A couple of things happened yesterday that got me to thinking about what is wrong with JJOKE and ethics in general in NY
The two things were a phone call I made to JJOKE to speak to LT and an article in Crain's about Jennifer Cunningham and being a registered lobbyist.
First full disclosure. I call JJOKE to speak with LT all the time sometimes its business, sometimes its just to chat and sometimes it is to offer advice solicited or unsolicited. I've also spoken to Jennifer, she is not a client (but she should be after this article) but she has sent me clients and I've tried to be helpful to her when I can and I've respected and liked her for quite some time.
Let's start with Jennifer and the article and specifically the implied allegation that she should be registered as a lobbyist. This is not a difficult question. The definition is clear (at least to me) and when you apply the definition to a specific set of facts you can render an opinion about whether the party involved should register. I do it all the time and it has provided me with a very good living, both when I was the head of the Lobby Commission and since 2007 as a consultant in private practice (granted the consulting gig pays much much better). In this case based on the facts in the article Ms. Cunningham was not lobbying and was not required to register. A simple answer to a simple question. As I said I do it all the time. If the media calls with those types of questions I answer, for free. If a client calls I answer for pay. If a prospective client calls I answer for free and hope to get paid down the road (and you ex-Cuomo types know who you are) BUT I ANSWER THE QUESTION.
Yet when John Milgram the Public Information Officer at JJOKE who makes over $100k a year was asked he said "A spokesman for the state's ethics watchdog agency, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, declined to comment on any specific situations." Why? Why won't JJOKE and Milgram answer a simple question? Thats what we pay you for. Is it possible that no one at JJOKE has the technical knowledge to answer these questions? As much as I criticize them even I believe someone must be able to answer I know LT is knowledgable enough to answer so why don't they?
Which brings me to the phone call I made to JJOKE yesterday. It was a routine call to LT to see how her weekend had been and continue a discussion of a personal nature we had begun the previous week (she asked for my advice on a private matter). When the receptionist transfered me to LT the called ended up in the investigation unit Here is a transcript as I recall it
"Investigation" (in a very serious voice)
Me "LT please"
Them "LT? do you mean the executive director?" (in a very aggressive tone)
Me "no I mean LT"
Them "Who is this? and how did you get our number?" (agressive and demanding)
Me "You are the investigator you figure it out" (in a sarcastic voice)
Them "Who is this?" (angry voice like a pissed off cop)
Me "who is this?" (mocking voice)
Them "you called me who are you?" (really agressive)
Me "no I called LT and Lori transferred me to you but if you tell me your name I'll tell you mine" (more sarcasm)
Them "Investigator Jack something or other Irish name"
Me "It's Dave Grandeau why don't you relax and stop being so agressive you sound like a hardon Irish cop"
I kept torturing Jack for a while before I told him he owed me an apology for his tone and attitude, but it dawned on me this morning Milgram refusing to answer Crain's and Jack giving me the cop third degree are caused by the same thing.
JJOKE and most ethics agencies are afraid to commit to anything until they have more knowledge than you do. It's a control thing and it is fatal in an ethics regulatory role. Control works in politics it doesn't work in ethics. Example 1 Cuomo and the Moreland Commission don't worry about control if you tell the truth and behave appropriately you don't have to worry about control. Letting the chips fall where they may will protect you in the long run.
Now why does Milgram make over $100k? simple question I'm sure there is a simple answer.