing for the last 6 months that it has been in existence.
I listed over 30 questions for Ravi, why don’t you hold a press conference the next time you are in Albany and answer some of them, or better yet let the media have 30 minutes of your time at the next secret commission meeting to ask you whatever they want.
The questions could range from why you fired longtime lobby commissioner staffers to where you operated from before you opened the new expensive New York City command center. Maybe you can even go back in time and explain if you spoke to the governor’s office about the Libous investigation or who leaked the fact that there is a Libous investigation or go back further and explain your role in troopergate. Is it possible you knew more about what really happened with Bruno’s state plane trips than the AG’s report stated? I wonder what was in those papers Lacewell removed from the archives.
Having posed those questions I want to congratulate Ms. Biben for sharing her thoughts on the Times Union editorial. Keep up the transparency the more you share the more we know.