Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bye Bye Biben

Today should be Ellen Biben's last JJOKE meeting, unless of course the powers that be have changed their mind and decided the best punishment for Ellen is making her stay as the head of JJOKE. She might have to stay since the smart money is telling me that the ads in the Times Union and have not resulted in the quality of applicants the commission was hoping for. Surprising huh?

And without a new Executive Director everyone will be putting their 2 cents in on who should be appointed the acting ED.

The word on the street is the second floor wants Latitzia Tagliafiero (they think with that many vowels in her name she would be a winner) or at least thats the story Milgram is spinning. But the commissioners are not going to be spoon fed this time and are saying no.

Biben wants Monica Stamm, if for no other reason than she owes her after forcing Monica to leave the IG's office when she stood a good chance of becoming the acting IG when Ellen left. But the politically astute commissioners (and you can count them on one hand) realize that Monica is merely Biben light and doesn't solve any problems just highlights them.

Rumor is Uncle Vinny, after hiring his niece and then getting her promoted to head of education (maybe the best JJOKE yet) wants Shari Calnero to get the promotion. Sorry Vinny you can fagetaboudit, not gonna happen, Shari has risen way past the peter principle.

Maybe they will realize they don't have to appoint an acting Executive Director, just wait and appoint a real one.

You could see the selection committee plotting after the 3 hour executive session ended (Horwitz, Bulgaro, Weissman and Uncle Vinny)   Normally you would think that group could do a good job of recruitment but it doesn't appear that they can agree on a candidate.

Now there is one candidate for the permanent post, but I'm not sure the new Chair can close the deal. If he does I'll have to keep my mouth shut for a bit because I'm the one that gave him and some others the name. Maybe if I really cared about this persons career I'd out her now because I'm sure they would never select anyone I recommended.

But back to Biben's last meeting.  This one set a record for speed  start to finish under 5 minutes.  Why do they bother?  All they did was have Biben provide quick updates about all the clarity she is providing the regulated community.  And congratulate Calnero on her role as the head of education.  BTW what happened to the last head of education?  she is still employed by JJOKE but no one has seen her do any work since she got hired.  Another dirty secret to file away with Bibens expense reimbursements from the first 4 months of her tenure.

After a 3 hour executive session with nothing meaningful to report all the JJOKERS paid homage to the wonderful job Biben has done.  Can someone please list for me her accomplishments?  She did as much at JJOKE as she did on that LIPA audit when she was IG.  Move along nothing to see here move along.

I'm sure they got Biben a nice cake probably a leftover from Hannaford for Memorial Day they are half price today   its all about cost cutting.  And then it was see you have a nice life lets guess which 2nd floor connected law firm in NYC she will be working for by July 1.

I'll just add her to my list of former ED and Chairs. I've retired more ethics staff and commissioners than social security.

Biben, Ginsberg, Schellaci, Teitelbaum, DiFiore, Cherkasky, Feerick and too many staff members to remember.

Steve Cohen was once famously quoted that the Cuomo administration had 2 speeds get along and kill.  I have modified Steve's credo to a rule I try to live by get along or get even.  Just think of me when it comes to ethics agencies as a kinder gentler Steve Cohen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Richard Emery quoted on ethics?

Bill Hammond has a piece in today's Daily News blaming Shelly Silver for tarnishing ethics in NY  You can read it here

Normally I find Bill's work to be very good especially on the subject of ethics.  Bill gets it and has for awhile.  I'm not arguing with his premise or his facts I think he had it spot on the Shelly appointees blocked an investigation by the Cuomo appointees by using the archaic voting rules to give Biben only one avenue to pursue . . . Lopez.   No real news there I blogged about it last September  told my readers what would happen and why. 

My beef with Bill is one that I think is far too prevelant in the Albany press corps when it comes to ethics.  They miss the forest for the trees.  In Bill's piece he quotes noted ethicist and former member of that wildly successful ethical panel created by that wildly ethical former governor Elliot Spitzer, Richard Emery.  Really? Richard Emery? Are you f*cking kidding me Bill you quote Richard Emery on ethics?  How soon you forget.  Emery was on the PIC when disgraced former ED Herb Teitelbaum was leaking information about troopergate to former disgraced governor Eliot Spitzer's people.  Richard Emery's firm was a registered lobbyist while he was still a commissioner on the panel that regulated lobbyist's  you can read it here  . . . again and here

Oh and by the way who appointed Emery to the ethics board?  irony of irony  Malcolm Smith LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL  and Emery and his partner Andrew Celli, a Spitzer appointee to ethics represented Smith and the Senate dems in their lawsuit in 2009.

