Wednesday, December 17, 2014

JJOKE is out to lunch

1:45 pm on Wednesday December 17, 2014 I made a trip to the JJOKE offices in Albany to hand file a stack of 2015 registration authorizations.  I got the prime parking spot right in front of the office dropped a quarter in the meter (more than former JJOKE Chairwomen DiFiore ever did) and went to the front door and rang the bell.  No one answered and the lights were all off.  WEIRD.  Well maybe they were in the bathroom I waited but no lights ever came on so I called the main number and got the recording that says if you are calling during work hours and you get the message it's because they are helping other people.   BULLSHIT I can see that no one is at the reception desk.  So I call LT's private line, no answer just another recording, then I call LT's cell no answer.  Now I'm worried  maybe it's a hostage situation, it's possible a disgruntled former employee (fill in the blank . . . Biben Ginsberg Teitelbaum etc etc) has returned.   I better check.

So with the guards permission I go up to the Agency office on the second floor and ring the bell and just like downstairs no one is there.

It's obvious the office is closed.  But how is that possible?  Has a very localized storm hit JJOKE with enough snow to cause the governor to close just JJOKE?  Boy that state weather forecasting is getting pretty precise.  Has a natural disaster hit so as to cause the governor to close JJOKE lord knows their performance has been enough of a disaster to qualify.

It isn't until 4pm that I learn that JJOKE closed for a holiday lunch out of the office.

Are you kidding me?  Who closes a state office without notice and without leaving a staffer to keep the office open to go to a holiday lunch?  And where did the authority come from to close JJOKE?

For the JJOKE staffer that thought they could close the office on their own see if you can figure out where this comes from

"While agency management and/or appropriate emergency personnel may direct an "emergency evacuation" of a state facility due to building safety conditions, individual appointing authorities do not have the authority to close an office or facility or send employees home without charge to leave accruals. Offices or facilities may only be closed by order of the Governor.
In an instance when a facility is to be closed, agencies must obtain authorization to close from the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (“GOER”), after GOER has consulted with the New York State Office of General Services and/or the Director of State Operations"

You can't make this stuff up. 

No question JJOKE continues to reach new lows and somebody owes me a quarter.

UPDATE: It appears I'm the only one that noticed the difference between JJOKE open and JJOKE closed.   And that is all you need to know about ethics reform.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Who is the most inept commissioner at JJOKE?

This question came up today as I was speaking with some folks knowledgable on the subject, and much like in sports the opinions were varied and passionate.

So I decided, for anyone who is interested to do my own top ten list (and unlike JJOKE I don't plan on putting asteriks to highlight how many mistakes Milgram made in compiling my list - seriously has anyone looked at the JJOKE release of midyear lobby statistics?  the explanation for how many things they got wrong is astounding,  of course none of it is their fault it's those bad lobbyists that keep over reporting), so without further adieu here is my top ten (twelve commissioners so top 12) list of JJOKE Commissioners:

12. George Weissmann - The best commissioner JJOKE has now that Bulgaro is gone.  George's only fault is he doesn't hold other commissioners and staff accountable personally, he is the consumate polite professional. Grade A-

11. Judge Cavullo - A happy fellow, but don't let that Uncle Joe persona fool you he is really smart he just doesn't care enough to show you how smart he is.  If I was a JJOKE staffer or commissioner I would make it a point not to piss him off.  Grade B

10. David Renzi - made every meeting but only 4 in person. I make an allowance because he lives in Watertown and sometimes you just can't leave Watertown. While Renzi gets cudos for being a vocal critic of the JJOKE actions on source of funding exemptions he gets some demerits for his alleged vote flip flopping on the Lopez case after a little nudge from the second floor. His wife's job with a legislator also makes him somewhat suspect but he gets points for her being a former beauty queen.  My Watertown sources tell me the Renzi clan are good people so all in all for an assembly republican pick he could have been much worse. Grade B-

9. David Arroyo - I have no clue what he has done at JJOKE, by my count he has attended  50% of the meetings in 2014 and only 3  in Albany.  He hasn't spoken a meaningful word in public so as near as I can tell he is simply a reliable yes vote for the Cuomo faction.  The phrase useless as teets on a bull comes to mind. Grade C

8. Seymor Knox - He is the same as Arroyo but actually makes the meetings in Albany, coming all the way from Buffalo.  Doesn't say anything but I place him ahead of Arroyo because he collects travel money for showing up at the meeting without contributing anything.  From what I hear he is a fun guy that enjoys playing a round of golf when he shows up for those warm weather meetings. Grade C

