Ethics Commissioner's Firm Did Lobbying Work
October 31st, 2011
This post was updated on the evening of Oct. 31.
A lawyer for Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady registered as a lobbyist with the Commission on Public Integrity back in August for representing the Metropolitan Taxi Cab Board of Trade and yet the information is still not available to the public on the commission’s website.
That could just be a bureaucratic delay, but what alarms some watchdogs about the omission is that Richard Emery, who is a partner in the firm whose lawyer represents the cab board, also sits on the Commission for Public Integrity — the semi-defunct group that polices ethics in the state. (For more on the state of ethics regulation in New York, see Is the Long Wait for a New Watchdog Nearing Its End?”.)
“A lawyer of ours registered — she had one meeting with them. We are not sure how long we are going to be in that position,” Emery said. When asked why the information was not available to the public, Emery responded, ” I’m not sure what happened with that. It is probably a function of no one being at the switch.”
*Update* Just got back from dinner to find a message from Emery telling me that other commissioners have firms that do lobbying and asked to “correct the misimpression my blog created.*Update*
Whether or not CPI is on its last legs, Russ Haven of the New York Public Interest Research Group said that Emery should resign if his firm is involved in lobbying.
“This is a pretty clear conflict. You have to pick one or the other. You can’t argue the commission is in a holding pastern during the transition; the law is still the law.††What does it take to resign? Just write up a letter resign and go off do what you want to do. He should know there is a conflict and resign from the commission,” Haven said.
Mitra Hormozi, chair of the Commission on Public Integrity, said she was not aware of the situation. “It is not the commission who decides who should sit,” she said. Of Emery’s possible conflict, she said, “Certainly it is not great, but our role now is more administrative then investigatory. We are not having meetings and discussions of ethics laws. I see the concern, but we are running at minimum capacity.” Hormozie said it could be argued that CPI will be replaced by the Joint Commission of Public Ethics before the situation comes to the attention of the official who appointed Emery.
Emery however, insists that it is his understanding that he is no longer a commissioner — despite the fact that his name is still on the CPI website and letterhead.
“I think I’ve been removed as the member of Commission on Public Integrity. As far as I am concerned I am not a member of the commission. I had one partner who had one meeting and has done nothing since but I thought she should register,” said Emery.
He said any lobbying work his colleague did took place after Cuomo signed the law introducing JCOPE.
Other experts, though, say that Emery is still a commissioner. And they believe he is not interpreting the law correctly.
Barbara Bartloletti, state legislative director of League of Women Voters, said that the situation is symptomatic of CPI’s dysfunction.
“Thatís why CPI functioned so poorly. During their very first meeting four or five commissioners had to recuse themselves because they had conflicts of interest. I am assuming the nominees to JCOPE will be more independent,” she said, adding,† “Clearly this can’t continue. Clearly we need to get independent people who donít have lobbying ties or otherwise before the state. This is reminding us that CPI didnít work right, and now they are not doing anything at all but the people in CPI are clearly engaged in conflict of interest.”By David King on October 31, 2011, 4:45 pm
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