Asking Richard Emery to provide a quote on ethics agencies is like asking Elliot Spitzer to discuss marital fidelity.

And thats the problem with the Albany media and ethics they forget the past to write about the now.

How many editorials about ethics would embaress the media if they ran again with the date they first ran on them  its the same sh*t over and over again without any acknowledgement that what the media is calling for doesn't work.

It's time Albany just sacked up and admitted the only way to change ethics in Albany is to keep changing the people until someone makes a mistake and we get a real watchdog.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

High Rollers and JJOKE's blind eye

Now come the followup stories to JJOKE's gropergate report.  The one that caught my eye first was the Daily News story by Glenn Blain that referenced an exhibit in the report wherein Lopez's lawyer alleges that Silver settled the case to avoid any further investigation of his own issues with staffers and personal relationships. 

That caught my interest for 2 reasons.  No not the allegation in this town everyone has heard a rumor about some legislator sleeping with a staff member or lobbyist or intern.  Some are true and some aren't.  I just heard one about a legislator that took an intern out for Karioke, alcohol and then sex once the intern passed out.  The intern woke up to a full time position on the legislator's staff (good double entendre huh?)  I happen to think its true and after I research if this particular legislator actually hired his intern I may out him.

The first reason I was interested was I actually like looking at investigative files.  Old habits die hard.  And I thought for Glenn to find something like this so fast either he is better at it than I am or someone told him where to look.  Odds on that are that Milgram reported it to the second floor and they gave Glenn a helping hand.  I know I would love for someone to investigate Milgram and leaks . . . hell I'd even like to see someone tell us why Milgram got bounced from the second floor.  The rumour is that investigation would look a lot like Gropergate , rumour mind you just a rumour.  well it took me about 30 minutes once I knew what to look for its at tab D page 22 footnote 10.  Good work Glenn that is some targeted digging you did or an excellent source at JJOKE.

The second reason was the references by one of the women that she enjoyed being treated as a "high roller". Well I've done enough casino gift ban cases to know that when people say high roller they mean freebies, comps, illegal gifts.  And sure enough there it was and JJOKE completely missed it.  What a bunch of arrogant clueless incompetent clowns.  A nine month investigation by the best investigative minds Governor Cuomo has and they blow it.  So in the interest of lobby violations for dummies (a new book I'm working on) here it is step by step

Borgata document found at tab U3 showing non gaming comps to Lopez totalling $570.

Borgata is owned by Boyds Gaming

Boyds Gaming pays Malkin & Ross to be a registered lobbyist for Boyds Gaming in New York

That makes Boyds Gaming a client of a registered lobbyist in New York

That makes Boyds Gaming subject to the gift ban found in the Lobby Act

That means the giving of comps (gifts) to Lopez was a violation of the Lobby Act

Said violation is a misdemeanor and is punishible by a fine.

Way to miss the forest for the trees.

JCOPE, Ellen Biben, Janet DiFiore etc etc  all these former prosecutors and not one of them could spot a crime if it fell out of the sky landed on their face and wiggled.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

LOPEZ and JJOKE a perfect hook up

Well the much awaited Lopez report is out.  We waited 9 months for this report to be born.  I encourage everyone to read it and think about my prediction made on September 12. 2012.

Here is what I predicted
"One: At the end of the day the various investigations into gropergate will conclude that Vito Lopez is a pig, duh.

Two: the various investigations will conclude that the settlement was legal, proper and ethical if poorly handled by all involved, duh.

And Three: the public will conclude that JJOKE is far from an independent watchdog, but rather an attack dog following its masters commands duh."
Now it took me 10 minutes and $0 to reach those conclusions, it took JJOKE 9 months and how much money? 
And while JJOKE was chasing Vito look at all the ethics violations that they missed and the feds caught.
And think about all the other violations they have ignored.
Take full credit for the last ethics reform you gave us governor you deserve it I can't wait to see how you do with the second bite at this rotten apple.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

De Ja Vu all over again

Here we go again one ethics official resigns in disgrace after failing to right the sinking ship and we are looking for a new captain for the Titanic of ethics a ship that government has tried to convince us was going to be unsinkable. . . again.  And on the heals of more indictments today we learn that the legislature (both republican and democrat, Senate and Assembly) has charged that JCOPE exceeded its authority in Gropergate and wrote a report that went far afield of the questionable subject of JJOKE jurisdiction over sexual harassment in the legislature (for those that read between the lines it basically is saying Cuomo got JJOKE to take a shot at the legislature)

Rather than say the same old thing over and over I'm going to save myself the trouble and just reprint previous blogs on the subjects.  Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  Someone smart said that and I'm too bored with the process to look up who . . . but it's never been more true than when it comes to New York and ethics.  Just ask Biben, Ginsberg, Tietelbaum, DiFiore, Chercasky, Feerick, Cuomo, Patterson and Spitzer.  Who will be next?  Horwitz?  I hope not I've been told some of his friends read the blog . . . the old Morganthau mafia is still intact.  Anyway here are some thoughts from prior transitions and previous investigations of the investigators (with new comments in bold).

