Capitol News has a fascinating profile of the new state Inspector General Ellen Biben. The job certainly has its challenges; "It may be a higher-profile gig, but it’s not without its shortcomings. Biben is heading an office that has been bruised for years by allegations of bias and accusations of toothlessness. The inspector general has a $6.5 million budget and broad investigatory authority over 50 separate agencies with more than 190,000 employees—but the office has little enforcement power."
That being said, she is serving a governor who has made ethics a priority: "As Cuomo positions himself as the savior of Albany and restorer of ethics and good government, where does that leave Biben? “I’m still trying to wrap my arms around this,” Biben said. “When people ask me, ‘What do you do?’ I don’t even know what the answer is.”
Well, when it comes to Willets Point the answer is-nothing.WPU sent a letter to the IG on May the 18th concerning the questionable appointment of Joan McDonald, a former NYC EDC executive, as commissioner of SDOT and we have yet to hear from her. In that letter we had pointed out:
"We are now calling on the Office of the State Inspector General to institute a full review of the actions of NYS DOT and its new commissioner in order to determine whether Commissioner McDonald has treated this review process with the fairness and impartiality it deserves.
The governor has made governmental ethics a signature policy issue of his administration. In the same spirit, WPU requests that you institute such a review by first calling on Commissioner McDonald to recuse herself from the ramp review process; and by then calling on the agency to also launch an independent evaluation of all of the environmental data that has been submitted by NYC EDC.
The actions of the new commissioner since she took office need to be subject to close scrutiny. This needs to be done in order to determine whether her past association unfairly deprived WPU and the citizens of New York State of an impartial review of a transportation project that we believe will cause huge negative impacts on the residents of New York City."
Biben needs to take a stand on this McDonald issue because it is a window into what may be a larger scheme to insure that truth a bout corruption surrounding Willets Point never sees the light of day: "Biben should be able to combat this difficulty in part because of her closeness with some of the agency heads who moved with her from the prior Cuomo administration, like Commission on Public Integrity Chairwoman Mitra Hormozi and State Police Superintendent Joe D’Amico. Familiarity can make it easier to press her cause. Good-government groups say it is also her greatest liability. To be an effective IG, they say, Biben must show total independence from Cuomo."
Yes that's the test for Ellen Biben-and so far when it comes to Willets Point she remains hidden in her house. It's time for the IG to come out and play