Thursday, August 22, 2013

Milgram speaks and removes all doubt

Removes all doubt that JJOKE is an independent competent ethics agency, that is.

The Times Union has a story today about the Lieutenant Governor buying a house from a top executive of an organization that is subject to JJOKE's disclosure guidelines on reportable business relationships.

In that story JJOKE's overpaid and undertalented press flack John Milgram is quoted and provides an opinion on what the rules for reportable business relationship disclosures are (of course the "Milgram" rule exempts the Lieutenant Governors transaction from disclosure)

Putting aside for the moment the value and policy behind requiring these disclosures (I blogged about it in depth last year when JJOKE was promulgating the guidelines and having numerous public discussions and focus groups) I wonder why Milgram is providing opinions on this issue that are wrong.

Here is what Milgram said to the Times Union:

"As a general matter, a reportable business relationship is one in which a lobbyist or client pays compensation to a state official who provides goods or services in return. Not the other way around,"


"The intent of the statute is clear, reportable business relationships are those in which the goods or services are provided by the public official and the public official is compensated for it."

Under the "Milgram" rule a lobbyist or client could provide goods or services to a public official and disclosure would not be required EVEN IF THE GOODS AND SERVICES WERE NOT AVAILABLE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC.

Just one small problem the "Milgram" rule is directly contradicted by the statute, the JJOKE guidelines and the JJOKE training materials.  Not to mention the numerous public pronouncements made by former JJOKE head Ellen Biben.

Here is what you can find on the JJOKE website about reportable business relationship disclosure, the relationship is required to be reported when:

"a Client pays, gives or promises Compensation to: (a) an individual whom the Client knows or has reason to know is a State Person; ...and

such Compensation is in exchange for goods, services or anything of value either performed or provided the State Person ."

"compensation" is defined as anything of value.  In the Duffy case the client gave Duffy (a state person) a house, clearly something of value and Duffy gave the client, in exchange for the house, money, clearly something of value.

It's not rocket science Milgram

Now if the house had been advertised and for sale to the general public the guidelines do have an exception that would exempt the relationship BUT it was a private sale according to the Times Union.

Here is a clear plain language description from the JJOKE FAQ section that is in direct opposition to the "Milgram" rule:

"In order for an RBR to be created, the goods, services, or anything of value provided by the lobbyist or client must be in exchange for goods, services, or anything of value either performed or provided or intended to be performed or provided by the State Person". 

Substitute house and money for "anything of value" and you can see that it's not rocket science Milgram the FAQ's are clear you are wrong.

Now just in case you are the type of reader that needs to see an example to understand how wrong Milgram is try the following from the JJOKE training material:


A lobbyist gives a State Senator a six-year-term loan for $5,000 at prevailing market rates

The loan offered to the State Senator is not commercially available

The lobbyist knows the individual is a State Person

 Lobbyist must disclose as a Reportable Business Relationship because the $5,000 loan, while at prevailing rates, is not commercially available

Now lets substitute Duffy for State Senator and private house sale for the loan and see if the example is clear enough to prove the "Milgram" rule wrong

A lobbyist gives DUFFY a HOUSE at prevailing market rates

The HOUSE offered to DUFFY is not commercially available (PRIVATE SALE)

The lobbyist knows the individual is a State Person

Lobbyist must disclose as a Reportable Business Relationship because the HOUSE, while at prevailing rates, is not commercially available

It's not rocket science Milgram the training materials are clear you are wrong.

UPDATE: Or listen to Ellen Biben explain why you are wrong Milgram  It's at minute 12:50 thru 13:15  of the August 28,2012 meeting "sweetheart deals"

So it's clear MILGRAM WAS WRONG.  But that's not news he has had a long history of being wrong.  The real question is why did he provide the misinformnation at all?

When first reached by the Times Union for comment Milgran gave his usual no comment, which while proving JJOKE is wasting money on Milgram's salary is just business as usual.

But then he said the statute and guidelines were "self-explanatory" when it came to Duffy's house purchase.  And based on my analysis above I would agree.

Several hours later though Milgram provided the quote you find in the story.

Why would he change his approach and provide an opinion that is so clearly wrong and also beyond his authority to issue?

Maybe the Moreland Commission should investigate, they have already issued litigation hold letters, just find out who told Milgram to issue the false "Milgram" rule.  If he did it on his own he should be fired by close of business today.  If someone told him to do it just follow the trail to see why.

Anytime the press flack becomes the story you need to find out why. That's known in New York Ethics language as the DOPP directive.

UPDATE:  Did Milgram violate the Public Officer's Law by using his state position to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for others?  Hey Milgram you just got DOPPED

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