Do it right the first time (from November 2011)
The new Joint Commission on Public Ethics (J-COPE) is supposed to be fully operational by December 12th.

But let’s be real: Two weeks isn’t much time to get organized.

The new commissioners, have to be named soon and they will need all the help they can get. And in that spirit, I offer the following tips:

1. You’ll be in a rush to get going, but first things first. One of the easiest ways you’ll trip up is by failing to disclose everyone’s potential conflicts of interest. Such conflicts are inevitable. In most cases they aren’t a big deal, but before someone (like me) points out the conflicts and they become a news story, do it first along with a plan to address the situation through recusals. The previous ethics agency was riddled with conflicts and it showed, they even had commissioners that were part of lobbying firms. This group expanded the conflict problem by having elected politicians (since resigned to pursue reelection) commissioners hiring relatives, those who got friends and friens of relatives hired, commissioners who failed to disclose their own clients and another executive director with a spouse employed by a registered lobbyist.

2. You are the ones who should name the executive director, not the administration. You won’t be doing yourselves or the Governor any favors if you rubber stamp his selection. Your predecessor commissioners made this mistake and they were all tarnished (Teitebaumed) as a result. And take your time it is the single most important decision you will make as commissioners. The executive director will make or break this new agency.

3. In this same vein, you need to make a clean break with the current E.D., Barry Ginsberg. Keeping him on as an acting or advisory staffer would compromise you. Remember his role in Troopergate – as exposed by the Inspector General, and remember his rogue activities over the last several months when the Public Integrity Commission was supposed to have been suspended. The reason the Public Integrity Commission was a complete failure and embarrassment was the people, Barry represents all that was bad before. No question where Biben came from or how and I hear the governor is trying to do it again.  The process should be done in public so that we can tell where the next executive director really came from.

4. There are some good people left at the agency who can form the nucleus of a new team. These individuals want nothing more than to restore the reputation of ethics enforcement in New York. But don’t take Ginsberg’s word on who should be hired or retained. Make your own determination based on an individual’s record. Anyone in a policy making position that did not stand up and try to make the old Public Integrity Commission do the right thing should be let go and quickly. You don't need institutional memory from the top staff, they are the ones that will tell you to do it the wrong way because thats the way they have always done it you need a fresh start and the top staff needs to be terminated before they have a chance to shape policy in a new agency.  They didn't listen and looked what happened

5. Most importantly, be open about your official deliberations, and do everything you can to adhere to the clearest and highest standards of law. Your predecessors were a complete joke because they did everything in secret and because they made up the rules as they went along. This isn’t just my opinion. Everyone in the ethics community was shocked by the commission’s actions. You can and must operate differently. I'll be sending you requests for opinions and complaints that heve been ignored by the old regime, that will be my test to see if its a new era of ethics enforcement in Albany or just more rhetoric.  They failed miserably

6. And finally listen to the non lawyers on the panel, they have a unique perspective that will serve the new commission well it’s called common sense something most lawyers in government have lost a long time ago.  Not a lot of common sense exhibited in the last year
What Cuomo could learn from Spitzer (also November 2011)
We are closing in on the end of the Commission on Public Integrity. (See our handy, dandy count-down clock at the top of the page.)

There’s never been a more ironically named entity. In fact, I think that history might record this experiment in ethics enforcement as the single worst idea of Eliot Spitzer.

Yeah, I think it is actually more egregious than using the state airplane to travel to Washington to bump uglies with a whore.

Think about it. Spitzer’s downfall was a lesson in what? Hubris? Probity? Morality?

Oh, come on. That’s a lot of after-the-fact, holier-than-thou BS.

Spitzer could have survived his sexual indiscretion if he had people willing to defend him. But in the end, he had nobody. He had alienated too many people with too many ill-conceived actions.

