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The Community Outreach Unit run by the New York City Council has served as a public relations machine and boosted the name recognition of Council President Christine Quinn thereby helping her mayoral bid according to The New York Times. The unit that has organized rallies and sponsored education fairs has a payroll that tops $1 million. Employees of the unit include a former Quinn campaign aide, a political operative from a union whose support Quinn has courted and a former spokesman for a Quinn ally. The employees have not been shy about their enthusiasm for Quinn. Quinn told the Times that she is "proud" of the unit. While a great deal of councilmembers interviewed by the times had no idea what the office did others said the office was designed only to serve Quinn.


Other Stories We're Following

Tough New Test Spurs Protest (NY Times)

Minor Parities Ramp Up Opposition Wilson-Pakula Act Repeal (NY Times)

City Opposes Bill Requiring Wheelchair Accessibility For New Cabs (NY Times)

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Attorney General Eric Schneiderman:

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the innocent victims of today’s horrific massacre. We stand with the people of Connecticut during this moment of unspeakable tragedy.

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New York officials are more than excited that the United States Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act. Here are some of their reactions:

Statement of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg:


The rights of men and women should not be dependent upon who they love and who they chose to spend their lives with. The Supreme Court’s decision to review the constitutionality of DOMA is the right decision and one that brings us another step closer to full marriage equality. The history of our country is defined by the progress we have made expanding the definition of equality to all people, of all races and both sexes. The Supreme Court Justices have often played a central role in these debates, and now they will have a chance to do so again.

Statement of City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn:

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Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent a message to his supporters today asking them to get out and assist in hurricane relief efforts that are ongoing across New York City.

XXX,

As New Yorkers, we have a lot to give thanks for this year - our communities have stood together to withstand the challenges unleashed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately, thousands of our neighbors are still suffering without power, and in many cases, without homes. Volunteers are still desperately needed.

If you are able to help with relief efforts for those in need on Staten Island, Long Island, in the Rockaways and other hard-hit communities, please click here for a list of volunteer resources. If you or someone you know is in need of help, you can also get information about food and water distribution centers, shelters, heat centers, and other storm related resources from the City of New York.

The recovery isn’t finished yet—for some communities it has hardly begun—but I know that with everybody pitching in, we can get all of our neighbors back on their feet. I hope you are able to share in the season's spirit of giving, service and compassion, and are extended the same kindness in return.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Sincerely,

Eric Schneiderman
Attorney General

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Today's Lead Stories...

Frankenstorm


Forecasters are expecting "Frankenstorm" will hit the East Coast early next week. The storm earned the title because it appears hurricane Sandy will combine with a winter storm to create dangerous weather for New York CIty and surrounding areas. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office urged New Yorkers to prepare for the storm yesterday saying that even though the storm's path is unclear New Yorkers could see: "heavy rain, high winds, flooding, tornadoes, coastal surges, and widespread power outages." Cuomo has put state agencies on alert.




In the Press...

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In response to criticism of its initially limited investigation into the sexual harassment scandal, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics has expanded its probe beyond Assemblyman Vito Lopez to include Assembly Speaker Silver, Attorney General Schneiderman and Comptroller DiNapoli. The decision was made in private as prescribed by law and gleaned from the subjects of the investigation. But board members wanted to publicly counter claims that there were attempts to block certain investigations. Gov. Cuomo has said he is open to some changes in the board and also said he'd form his own commission to probe the matter if the board fails.

More stories in the press:

New York is lagging as seas and risks rise, critics warn

Officials reach agreement on 9/11 Memorial Museum

On heels of criticism, elections board tests new election night closing process

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The Joint Commission on Public Ethics may be considering an expansion of their probe into Assemblyman Vito Lopez's sexual harassment suit. Ravi Batra, a member of the commission, quit over the weekend, claiming the board had no independence. He also said good government groups were more concerned with Albany access than real reform. The attorney general and comptroller have been playing down their roles in the settlement. Also, a new accuser - who is also a candidate for State Senate - says she was the victim of sexual harassment when she worked in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

More stories in the press:

Number of children in city's homeless shelters hits 19,000

Feds ready to recognize 9/11 cancer link

Ex-speaker spared $400,000 in lobbying fines

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“If true, the actions of Assemblyman Lopez are reprehensible, and the decision of the Assembly to keep secret the provision of ‑ and even the existence of ‑ a settlement agreement was wholly inappropriate and contrary to the public interest. Our office policy requires that agreements of this kind do not include confidentiality provisions. On May 30, 2012, an OAG attorney provided the Assembly's counsel with a copy of a model pre-litigation settlement agreement which included no provision mandating secrecy or confidentiality.
“Our office has already been in communication with Ellen Biben, the Executive Director of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. We have already provided the Commission and the press with copies of all communications with the Assembly in our possession relating to this matter, and stand ready to work with JCOPE to ensure a full and fair investigation.”
BACKGROUND ON OAG ROLE IN EMPLOYMENT LITIGATION
The Office of the Attorney General serves as litigation counsel for the State including state agencies, the Governor, the Comptroller, the Legislature, the Office of Court of Administration, some authorities, and state employees and officers, including members of the legislature. That is, we are the State's trial lawyers, as opposed to the lawyers within agencies and the Legislature who act as general counsel.
We act primarily as defense counsel representing these entities when they are sued. In this matter, because no litigation was initiated, the Office of the Attorney General did not represent the Assembly in its internal employment dispute.
We defend the State, state agencies as well as individual state employees in employment litigation which does not include administrative proceedings, or pre-litigation investigation, or alternative dispute resolution.
In the course of litigation, we analyze whether it is in the best interests of the state to settle matters before trial, taking into account, for instance, saving taxpayer money.
The OAG settlement policy provides that all Settlement Agreements be public in accordance with the principles of Open Government except for compelling reasons, including public safety.
Accordingly, the OAG standard settlement terms do not include confidentiality provisions. Further, our policy is that when defending the state in litigation, we do not enter into any confidential or secret litigation settlements, and we would not view a sexual harassment case as a compelling exemption to this policy.
In employment litigation, clients often request that the terms of the settlement be confidential and we regularly reject such requests based on our policy.
State agencies, including the Legislature, consult with us from time to time on matters where we have expertise such as bankruptcy, employment, and contracts in a non-litigation context, or in anticipation of litigation.
We do not, in our work defending the State:
(1) make agency management or business decisions;
(2) participate in agency internal investigations or ethics determinations;
(3) participate in the internal workings of the Legislature or their proceedings as it relates to employment issues;
(4) negotiate agency agreements with employees outside of the litigation context; nor
(5) represent agencies or employees in administrative proceedings such as the State Division of Human Rights, other than representing ourselves.

Everyone involved in the settlement between the Assembly and Assemblyman Vito Lopez's accusers are now facing major scrutiny. The office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had to sign off on the sexual harassment settlement and as such they are also under the lens. In a statement just released by Schneiderman's office the AG says he is cooperating with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics: