Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Well the long awaited report by Judge Kaye into the domestic violence case involving the governors aid is out and surprise, surprise it turns out that the governor and the people around him made errors in judgment in the way they handled the situation.

I kept reading the report trying to see what all the hoopla had been about surely someone had done something wrong. I mean this is New York government we are talking about someone is always violating some law or rule. Even when there is no violation someone has to pay a fine (see the blog below regarding Dopp). Oh sure the report says that David Johnson may have violated criminal laws related to the domestic violence incident but we knew that just reading the New York Times reporting initially.

And then PRESTO I found it and my faith in New York government was restored. And even better it was something the Public Integrity Commission should have found and acted upon. All is right with the world a scandal occurred and a violation of the Public Officers Law is going unnoticed and unpunished by the Public Integrity Commission.

What is it you ask? That’s too easy. I’ll give you a hint you can find it on pages 34 – 37. If no one guesses it by next week I’ll post it here with the analysis of why the actions violate the Public Officers Law.

As an aside I’ve got a new game its called seven degrees of PIC. Can you connect the participants in an integrity scandal to PIC in less than seven people? This one’s easy Judge Kaye’s child is married to Herb Teitelbaum’s child and Herb is the former executive director of the PIC who resigned after leaking information in the Dopp matter to the Spitzer folk.

You can’t make this stuff up and no one would believe you if you did.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Last blog I posited that the commission was imposing late fees without statutory authority and to make matters worse didn’t know how to count to 15. Well what was opinion is now reality. I am representing numerous lobbyists who received late fees from the commission. Rest assured I have already informed commission counsel Ralph Miccio on behalf of my clients of the position I have already posted here on the blog.

When he comes to the conclusion that the commission is wrong again, I hope Ralph not only notifies me on behalf of my clients but notifies EVERY SINGLE PERSON OR FIRM THAT RECEIVED A LATE FEE THAT WAS EITHER CALCULATED INCORRECTLY OR BASED ON A STATUTORY AUTHORITY THAT DOES NOT EXIST. Sorry for the caps but I know this crowd. Right now they are trying to figure out how to blame someone else for the addition mistake – try computer glitch its worked before – and not have to go back and refund all the unauthorized and/or inaccurate late fees they imposed.

I’ll be asking the commission for any rules, regulations, guidelines, internal memos or emails and/or internal controls they have on these issues. The press flack Walter will tell me they don’t have to turn them over and they will all cross their fingers and hope it goes away. Consider this fair warning, if you know you are wrong and you don’t fix it and to make matters worse actively cover it up someone will get the proof, they always do.

Save yourself the hassle guys don’t make a bad situation worse RESCIND THOSE LATE FEES and tell the lobbying community how you are going to count days and when the counting starts.

On the other hand if you got a late fee ask the commission to explain why you did and don’t pay it until you are satisfied they are telling you the truth.

Sorry that this one isn’t funny but sometimes the commission’s antics go beyond the gang that couldn’t shoot straight into godfather territory.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The public integrity commission recently sent out letters charging the lobbying community thousands of dollars in late fees for what it terms late filings. Some folks got late fees for filing just one day late. . .The problem with that you ask? The commission can’t add. When it comes to how long you have to file a statement of registration the statute says “for those lobbyists retained, employed or designated after the previous December fifteenth . . . such filing must be completed within fifteen days thereafter” Seems simple you get a lobbying contract on the first day of the month you have 15 days thereafter to file your statement of registration. Get it done by the 16th you should be ok. NOT SO FAST the commission counts the 1st as day 1 and you have to file by the 15th or you are late. If the commission ran a delivery service one day delivery would mean same day and when the sheriff says you have one day to get out of town he really means get out of town today.

If the commissions inability to count is not bad enough they also imposed late fees on those folks in the lobbying community who corrected, changed or supplemented the information in their filings but did so more than 10 days after the commission decided they should have. Seems harsh but within the commission’s power . . . The problem with that you ask? The commission does not have the statutory authority to issue late fees for amendments of a statement of registration. If you got a late fee for an amendment ask commission counsel Ralph Miccio to show you the language in the statute that authorizes a late fee for an amendment. My guess is he points out section 1-e(d) that says you have 10 days to amend information found in the registration statement but remind him that section does not provide for late fees. Late fees are authorized ONLY for late registration statements (and then only with normal math not the commissions 1 + 1 = 3 approach).

And to wrap it up, folks do make mistakes, for example the old lobby commission once printed an annual report that referred to one commissioner’s long history of “public” service as “pubic” service, mistakes happen as this commission has proved repeatedly. My advice to clients who make a mistake in filing is always ask the commission to treat you as if you sleep with the boss. If Mr. Ginsberg’s wife didn’t pay a late fee for getting her lobby authorization in late why should you? And shouldn’t we all get that helpful phone call reminding us what to do if we make a mistake like she did?