7. Mary Lou Rath - Only made it to Albany 3 times this year.  She is just what you would expect a former State Senator to be, no clue about the issues but more vocal with the press than any of the others.  I'm told she is the source for a lot of JJOKE leaks and if the media ever smartens up and starts calling her off the record she could provide some meaningful facts. Grade C-

6. Michael Romeo - Made every meeting but like Knox you have to wonder why.  Has said nothing but has recused himself from several issues discussed in the numerous executive sessions, makes me wonder what an insurance agent from Long Island is doing on this commission. Grade C-

5. Gary Lavine - Gary makes the meetings and he is smart which makes it all the more frustrating when he just can't seem to muster the courage to take this commission in a positive direction.  His bailing Horowitz out on several issues that were clearly being done at the 2nd floors behest makes me question his integrity on the other hand I know Gary, he is a good guy but he was picked by Larry Schwartz.   He hasn't called me in a while either he's mad or he doesn't want to hear what I think.  I'll give Gary the same advice he gave me when I left government "get out and embrace serendipity"  It's time to leave Gary. Grade D+

4. Chairman Dan Horwitz - Not nearly as effective as a Chairman as he was as the enforcer for the 2nd floor when Difiore ran the joint.  His lack of knowledge of the use of executive sessions was glaring and startling, but it is his interaction with the Silver troika that moves him to this position on the list.  Why does a smart NYC lawyer put up with those hacks?  If the Chairman can't put that bunch of monkeys back in the barrel he shouldn't be the chairman.  His service has been rewarded though, his wife got a nice big money gig with the Battery Park Authority (and follows me on twitter which is a little weird).  Compared to past Chairmen he is not as good as Mitra but far better than DiFiore, Cherkasky and Feerick.  Of course I've got a ficus that would make a better Chairman than those three. Grade D

3. Marvin Jacobs - He must have been Shelly's roommate to get this gig.  A very nice man and bright enough in his area of expertise but zero skills in the world of ethics and politics.  He gets told what to do and just can't execute, in other words he is the Mark Sanchez of JJOKE just waiting for a butt fumble.  I must admit I wish he would pull another "lets have a vote in public" moment like he did to protect Shelly in the Lopez case of course that wasn't his idea but it was entertaining. Grade F+

2. Renee Roth - Her "no" is priceless.  A hack from the Queens machine and not ashamed to show it.  She reminds me of my jewish grandmother at thanksgiving complaining about everything and everyone without a care in the world for how it looks.  That she is in the same office with Horwitz is a bonus.  Her transparent political posturing on the source of funding exemtions was a travesty of partisan politics.  Would be number one on the list except she is not from NEW JERSEY. Grade F

1. Paul Casteleiro - I can only imagine what connection he had to get Shelly to appoint a New Jersey slip and fall lawyer to JJOKE.  Everytime he opens his mouth he proves the adage better to be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.  His performance on source of funding was every bit as bad as Roth's.  No equity here  if you are a liberal dem or a convicted felon Pauls got your back.  Would love to see Paul and Renzi in an intellectual debate about anything.  His comment last meeting that he needs staff to get him the material with more time to review should have received a public bitch slapping from LT or Horwitz.  If you need more time or don't understand the material don't wait to the meeting to say so.  A semi competent attorney could have reviewed that draft regulation in under an hour.  And yes the staff screwed up again in there drafting but next time take a page from the Weismann/Cavullo book and discuss it in public session make your point and defend it,  it's easy to show Rob Cohen is wrong only a coward says you need to get it to me sooner.  Next time Paul forward your briefing book to Shelly's office and get your marching orders. Grade F-

Oh and by the way any of you commissioners that think you "need to teach me a lesson" just open up the meeting for public comment.  I'll talk about anything having to do with JJOKE.  And those 10 things I've forgotten about disclosure that you haven't thought about are just the tip of the iceberg.  I'm done politely pointing out problems to LT so she can fix them.  From now on when you step on your vestigulous appendage I'll just take a picture and talk about it publicly.  Nothing I hate more than a bunch of inept ethics bullies picking on me, it's time to go back to the good old days and force some more resignations.

And to those that wonder why I have to make things personal (Gary Lavine)  It's because thats how you get things to change.  Ask yourself next time I come up in an executive meeting if your grade of D+ is effecting your thought process.

Now based on the suggestion of a former ethics commissioner I'm going to start working on an ethics Hall of shame.

Friday, December 12, 2014

How to put together a top 10 list

JJOKE statistician John Milgram is at it again.

Just read the amended top ten lists found on the JJOKE press release

After screwing the pooch the first time JJOKE released the list they have now updated it with asterisks (*) to account for the Robert Unger million dollar typo they missed the first time that I pointed out to them plus some kind of overreporting by the Recording Industry Association of America.  Since I didn't tell them about the recording industry they either checked the list themselves after the fact or someone else brought it to there attention.

I happen to know that they did as thorough a review as their abilities and talent allowed after the fact.  I know this because they asked me to come in and explain why their lists where wrong (trust me they were embarressed).  They also wanted to know why the largest spender Families for Excellent Schools wasn't on their list.  Now that was funny, them asking me why they screwed up the formulation of their own top ten lists.  I answered because you are JJOKE and you should fire Milgram.  At a mininum you should talk to Chris Bragg the reporter for Crains that was asking the same question.  Instead they ignored Chris did the review internally found the Recording industry and reissued the list with astericks but without corrections, so we still don't know who the top ten lobbyists and/or clients really where.  I guess every lobbyist other than Unger can now claim to be number 10.

They also put the following line in the corrected release
"The chart above reflects only expenditures reported in client semi-annual filings. Therefore, any entity that reported expenditures in a separate lobbyist bi-monthly report, but not in their client semi-annual report, may not be included."

Now I know what they are referring to since I've had several conversations with LT and Martin about how in house clients can report expenses.  For over 20 years every lobby agency has allowed clients to pick between reporting expenses on the bimonthlys or waiting to report on the semiannual.  Those that want to disclose sooner report on the Bimonthly just as Families did for over $6 million dollars in expenses.

But this creates a problem for JJOKE because when they do top ten lists they just run a report that provides them the top ten clients based on expenses reported on client semi annuals and the top ten lobbyists based on compensation and reimbursed expenses.  If you are a client/lobbyist you don't fall into either category.  Now for a minute forget that we are only talking about 10 names and forget that just 2 weeks prior a story ran in Crain's noting how much money Families spent on lobbying, a story that Milgram no commented (and this is why Milgram should be fired any competent employee would have seen the mistakes on the lists) what will be the JJOKE response to being incapable of correctly compiling a top ten list?

Will they assign competent people to compile the lists?  NO
Will they change the rules and make clients only report expenses on the Client Semi Annual? NO
Will they stop press releasing inaccurate lists? NO
Will they in their paranoia accuse me of purposely filing my clients in such a way as to not show up on their internal top ten compilation? YES

With that in mind my guess is they will start requiring client/lobbyist to report expenses on both the bimonthlies and the client semi annuals, thereby resulting in more work for the lobby community but in their minds idiot proofing or should I say Milgramproofing the compilation of top ten lists.

Typical JJOKE response it's a JJOKE mistake but that will make someone else fix it.

When I had this conversation with LT and Martin (and I will give them credit for at least asking my opinion, afterall I only did it right for over a decade . . . I know I'm arrogant) They claimed over half the client/lobbyists do it this way already.  Which got me thinking.  The incorrect number 1 on the client top ten list is United Teachers with $2,639,657.  So I checked and their in house lobbyist Stephen Allinger does itemize and report expenses on his bimonthlies, $2,310,722 to be exact.  Now Mr. Allinger registers in his own name not as United Teachers so that is the correct way to report but how come he doesn't show up in the top ten lists of lobbyists his combined compensation and expenses total $2,639,657 good enough for number 7 on the never corrected top ten list, but he is not there.  Do I smell another revision and asterik on the way?  How did JJOKE compile the top ten lobbyist list?  They say it includes compensation and expenses.  But Families reported over $6 million in expenses which would have made them number 1 on the never corrected lobbyist top ten list but they are not there. Do I smell another revision and asterisk on the way? I can hear JJOKE now "well it's not really expenses it's only reimbursed expenses for lobbyists"  OK I buy that but Mr. Allinger reported $2,310,722  in expenses.  If they were not reimbursed expenses Mr. Allinger must be doing very well to spend over $2 million dollars of his own money on behalf of his employer.  And by the way a simple review of the filings, something I'm sure JJOKE has not done, would show that Mr. Allinger did not report any reimbursed expenses nor would I expect him to have been reimbursed the $2,310,722  reported as expenses since he didn't spend it, the client did.  Looks like Mr. Allinger over reported, comeon JJOKE make him amend.

Is your head spinning yet JJOKE?  I told you I've forgotten more of this stuff than you and your commissioners know.  How funny would it be for Renee Roth or Casteleiro or Marvin Jacobs to discuss this issue in public with me?  They are better off staying in executive session even though anything having to do with the Lobby Act, like changing the guidelines, is required to be done in public under the statute which states as follows:
"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 guess my conclusion is that it's easier to fire Milgram and start reviewing the lists with people that know what they are doing rather than change a policy that has worked for 20 years.

