Tuesday, February 26, 2013

JJOKE to investigate orgys and minstrel shows aka the New York State Legislature

After exhaustive undercover (no pun intended Vito) research we have learned that JJOKE decided today to investigate Assemblyman Dov Hikind for his recent Purim party.

As we type this blog we are reliably informed that Susan Lerner and Dick Dadey are waiting by the phone for the green light to prepare a complaint to JJOKE about Assemblyman Hikind's use of blackface as a costume.

Once JJOKE receives the complaint they can then ratify the actions taken today after Milgram cut the wire on the webcast and leak a story that a 15 day letter has been sent to Assemblyman Hikind asking him to explain why his tasteless and racially insensitive actions in wearing blackface do not constitute a violation of the Public Officers Law section 74(h) (thats the catchall do as we say not as we do moral high ground part of the ethics law).

Six months of investigation, a ton of staff time to chase down every shred of  meaningless evidence, Mr. Hikind's refusal to testify and JJOKE can wrap up this matter and send a report to legislative ethics which will be secret for awhile and then we can await the next case of deviant behavior by a legislator it won't take long trust me.

Now when I started to write this blog my thought was to use the opportunity to show that JJOKE had no more business getting into investigations of racial insensitivity than it did sexual harrasment but the more I think about it . . . why not?  Public Officers Law section 74(h) is so broad there is more than enough room to hang Dov Hikind right alongside Vito Lopez.  Vito's a pig and Dov is a knucklehead.  And even JJOKE should be able to prove that.

Of course while JJOKE fiddles Albany will burn and important integrity issues will go uninvestigated and unpunished.

Thats the state of ethics reform in New York quite an improvement from the old days . . . don't you think?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shark Fins at JJOKE

Are those fins we see along Broadway?

Could it be that others are actively hunting JJOKE?

Right on the heals of my conversation with New York Post reporter Carl Campanile, reported here on the blog, a conversation initiated by the Post reporter btw.  I've received a call from a former ethics commissioner (thats how I protect Ravi's identity) who told me that a New York Post reporter was asking questions about JJOKE staffers having no show jobs and putting in requests for reimbursement for expenses related to travel to Albany when Albany was the official JJOKE work station (prior to May 15, 2012).

This generated two thoughts in my mind.

First would I be helpful and show this New York Post reporter how to put the pieces together about Biben's working from home for the first three months of her tenure.

The downside of doing so is it would seriously piss off some of my "friends" who are big Biben fans especially if they think I'm the one pushing the story.  On that point lets be clear I'm not pushing the story.  I did all the research last summer, I have all the documents that prove the allegations against Biben, and I've blogged about it but I'm saving my work in case I decide to do something with it, not for the New York Post AND I told the Biben supporters last year that she had ethical vulnerabilty on this and other issues.  They didn't care then after all they are wayyyyyyyyy smarter than I am so this one isn't my fault.  When I do the hit on Biben I'll sign my name on the card after I deliver it all wrapped up with a bow. 

Second and more importantly for the second time in a week the NEW YORK POST is sniffing around JJOKE and it doesn't appear that they are going to be writing a puff piece with a whole bunch of Dick Dadey and Susan Lerner brown-nosing quotes.

Now I'm not a sophisticated analyst of news related to New York politics but isn't the Post suppose to write flattering prose about all the positive reforms this governor has accomplished including ethics reform ... translated aren't they suppose to kiss Biben's ass?

Whats going on?

Is the Post doing this on their own?

Has someone in the legislature been feeding them unflattering info about Biben in retaliation for the Lopez/Silver leaks?

Or is it the governor's office trying to put a little distance between the governor's sterling record of success with reforms and the stench coming off the dead fish known as JCOPE?

