Thursday, September 15, 2011

David Grandeau: “Mr. Nicey Nice”

I’m going to try to write this post with calm detachment and the utmost professionalism.
Understand, of course, that I want to curse up a storm. I want to savage the hypocrisy and incompetence of some of the people involved.
But no, I’ll be Mr. Nicey Nice.
I woke up this morning and read a very interesting article. It was about the salary of the CEO of a not-for-profit founded by Governor Cuomo and closely associated with the Cuomo family. It turns out that this CEO received a good salary, well above half a million dollars. In the non-profit world, this is rather generous, but it is not illegal and may not even be improper because the entity involved is a large national organization that has been quite successful in its mission.
And yet, something must be amiss because the CEO – who is related to Cuomo by marriage -- resigned abruptly, and nobody seems to want to defend him or his salary.
I don’t know why this is the case, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Cuomo administration is investigating excessive non-profit executive salaries. Whatever.
The thing that surprised me about this article was a quote from Barry Ginsberg, the soon to be former head of the Public Integrity Commission. Mr. Ginsberg said this: “There is nothing under the ethics section of the Public Officers Law that specifically speaks to the situation of a public officer having a relative as an official for a not-for-profit.”
Where to begin? Well, let’s start with this. The chief ethics enforcement official in the state should not be commenting on matters that have a possibility of becoming a subject of investigation by his office.  And they certainly shouldn’t do so in a way that appears to sanction the conduct in question.
If they do comment on a matter, they should have their facts straight. In reality, Mr. Ginsberg’s comments are wrong. There are several sections of the public officers law that would give his office the right – and perhaps the obligation -- to review this matter.
Moreover, before commenting, Mr. Ginsberg might want to consider the relevance of his statements to any number of ongoing cases, not the least of which is the Pedro Espada matter.
Think about this strictly hypothetical situation: What if Andrew Cuomo, as governor or as attorney general, did not recuse himself and was actually involved in decisions that benefitted his family’s non-profit.  Wouldn’t the Public Integrity Commission have to investigate?
For all these reasons and more, I think Mr. Ginsberg’s comments were unwise.
There, I did it. I was thoughtful, fair and ever so polite. And now I think I’m going to puke.
Whoa Whoa stop the clock! What is really going on here? Could it be that Barry is trying to curry favor with Cuomo? He is known to be trying to get another job in the administration. Is he showing the administration how “helpful” he can be on matters of ethics? Does he now expect them to return the favor? Or have they already found Barry a new job and Barry’s comments are just another installment on the debt he believes he owes?
Here’s another set of concerns: Barry’s wife is part of an organization regulated by the commission. A while back, she failed to timely file the required registration disclosure to the commission. Was her organization fined like so many others? Nope.
Given the fact that he is looking for or has received a job with the administration, and given his wife’s situation, Barry’s comments would appear to raise the possibility of a conflict of interest.
Barry could be guilty of the same ethics law violation that he charged so many others with – a failure to recognize the appearance of conflict of interest.  And who is left to investigate?  Only the Inspector General and they are already investigating Barry’s role in SUNYBRUNOGATE.  At least that prevents Barry from taking a job with the IG, could you imagine?
There now. I’ve said what I really think. I feel better now, but don’t you, dear reader, feel sick?

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