Tuesday, January 3, 2012

State of the State: Ethics

What is the state of compliance with ethical rules and regulations in New York?
The only honest answer to that question is that nobody really knows. How could we? JCOPE was just formed. It has no executive director or staff. It’s barely operational. And what it has done it has done in secret with gag orders imposed on the “independent” commissioners. In fact, there really hasn’t been a functioning ethics panel in New York since last spring.
Soooo. Does anybody think that ethical transgressions simply stopped in the second half of 2011?
The steady pace of federal indictments of New York elected officials ought to dispel that notion pretty quickly. And here’s something to ponder: The Feds are very, very selective. For every case they make, they’ll probably take a pass on three or four other cases.
And what happens to those other cases? Well, in an ideal world they would be handled by state authorities – by JCOPE, the state IG, the state AG, Comptroller, and by local DAs.
Alas, I think things are falling through the cracks. I just don’t think there is robust enforcement of ethics laws in New York.
I’m not trying to be a crank here. I’m not criticizing anyone. I’m simply saying this:
Maybe it’s time for all of the officials in New York who have a stake in ethics enforcement to get together for a discussion. What is being done right? What is being done wrong? What is left undone? How can they all – by working together – improve ethics enforcement in the New Year?
An ethics summit. This has never happened before in New York. But maybe it’s an idea whose time has come.

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