In any event as someone who has been in the water when the shark fins break the surface Biben better hope that the sharks want someone else or pray that a seat opens up in the lifeboat (also known as the lawfirm of . . . nah no point in going swimming in shark infested waters in a raw meat bathing suit)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hindsight is 20/20

Hindsight is 20/20

I just received a phone call from New York Post reporter Carl Campanile.  He was asking a lot of questions about JJOKE and about one employee in particular, Latitia Tagliafierro.  He wanted to know if she was qualified to be the top investigator at JJOKE. 

Now I don’t know Ms. Tagliafierro and I told Carl that.  But I do know that JJOKE has accomplished little or nothing of substance during its first year and I said that as well.  I went further and stated that the top employees at JJOKE cannot be measured on substance because they all are Biben minions who have shown no independent skills to this point (other than Monica Stamm’s ability to whisper in Ellen’s ear and Rob Cohen’s talent for walking into closets and hitting the mute button during executive sessions – time to fess up Rob).

Carl then stated that JJOKE (he said JCOPE but I know JJOKE commissioner’s use the term JJOKE so I think its official) has only had a year to prove itself and they might need more time.  I disagreed and said six months of getting up to speed would have been enough for Biben to prove herself.  And a warning buzzer went off in my head.  I remember blogging about Biben when she was first appointed.  When I was trying my best to give her the benefit of the doubt.  I remember writing about her time at the IG and that you can’t measure an investigator until investigations have had time to ripen into cases.

So back to the archives I went and found the piece from February 2, 2012.  And being someone who can admit his mistakes I thought let me review the piece from the benefit of hindsight.  So here you go with commentary in italics:

JCOPE’s New Leadership

I am shocked, not about Ellen Biben’s appointment, that’s a pleasant surprise.

Pleasant like a root canal, proof that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

I am shocked that none of the media folks that contacted me today for comment used any of the things I had to say about the appointment.

My ego knows no bounds

So to the extent I can be my own media outlet here is what I think.

Is Ellen Biben a first-rate attorney? Yes, there’s no question about that.

Still can’t argue that point she is a smart lawyer it’s just not the only skill set you need for this job

Can Ellen Biben do the job at JCOPE? Absolutely, she’s proven herself a capable administrator.

How wrong I was about that

Will Ellen Biben be independent? I’d bank on it.

Even more wrong about that fact but that’s on Biben not me

Will she understand the proper role of the state’s top ethics enforcer? I hope so, but I don’t know for sure and only time will tell about this point.

Time has told the story Biben is more Teitelbaum than Hormozi

Let’s drill down on those last two matters:

Will she be independent? This is the concern of some pundits. They think that because she’s a former Cuomo staffer, she must be in the tank. I disagree. Ms. Biben was a career prosecutor who had a life before her association with Andrew Cuomo. She established a rock solid reputation for herself. Is she going to throw that away now and become a hack? No, that’s not going to happen.

It’s happened

(Remember that I was a Joe Bruno appointee. I had great affection for him, but I wasn’t going to let him or anyone else tell me how to do my job. This is the only attitude to have.)

Will Ms. Biben understand the proper role of being E.D. at JCOPE? I’ll break this down into two broad areas:

First, will she be both aggressive and fair? I think she’s proven to be both as IG. Some people may say that there haven’t been a lot of cases advanced by her office, but those who say that don’t understand the lag time between investigation and resolution. Any new IG (or AG) spends his or her first year putting the office in order and launching investigations. Results come later on. In this regard, all the reports I have read indicate that she has done a good job and has earned the respect of her staff. (This alone will set her apart from the Teitelbaums, Cherkaskys, Feericks and Ginsbergs of the world.)

The pundits were right the more I look into it Biben is good at acting like she started working on things but she isn’t much of a finisher.  This one is all me I should have done more homework and relied less on the opinion of others.  But I have to admit when I first met Biben I was a believer.

Second, does she get the intangible ‘it?” Does she know what JCOPE really is and what it isn’t? I really have my doubts that Janet DiFiore gets it. Yes, Ms. DiFiore is a tough prosecutor, but she thinks she’s running a DA’s office when in Albany.