This includes me. I lost respect for Spitzer in early 2007. Why? There were functioning state ethics and lobbying panels in early 2007. The system wasn’t perfect, but it was more than passable. In fact, I like to believe that, while I was in charge, there was aggressive and independent enforcement of lobbying laws.

But then Spitzer ushered in the era of Feerick, Teitelbaum and Ginsburg. A short while later New York was a national joke regarding ethics and lobbying enforcement.

Only in New York could a state Commission on Public Integrity become the subject of a scathing report by the state Inspector General for repeated breaches of public integrity.

That was ’08. Fast forward to today, Feerick and Teitelbaum are gone in disgrace, but the third Musketeer is still at it. That’s right, Barry Ginsberg, cited in the Inspector General’s report for his Troopergate transgressions, is carrying on Spitzer’s ethics legacy.

Get this: Since the governor signed legislation abolishing the commission and placing a stop work order on all investigations, discipline and opinions, Barry and the remaining staff have been thumbing their noses at everyone.

Without any authority to do so, they’ve continued actions like auditing lobbyists. They are sending threatening letters and emails to people demanding that they comply with their directives. The only problem, again, is that Barry has no authority. The commission is supposed to be engaged in ministerial duties only -- not enforcement activities.

I know for a fact that Barry and his crew are engaged in such activities because they’ve been harassing some of my clients.

Sooooo, what should be done now? Well, this is Governor Cuomo’s watch, and he needs to do two things.

First, he ought to slam dunk Barry. Enough of his rogue activity. COPI has no authority to act, so Ginsburg’s activities must stop. And any thoughts of providing Barry a soft landing should be shelved, the appearance would be one of buying his silence, let him talk after all what could he say? That he failed to fulfill his responsibilities? Instead he got Barry a job at Tax. . . I wonder why

Second, Cuomo needs to understand the Spitzer lesson. (No, not that lesson.) He needs to fully comprehend that he is responsible for ethics and lobbying enforcement. It’s his legislation, his panel. As such, it is imperative that he picks the right people to staff it, and the right people to sit on the board. Talk about calling your shot . . it's clear that JJOKE is wholly the governors problem and I hate to say I told you so but it was easily predicted.  Don't let ethics derail your future governor its time to try something different before those indictments start hitting closer to the second floor it's almost too late

And I know the Governor and the Legislature want to coordinate the naming of their respective appointees to the new panel. But learn from the past, having a big press conference and ceremonial first meeting like Spitzer, Feerick and Teitelbaum did will not solve the problem. It only provides video footage that the media can run every time there is a story about the latest scandal involving the appointees. There is a lot of work to be done in a very short period of time (has anyone thought of what you need to do to build a new agency?) Pick some normal, non lawyer, non controllable ordinary citizens to be commissioners, find a fearless aggressive leader to appoint as the Executive Director and then take the moral high ground and hold them accountable to one commonsense standard of “do the right thing”.  Complete failure on this point

As much as I’ve been pressing for action to constitute a new panel, I know that it has to be done right. Hopefully, the governor will appoint qualified people who are truly independent.

Fail to do that governor and you will repeat the Spitzer experience.

And in light of todays revelations regarding Gropergate and JJOKE jurisdiction

Calling All Cars Calling All Cars (from September 2012)
Car 54 where are you?

Now I may be dating myself (does anyone else remember the classic cop show Car 54?) But we’ve reached the point in gropergate that the call to all those with a vested interest in ethics in New York needs to go out.

Recent columns in the Times Union by Fred Lebrun and Casey Seiler have for all intents and purpose put out the call that something very similar to the old troopergate phenomenon is occurring.
We need to investigate the investigators.
On the road to that investigation three things are going to happen.

One: At the end of the day the various investigations into gropergate will conclude that Vito Lopez is a pig, duh. EASY and true double duh

Two: the various investigations will conclude that the settlement was legal, proper and ethical if poorly handled by all involved, duh. Based on todays NYTimes I got this right also

And Three: the public will conclude that JJOKE is far from an independent watchdog, but rather an attack dog following its masters commands duh. God I'm good at this stuff

Now DA Donovan and JJOKE can handle issues one and two but who can do the thorough, complete and wide ranging investigation that is needed to get to the bottom of issue three?

Let’s start by discussing who can’t do it.

Unfortunately the statute gives jurisdiction to investigate the divulging of confidential JCOPE information to the Office of the Inspector General.

Now I know Dick Dadey and the goo goos have said that they (and Jeremy Creelan) couldn’t think of anyone better but with all due respect (if you say that you can follow it with whatever you want) that’s complete horseshit.