Or just start buying those asterisks by the ton.

Or here is a legitimate piece of advice take your time and think about ALL of the ramifications before you make a change, talk about it in public session with the commissioners and invite the regulated community to be involved in the conversation.  I promise I'll be respectful . .  at least until your commissioners show how little they know or understand then I may have to point out that JJOKE is truly a failure because of the people selected to be commissioners.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Twas the night JJOKE style

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the JOKE
Not a lawyer was available, they are all very busy folk;
The top ten lists were written by Milgram with great care,
He hoped that no one noticed how many mistakes were in there;

The prarie doggers were nestled all snug in their cubes,
With visions of retirement they all acted like they were on ludes;
And Biben in her 'kerchief, and DeFiore with her parking meter trap,
Had just resigned after taking a long ethics nap,

When on the 2nd floor there arose such a clatter,
Larry Schwartz peeked his head out of Andy’s ass to see what was the matter.
Away to the phone he flew like a flash,
and dialed Horwitz number, Andy's ethics once again the media had put in the trash.

The New York Times had written Moreland was not as pure as the driven snow
In fact it looked like Preet thought Andy must go,
Right then Larry knew how it would appear,
He’d take the fall that was certainly something to fear,

With hardly a moment to spare he needed to be quick,
Time to get those governors appointees on JJOKE to use the ethics stick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, HORWITZ! now, LEVINE! and ROMEO!
Call Skelos we need his appointees to go balls to the wall!
Now vote as I say vote as I say vote as I say all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
Andy said get JJOKE to focus attention on someone other than I,
So a commission meeting JJOKE did hold,
Held in secret because its not the time to be bold.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard Milgram leak
JJOKE is investigating some legislator who is terribly weak.
As they ended the meeting and got ready to split,
Grandeau wrote a new blog pointing out their bullshit.

Once again JJOKE showed itself under the governors foot,
The agency reputation was tarnished with ashes and soot;
Can you imagine if the Dark Prince ever came back,
Think of all the folks he would happily sack.

John Milgram would go first that would make Dave so merry!
That hack made so many mistakes he reminded us of a cut rate Ginsberg named Barry!
Rob Cohen would be next drawn up like a bow,
Between the closet, the mute button, and his failure to file his attorney registration he absolutely needs to go;

So many old staffers have left I can’t recycle old lines,
With no one left it explains why no one gets fined;
Monica is still left from the Biben regime,
But now she talks, so unlike Marcel Marceau she’s no longer a mime .

It makes you long for the days of special counsel Ralph,
I know I know I should be ashamed of myself;
So with a wink of my eye and a twist of my head,
I’m letting LT know she has nothing to dread;

I’ll speak not another negative word, but go straight to my work,
And deposit my fees; and stop being a jerk,
And laying my middle finger aside of my nose,
And giving a nod, I’ll spell check my prose;

So to my computer I did access word pro,
Fix all my grammar it was time for me to go.
But a scorpion must sting it is in my very nature so,

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Twas the night 2014

Well it's that time of year again

Everyone waiting for this years version of Twas the night.

I'll be posting the full version next week for Casey Seilor's grammer and spell checking but for now enjoy a sneak peak

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the JOKE
Not a lawyer was available, they are all very busy folk;
The top ten lists were written by Milgram with great care,
He hoped that no one noticed how many mistakes were in there;

The prarie doggers were nestled all snug in their cubes,
With visions of retirement they all acted like they were on ludes;
And Biben in her 'kerchief, and DeFiore in her county owned cap,
Had just resigned after taking a long ethics nap,

When on the 2nd floor there arose such a clatter,
Larry Schwartz peeked his head out of Andy’s ass to see what was the matter.
Away to the phone he flew like a flash,
and dialed Horwitz number, Andy's ethics once again the media had put in the trash.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Nice guys have different rules

The recent media uproar over this public official in Lake George who looked like he was being targeted by the Cuomo hit men got me thinking.

The fellows name is David Wick and according to media accounts he is the Mother Theresa of the North Country.

I've never met Mr. Wick, know absolutely nothing about him and have no connection to Lake George other than I get up there several times a year to visit my college roommate who lives in the village.  And I purposely did not call my old roommate to see what he knew about Wick because I wanted to remain blissfully ignorant.