My fear about the Biben selection is only that as a former prosecutor Ms. Biben will have the same bent as Ms DiFiore.  But only time will tell.

Time has told the story take away the quarters in the meter and nanny gate and Biben and DiFiore could be sisters, or mother and daughter.

The fact is JCOPE is a state agency with civil, not criminal authority. Yes, it has investigatory powers. It can hold adjudicatory hearings. And it can fine people. But if it finds something more serious than a violation of public officers’ law, it must refer the matter to other authorities.

The most important function of JCOPE may be to educate people on what they should and shouldn’t be doing in Albany.

Will these two professional prosecutors get that? Or will JCOPE be a Star Chamber, an investigatory body that is not bound by standard evidentiary rules or by direct judicial branch oversight and is free to make arbitrary calls on cases.

My great hope is the Ms. Biben will understand this critical distinction. I believe she will, and that is why I’m willing to give her a chance.

Chance is over Biben and her staff should resign and JJOKE should start over.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Quickly on the heals of JJOKE's not too subtle tossing of a media hand grenade yesterday came Dick Dadey's press release lauding JJOKE's historic accomplishment.

Now excuse me if I sound cynical Dick but I'd love to see you under oath explaining what prompted that press release and if you coordinated it with anyone in government.

But putting aside for the moment how completely the goo goos have been coopted lets talk about the merits of your praise.

After a six month investigation prompted by a complaint from your sister goo goo prompted by a "suggestion" from the governor prompted by the Assembly's own investigation of Lopez . .  JJOKE determines that . . oh my god the assembly investigation was correct Vito Lopez IS a pig.

Now that is indeed historic

I'm not sure any other ethics agency has ever wasted that much time energy and resources to prove something so widely known.  It was in a word underwhelming

Now while I have been consistent in saying JJOKE is the wrong entity to investigate sexual harrassment in government, and trust me Vito Lopez isn't the only one, if you are going to get involved do it well.

Did JJOKE investigate sexual harrassment thruout state government Dick?

Did JJOKE investigate why no other agency was able to prevent Mr. Lopez from continuing his behavior?

Did JJOKE investigate all the leaks surrounding the investigation?

And lets think about all the things JJOKE did not investigate while it was busy proving that the Assembly investigation that proved Lopez was a pig six months ago was accurate. HISTORIC

JJOKE did not:

Investigate Boyland's per diems - DiNapoli did

Investigate per diems thruout the legislature

Investigate Shirly Huntley - the feds did

Investigate member item corruption in general

Investigate unregistered lobbying related to fracking

Investigate unregistered lobbying for campaign finance reform - you may be a witness in that one Dick

Investigate unregistered lobbying by the state democratic party in recent television advertisements

Investigate Susan Lerner's Common Cause source of funding disclosure

I could go on and on and I might later today but I thought I'd give you a chance Dick to followup on your press release and tell the public what JJOKE has accomplished in its first year.

Take your time make some calls to the 2nd floor get your story straight and then pray you and I never end up on a panel together talking about "ethics reform"

Monday, February 11, 2013


Say what you want about John Milgram's ability as a Public Information Officer.

Say what you want about John Milgram's ability as a reporter (does anyone remember).

Say what you want about John Milgram's ability as a manager (most of the folks that I ask say he is an asshole).

Say what you want about the amount of carcinogens John Milgram is responsible for emitting during a work day.

But don't ever say John Milgram lacks comedic timing.

When it comes to comedy Milgram is the Lenny Bruce of ethics, he is the Richard Pryor of transparency he is the Eddie Murphy of Biben's world of misfit toys, in a word the man is a GENIUS.

The AP's Michael Gormley writes a story today about the "technical glitch" and/or intentional leak at JJOKE and Milgram basically tells Gormley  and everyone else that is asking to go fornicate themselves.