They set it up for the Inspector General because the IG works for the Governor, duh.

Everything wrong about gropergate so far can be traced back to the simple fact that the governor has far too much control over JJOKE both in statute, in reality and most importantly in perception.

In this case the problem is made crystal clear in Mr. Lebrun’s column and in Ravi Batra’s rambling prose.

The IG CANNOT investigate leaks at JJOKE that may involve former members of the IG (Biben et al) and the current governors staff that the IG reports to (even the Spitzer minions realized that in troopergate).

But someone needs to investigate. The statute should have been drafted for the AG to investigate leaks from JJOKE (didn’t the AG during troopergate do a good job?) but it wasn’t and because gropergate involves the AG he needs to stay out of this one.

And that brings me back to where I started, calling all cars.

I think we need to hear from the good government groups about what they think. Curiously after filing complaints in gropergate not a peep. I wonder if anyone suggested they file those complaints hmmm maybe that’s why they are so quiet.

I think we need to hear from the governor, he was pretty adamant about JJOKE investigating what happened in gropergate why stop now?
I think we need to hear from ex governor David Patterson. He said he has a lot of experience with ethics agencies leaking. Of course he has a lot of experience with fibbing too so after a second thought no need to hear from Patterson.

I think we need to hear from the JJOKE commissioners past and present. Marvin Jacobs started the ball rolling at the last meeting, don’t stop Marvin keep it rolling demand an internal investigation of the leaks. Even John Feerick did that in troopergate he made every PIC employee sign an affidavit that they did not divulge confidential information, everyone but his executive director who it turns out had a good reason for not signing his since he was the leaker.

I think we need to hear from Ellen Biben. An honest statement that she has not discussed this investigation with anyone outside JJOKE would go a long way to putting this matter to rest . . . if you believe her.

I think we need to hear from Albany County DA David Soares that he will not ignore his jurisdiction over JJOKE leaks. You did a good job in troopergate, , , eventually. Mr. Soares this is not a difficult investigation. Get Biben's emails, text messages and put her under oath let’s see what the facts are.

And I think we need to hear from the Inspector General or the acting Inspector General or someone in that office. Tell us why you can investigate JJOKE and that we can trust you to do it independently.


I guess all I can do is keep transmitting a distress signal “calling all cars”


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Huge spike in blog page views this am. I wonder what people were looking for?

Perhaps my thoughts on Ellen Biben's resignation to pursue other challenges?

I might have to disappoint the readers because if you don't know what I think about Ellen Biben you haven't been reading the blog .

Suffice to say I need to check the ethics hunting laws to find out what the legal limit is for ethics heads.  I'm up to six and I gotta believe I'm nearing my legal limit.

Now as to what should happen next here is a roadmap.

They will appoint a search committee (probably controlled by the governor but we can hope for at least an even split between gubanatorial appointees and legislative appointees) who will conduct a national search before selecting another executive director in the mold of Biben Ginsberg and Teitelbaum (and no I don't mean another smart new york city lawyer) I mean someone who knows how to follow orders.  That would be a mistake.  You don't need to go thru the routine of a fake search followed by the phony press release that, lo and behold, the best person was really someone with close ties to the governor.  Try honesty, you should target the person you want and then recruit them to fill the position asap.  And that person has to be uncontrollable.  If you want my suggestion I would say try to convince Blair Horner to take the job.

After selecting the "best person after the national search" they will ask Biben to help with the transition.  Another mistake.  Biben has resigned you should ask her to leave today.  And she should take everyone she brought in with her.  The next person deserves a clean slate to rebuild the agency that Biben wasted a full year destroying.  It's like cockroaches its not what they steal its what they touch so no one else wants it ever again.

If you are reading this blog Mr. Horwitz or if the human smokestack John Milgram has sent it to you fire Milgram and then learn from the past mistakes made by John Feerick, Michael Cherkasky and Janet DiFiore the last administration at ethics is not who you should take advice from if they were any good they wouldn't be the last administration.

And for those who are going to say Grandeau just wants the job, I don't.  But I would be more than happy to offer EthicsWatch as a solution.  Give EthicsWatch 80% of JCOPE's budget and enter into a contract with EthicsWatch to do everything JCOPE does, now you have outsourced the function to a nonpartisan independent organization that will have clearly defined deliverables for services.  You can then get rid of all the JCOPE employees and if the job isn't done right you can blame me.

Or don't and I'll just keep hunting because I've learned their is no limit on the number of public officials you can bag on ethics hunting trips.

Now where did I leave my high capacity fully automatic blog?