From what I can tell from reading news accounts, the Times Union's editorial and my good friend Fred LeBruns recent column the Cuomo camp is upset at Mr. Wick for not giving the Governor proper credit and deference when it comes to taking credit for washing boats before they are allowed in the lake.  Upset enough for a Cuomo minion to travel north to deliver orders to Mr. Wick's employers to fire him.  And here is where it gets interesting.  The orders were delivered and reported but the media could not nail down the why for several days.  First no one knew the answer then it was for a small spill of gas in the lake and then after huge public outcry it is announced that the IG had investigated and discovered a gift violation.  AHA thats something I know about and understand.

Mr. Wick solicited a gift from an organization under his jurisdiction.  Thats a violation of the Public Officers Law, doesn't matter why he did it and it doesn't matter that he might be Mother Theresa IT"S A VIOLATION.

Now the media should be careful stating that it is trivial because of all the good Mr. Wick has done.  Who gets to decide if Mr. Wick is a good guy or a bad guy?  And on that point if Mr. Wick was such a stand up guy why didn't he tell the media that he was under investigation for soliciting this gift?  He knew about it and could have put a lot of the confusion and unrest to bed by being honest and upfront about it. 

Same goes for the commissioners themselves that he reports to.  Some of them were involved in the solicitation and use of the gift yet they stood by mute when it came to explaining what was going on.

Ditto for the Cuomo hit man.  Why not announce why you want Wick fired?

Instead this is what ethics in New York has come to.

A clear gift ban violation is excused by the media because the wrongdoer is a "good guy".

The Cuomo machine is seen as so corrupt that even when they use a clear violation of the gift ban as a rationale no one believes them and everyone starts looking for the shooter on the grassy knoll.

And we are left with JJOKE to sort it out.

Please JJOKE do not take forever to investigate Mr. Wick AND the commissioners that assisted him.

If the IG facts are accurate the punishment should be the same if Mr. Wick is a good or a bad guy, don't pull another Lopez and throw the book at him because he is a loathsome individual any more than let him off the hook because he is the governor.  The statute says the penalty is equal to up to 5 times the value of the gift.  Make it 5 times each,  for all involved, Wick, the commissioners and the Steamboat Company and then take the opportunity to investigate why the Cuomo hitman traveled north to deliver the message to fire Wick prior to the IG reports public release.  What did he know, who told him and why.  And if the facts show the Cuomo camp used Wick's transgression as a stalking horse for an ulterior motive take a look at the IG investigation and everything associated with it.

AND DO IT ALL IN PUBLIC and while you are at it explain why a boat ride on Lake George is different than the private jet trip David Boies gave NYAAG David Ellenhorn.  (Did you let Ellenhorn skate because he is a "good guy" or because Boies cut a deal?)

That would go a long way to changing the perspective that JCOPE is the wholly owned JJOKE of the Governor.

Here is a list of other Public Officer Law violations you could stop ignoring:

Cuomo's use of state offices to promote his book
The State Democratic Party's failure to register as a lobbyist
Complaints against Schneiderman and DiNapoli
Artists against Fracking failure to register
Susan Lerner's source of funding disclosure's accuracy
Duffy's revolving door and house purchase
DeRosa's advance knowledge of your decisions
I could go on and on

Now I've been hearing from those inside JJOKE that no matter what they do I will criticize them.  Maybe yes maybe no but you certainly have made it easier to criticize than compliment.  Do something meaningful in the open so it can be evaluated and watch my reaction.

I've also been hearing the tired old argument that "Grandeau thinks he can do a better job than us"  Well DUH of course I do.  In fact I did for 12 years.  My guess is I could do LT's job in about 2 hours a day the rest of the time I'd be leaking stuff to the media to improve my reputation, I'd be destabilizing my commissioners so I had no opposition, I'd be scaring the bejeezus out of those in power and I'd be keeping my head on a swivel to feed my paranoia.  Any working hours left over I'd go curling . . . if the media thinks you are a good guy you can get away with that kind of thing.

CORRECTION to my previous blog stating " LT followed the advice that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt."  It appears many including LT interpreted this to be my saying LT is stupid.  Not the case in fact for the record I think LT is the smartest executive director since . . .  yup me.  LT's issue isn't intelligence it's confidence.  I know she's smart because I have had conversations and arguments in private with her.  I think she needs to show that intelligence in public, start getting involved in the public debates about ethics,  we deserve that much from you.  Don't defer to your Chairman you know more about this issue than he does, I guarantee it.  One easy way to do it other than regular interaction with the press would be the simple remedy of allowing a Q and A at the commission meetings, I guarantee if you do 'llI ask a question that provides you an opportunity to show everyone how smart you are.  Don't be afraid just buckle up and enjoy the ride.