And then in a bit worthy of Howard Stern announces a "SPECIAL COMMISSION MEETING" tomorrow without the requisite notice and to rub salt in the public wound says it will NOT be webcast.

I guess they have not rectified that technical glitch.

I've been told Biben and DiFiore refuse to speak if there are any web cameras or mics in the room.

Now my guess is the vast majority of commissioners will be using some form of technology to vote on the Lopez case (oops I leaked my bad) since I doubt they can get 7 live commissioners in that room tommorow.

I hope for Milgram's sanity none of my super secret spy equipment that I have planted thruout the JJOKE office is able to eavesdrop on the meeting.

Or worse than that I hope no one allows Rob Cohen in the meeting with a cloned cell phone, I read the CIA can actually use your cellphone as a microphone without your knowledge.

Or I can save everyone the trouble and just tell you to tune in to the blog after the meeting it should take less than one hour for the world to know that JJOKE found Lopez to be a pig with a violation of subsection (h) that has no penalty, no violation of the Public Officers Law at all by Silver, DiNapoli and Schneiderman but JJOKE is recommending changes in procedures for there offices.

A couple of Commissioner resignations and then we can get back to asking what it is that JJOKE has accomplished in the last year?

No really thats not a joke, what have they done?

I'm serious stop laughing

Damn that Milgram is good.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Odds on Integrity

If the title sounds familiar it's because I used it on December 2 2011.

Over a full year ago I wrote a blog about William Boyland and per diems.

What a coincidence.

In that blog I wrote that DiNapoli could investigate per diems

What took so long Mr. DiNapoli?

Oh well better late than never I guess.

Here was my actual quote

"Do the mental exercise again. What if all 211 lawmakers were scrutinized for their per diem claims and bundling practices? How many of the lawmakers would have issues?

It’s not often you can bet on a sure thing."

Do you know who else should have investigated per diems?

Duh wtf are you working on Ms. Biben?  Your resume?

Of course it might be awkward for JJOKE to investigate per diems since the entire New York City office was collecting their own form of per diems during February, March, April and May when there was no New York City office.

I think this is what Milgram would call a technical problem that has been resolved.

Governor aren't you embarressed by this bunch of clowns?

JJOKE what else do you need to say.  The odds on integrity are getting longer all the time

Thursday, February 7, 2013


The Apocolypse has just learned that JJOKE Chief Economist Kitty Kay Chan is out.

We don't know yet who is in.

The Chief Economist is moving to Financial Services.

Do you think she is going to that agency as a pastry chef?

Because Lawsky needs a pastry chef about as much as JJOKE needs a chief economist.

Next stop on the Cuomo underground railroad for Biben?

And for the JJOKErs and Milgram in particular that will spend all day trying to figure out who leaked this information let me help.

Her name is Maria.

She is an assistant chief economist and she told a client that she could not complete an audit because her boss had left and gone to . . . well you know the rest of the story.

Hmmm I wonder did the chief economist put HER books down on the mute button?  You may be safe yet Rob.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

JJOKE reacts to our criticism

JJOKE is responding to the blog

I opened the Times Union newspaper this morning and was surprised to see James Odato’s story about the Gaming Association’s source of funding.

The story said that Mr. Odato got the data from JCOPE documents.

And that is what caused my surprise.  I wondered how Jim got those documents.

I wondered because I had submitted a FOIL request for those very documents on January 23, 2013 and had not received a response from JJOKE or Milgram much less the documents in question.

I thought maybe Jim had made his own FOIL and Milgram has some relationship with Odato that allowed Jim to get a head start on me and everyone else.

Or maybe Jim had gotten them directly from Feathers (if you don't know who Feathers is this blog might not be for you)because I know that they do have a relationship.

But rather than wonder I called Jim because he and I also have a relationship, sometimes good and sometimes not so good but good enough that I could call and ask, so I did.

And Jim graciously explained that he got the documents from the JJOKE web site.

