Wednesday, April 30, 2014

JJOKE Commissioner resignations

I've decided that the fault at JJOKE rests squarely with it's commissioners and there appointing authorities.

Now don't misunderstand, the staff bears a huge portion of the blame but staffers who owe there jobs to the second floor or their Uncles who are commissioners or a friend who may be married to a commissioner etc etc can not be expected to be independent.  Lets be realistic they may want to punish state employees who have stock holdings in companies they are investigating (or not investigating because of the conflict), they may want to punish state employees for failing to disclose those stock holdings, they may want to punish state employees that accept free rides in fancy corporate jets from disqualified sources, they may want to punish state employees for getting off the fancy jet and jumping into limos provided gratis by disqualified sources, they may want to punish state employees for fundraising from family members of those they are investigating, they may want to investigate the state democratic party for being an unregistered lobbyist.

But they won't until there commissioners tell them to, or someone on the 2nd floor does.  That's just reality.  I've heard it over and over when I ask staff members why no action on these type of complaints "you are preaching to the choir".

If that's the case it's time to switch churches.

But I digress,  it is not staffs fault, they could do more, much more, but they are insecure and incompetent.

No it's the commissioners fault.

And the recent decision by the commission to state on the record that they are not subject to the open meetings law even when they hold a public meeting is just another example, a minor one but illustrative of how things work at JJOKE.  I wonder how many commissioners actually read the statute before they went along with Monica's Stamm's flawed legal analysis? (It was Monica's birthday and that lovely cake waiting for the commission in the break room would make a perfect place to plant a recording device, by the way how did the cake taste?)

But I digress yet again.  Since it is so difficult to tell the commissioners apart and I have no way of knowing who actually is attending meetings remotely I've made up a simple reference sheet to identify them.

I've decided they fall into 5 categories.

Category 1 - the insiders, these are the select few that receive orders from the 2nd floor and are in the know.  These are the commissioners that look the most embarrassed when they have to try to defend the indefensible with a straight face.  I put Horwitz, Lavine and Arroyo in this category.  Now Arroyo may only be a fringe player as he has been cagey enough to avoid going to meetings.  Why cagey? because it is this type of commissioner that will have to lawyer up quick if anyone ever investigates how things work at JJOKE and better to not be seen at the scene of the crime..

Category 2 - the sheep, these are the followers.  They do not care enough about their reputations to take an active role in what goes on.  They might show up at a meeting but all they do is raise their hands to vote yes.  Go along get along and when the subpoenas start flying they will have many a sleepless night trying to figure out what they did and why.  I put Hormozi, Knox, Romeo, Rath, Covullo and DeArcy in this category

Category 3 - the clowns, the entertaining ones. They are sheep unless directed otherwise by Shelly but they are immensely entertaining to watch.  I put Roth in this category, she is a headline act.  Anyone that has watched her stand up performance would have to agree she has that annoying kvetching Jewish grandmother at thanksgiving thing down perfect.  I've turned her "I can't hear you" line into my ringtone.  Marvin Jacobs falls into this category for his shear brilliance in finding ways to miss the point of what he should be arguing about and still managing to annoy and frustrate Horowitz.  And a very nice man by the way a real mensch.  Lastly is the new guy Casteleiro,  Anyone that looks that much like Gary Busey and is a New Jersey lawyer on a New York ethics commission is priceless.  If there is ever an investigation, these are the commissioners the 2nd floor will try to deflect guilt upon, "Shelly's puppets" I can hear it now and you know what? they won't be wrong.

Category 4 - the polite ones.  They are the ones with real substance and an ability to force change but they are too polite to speak out in public and attack the rest.  Weismann and Renzi could have done so much more if they just would have the courage to voice their opinions in public and force change.  But they are too cautious or polite or wimpy whatever the reason, they bear a goodly bit of the blame for JCOPE becoming JJOKE in my opinion.  Nothing is sadder than wasted opportunity.

Category 5 - the smart ones.  At this point any JJOKE commissioner that has resigned falls into this category.  In the long run they sleep better, their reputations are restored and they don't have to hire criminal defense lawyers.