Monday, July 12, 2010


I imagine quite a bit of backslapping going on at the Public Integrity Commission today over the Dopp debacle. Well maybe just Barry Ginsberg slapping his own back and chortling like Patrick the starfish in Spongebob Squarepants, but when you’ve had as many failures as Barry has had you have to enjoy the little victories. And not to make lemons out of his lemonade but I’ve got a couple of questions I’d love someone to answer for me.

As I understand it Mr. Dopp was fined $10,000 (a fine by the way I would advise he never pay, imagine how much fun it would be to talk to the folks at the Attorney General’s office about that settlement) for, as Mr. Ginsberg put it, "This case was never about the release of public documents. Rather, this case stands for the critically important principle that the State Code of Ethics bars a State official from misusing the State Police to gather damaging information and create official-looking documents to plant a negative news story about a political opponent. Our free and democratic society simply does not, and cannot, condone such abuse of a law enforcement agency."

Read more:

Yet a careful reading of the hearing transcripts shows no evidence that Mr. Dopp gathered damaging information or created any documents. I’m guessing that would have been Preston Felton whom the commission fined the whopping sum of $0. Nor did Mr. Dopp instruct anyone to do that. I’m guessing that’s what Bill Howard was fined the whopping sum of $0. So Mr. Dopp must have planted a negative news story, the same type of behavior that the commission determined was not a violation in the Caroline Kennedy leak case, good thing Mr. Dopp had already left or they could have blamed him and doubled the fine.

The other problem with fining Mr. Dopp for the story being in the Times Union is that reporter Jim Odato never said he got it from Dopp. In fact Odato was never even interviewed under oath or otherwise. He was subpoenaed, but the commission decided not to enforce it, I guess it was safer not to find out how Odato got the story. And by the way, why is it a negative story? I thought it was a positive story from the point of view of a reader. I like finding out how our state resources are being misused.

You know what else is a positive story? The one the Inspector General told about disgraced former commission Executive Director Herb Teitelbaum leaking information about this investigation to people close to disgraced former governor Eliot Spitzer, you know the guy that had the political opponent Ginsburg is talking about. Why was Spitzer never fined for his role in this farce? And why didn’t the commission investigate the leak? Maybe Herb wasn’t the only one talking to the Spitzer folks.

Come to think about it isn’t Spitzer the only one to benefit from the “negative” story that was never proven to be “planted” using documents that Dopp never created from information that Dopp never gathered? Good thing Dopp never did any of those things or Ginsberg could really have hurt himself using both hands to slap his own back.

You can’t make this stuff up. And if you did no one would believe you.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Did you know that the Public Integrity Commission’s Executive Director, Barry Ginsberg, is married to a registered lobbyist?
It’s true. Ginsberg is married to Linda Wagner, who has worked for a number of politically-connected organizations. Most recently, she has served as executive director and lobbyist for the Association of County Health Officials.
Putting aside the very real ethical issue that Ms. Wagner actively lobbies government officials under her husband’s jurisdiction. The more immediate question is how can the rest of us get treated like the boss’s wife?

What do I mean?

Mr. Ginsberg stated in his 2008 Financial Disclosure report that his wife was regulated by the NYS Commission on Public Integrity. Small problem, Mrs. Wagner WAS NOT REGISTERED as a lobbyist in 2008 so how could she be regulated by the commission her husband runs? Should she have been? Her husband apparently thought so and he should know.

Failing to register is a big no-no. It’s the kind of transgression for which other lobbyists have been assessed a heavy fine. But what do you think happened to Mrs. Ginsberg? It turns out that nothing happened.

But wait it gets better, for 2009 Mrs. Wagner finally registered as a lobbyist. The registration statement was received by the commission on December 30, 2008 but all was not kosher and it took until March 16, 2009 for the registration to be completed, over 60 days after it was due.

Did the Boss’s wife get charged a late fee? I don’t think so. Did the Boss’s wife get a helpful phone call telling her what needed to be done? I’d bet on it. Do the rest of you in the lobbying community get that kind of treatment? You know the answer to that one. Of course you don’t sleep with the Boss.

And for the record I asked commission flack Walter Ayers for the “workflow notes” that are electronically attached to all filings to determine if Mrs. Wagner got that helpful phone call. You guessed it, Walter says that workflow notes are not among the documents that the commission has to make publicly available.

You can’t make this stuff up. And if you did no one would believe you.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Didn’t you know what we didn’t tell you?

The Public Integrity Commission admitted it sent out reminder notices, to file financial disclosure reports, with the wrong dates for filing FOR THE SECOND TIME!!!!!!

Click here for full story

Commission flack Walter Ayres admitted the commission told filers the wrong date but noted that by the time the commission made the mistake the reports were already late.

One has to wonder if the commission doesn’t know the right dates how can it expect anyone else to.

But will anyone be punished for it? Highly doubtful since the individual that runs the financial disclosure report program, Kathy Degasperis, filed her own reports on July 16, 2009 two months after the due date and the Administrative Law Judge, Christine Kopec, who would decide any late filing case, was herself late with her report in 2008, filing it on May 21, 2008 six days after the due date.

You can’t make this stuff up and if you did no one would believe it!