THE WEBSITE? WOW who would have thought that JJOKE would have responded to the blogs criticism so swiftly?

So a little sheepishly, since I had not looked at the website since Friday morning, I took a look and sure enough there it was . . . 45 clients semiannual reports that include source of funding and 5 that include business relationships.

Now the fun begins, but before I dig into the substance of the reports I thought I’d look at the process to see if it could help me understand what is going on at JJOKE.

So I looked at the report that I had FOILed on January 23, The Gaming Association.

Why hadn’t Milgram provided it?

That was an easy answer the form had not been filed until January 29, 2013 the day of the infamous open mic at JJOKE.

But that means JJOKE had received the form reviewed it and posted it online in 3 days that’s pretty good but it also means that you might expect that every report filed before the 29th that had source of funding is also available, 45 might very well be all we are going to see or if there are more than 45 that means JJOKE is picking and choosing which forms to make available and when. 

Nah they wouldn’t do that would they?  Not this bunch.  I don’t know, go ask Speaker Silver if they are that calculating in their actions.

Anyway back to the review.

The form says it is an amendment which makes sense because the reason I FOILed it originally is the actual form was filed electronically online and I was able to review it to see that it met the threshold for source of funding.

Now I wonder why did it take Feathers who knows these rules as well as I do 2 weeks to amend?  Hmmm?  Could it be someone at JJOKE gave him a friendly heads up that the FOIL had been filed?

Sounds paranoid I know but when I first got to the old Lobby Commission in 1995 I was told a story of how the staff at the commission used to hold out paper forms from lobbyists that showed illegal gifts and would call the lobbyist to suggest they “correct” their form before it was available for public review.  The person who told me the story is still working at JJOKE in a high level executive position and had and has close ties to the Republican Party and was always my guess of who leaked the Silver/Las Vegas Casino story to Dicker back in the day.  A story that involved Feathers by the way.

Or maybe my FOIL got back to Feathers thru some other channel.  I didn’t exactly keep my request a secret.  So if I helped you avoid a compliance violation Feathers you are welcome.  I’ve always liked you even when you and Bruno tried to get me fired.  It was always business never personal. . . right?

But as far as the Gaming Association report itself goes no harm no foul.

But then I looked at the list of reports that have been disclosed and lo and behold I see COMMOM CAUSE.  Susan Lerner the Caesar’s wife of ethics I have to look at that one.

And it’s even more telling than Feathers report.

To begin with it was received on January 22, 2013 a full week late,

It is signed by Susan Lerner on January 16, 2013 a day after the statutory due date.

It is not marked as an amendment but the word amend is handwritten on it in the box marked for office use which means the commission staff think it’s an amendment.

But if it’s an amendment that means the original report should be available online.

As of this moment (Saturday February 2 at 1 pm) it isn’t.

Why would the commission make the hand written report (amendment) available before the electronic version?

The handwritten form does NOT contain information on who the lobbyist for Common Cause are.

How much they received in compensation.

How much they had in lobbying expenses.

What subjects they lobbied on.

Who they lobbied.

What bill numbers they lobbied.

In short none of the data that is useful in a transparent ethical environment.

It does tell us that Common Cause only had one source of funding, someone named Merck Friedrike who gave them $5000 on December 31, 2012.  I think I’d have to call BS on that as a full disclosure that aids the public in the pursuit of transparency.

What it does tell me is that JJOKE is using its total staff resources to get the reports with source of funding on the web asap.

Even if it means reports with meaningful data sit in electronic limbo waiting for review.

On one hand I’m empowered knowing my criticism has such an effect on the clowns at JJOKE on the other hand I wish they could learn to get it right before I have to point out their failures.

Coming soon business relationships or as they are now known the Will Barclay filings.

And by the way Susan Lerner feel free to explain what the hell you are doing when it comes to hypocrisy and ethics.  At this rate you could be the next Executive Director of JJOKE.

Time to go FOIL Dick Dadey’s filings.