Something tells me a Category 5 storm is on the way.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Insecurity and incompetence

It's been well over a month since I have blogged and anyone that follows the blog has realized even before then I had cut down on the amount of blogging I was doing dramatically.

I'm not sure I know the actual reason why I've limited my blogging, maybe I don't have the time . . . nah I could always find the time in the past to voice my opinion.  Maybe I don't want to embarrass certain clients that are not wild about my observations being tied to them . . . nah I've always told clients that I write for myself and my views are my own if you are embarrassed by my blog find someone else to do for you what I do.  Maybe I was giving the new ED at JJOKE a honeymoon period, after all LT has been exceedingly friendly to me, regular sessions discussing JJOKE it's personnel and the issues that it faces.  At least she was until last week. 

And then she reverted to a typical JJOKEr and fell back on the old JJOKE propensity for secrecy and "lets make up the rules as we go along" attitude that Ellen Biben was famous for.

And lo and behold my blogging juices start flowing again.

It's always the little things that show you the true measure of a person or an institution.

In this case it was a simple request.

Over a week ago I asked LT for the names and locations of any commissioner that was planning to attend the commission meeting on the 29th by video conference.

No big deal and it is provided for by the open meetings law.

LT's first reaction? why do you need that information.

Now I get the paranoia.  In fact it's healthy for someone in LT's position to be paranoid.  There are people out to get her they have been and they always will be, but we've become friends so if you ask I'll tell you and I did tell her.  I have a client that wants to have observers at these locations to make sure what we see and hear on camera is actually the opinion of the commissioner and not some political fixer off camera feeding the commissioner lines.  And the fact that the lazy commissioners will be uncomfortable with strangers in their posh law offices that are not open to the public is just a bonus.

And then the waiting begins.  Now I've been around long enough to know the waiting means LT is taking direction from someone.  Even though this is an easy request that requires a simple yes or no it takes a week and several more written requests to get a response.  And that response comes from Biben's hand picked fixer Monica Stamm.  Bright women whose main talent seems to be her willingness to do exactly as she is told to do.  And it's a shame because my guess is left to her own devices she is capable of giving sound legal advice.

Monica's written response is we will not tell you that information because we are not subject to the open meetings law. 

One small problem that is not what the statute says.   As I had previously pointed out to LT and reproduce here

"It is my understanding that the commission may take the position that it is not subject to the open meetings law or has not had sufficient time to research the issue. To the extent that is the case I have provided the relevant portion of your enabling legislation Executive Law section 94 it states as follows:
“(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of article seven of the public officers law, no meeting or proceeding, including any such proceeding contemplated under paragraph (h) or (i) of subdivision nine of this section, of the commission shall be open to the public, except if expressly provided otherwise by the commission or as is required by article one‐A of the legislative law.”

I believe a clear reading of the statute by even the most marginal attorney admitted to practice law would result in the interpretation that the Commission may hold secret meetings on any subject other than those “required by article one‐A of the legislative law.” However once the Commission provides that a meeting shall be open to the public, as is the April 29th meeting, the relevant provisions of “article seven of the public officers law” are applicable.

Your enabling legislation may allow you to control an on/off switch for transparency in your meetings but it does not provide a dimmer switch that would allow you to pick and choose what sections of the open meetings law you choose to be governed by once you decide to turn on the transparency light and have a public meeting

So if it is so clear that even a reporter can understand it why does JJOKE take the route of maximum resistance and try to rationalize it unethical behaviour by perverting the clear statutory construction? 

Well that brings me to the title of the blog insecurity and incompetence.  They have an overabundance of both.  They are so insecure and afraid of making a mistake that will upset the Cuomo administration that they revert to there go to move of keep it confidential.  If it's kept a secret they think they are safe.

Bad decision in fact an incompetent decision.

And one that has proven to me that LT is no different than Ellen Biben or Regina Calcaterra for that matter.  What is it about these Cuomo ethics officials that makes them so insecure?

I still hope I can piss off LT enough to get her to react and show she has the independence to make the hard decisions no matter what they are because so far she appears to be a scared rabbit just trying to avoid Elmer Fudd.

And by the way if tomorrows meeting is not a public meeting under the open meetings law what is it and what rules will apply?  I love meetings without rules  anarchy is my bread and butter.