Friday, February 3, 2012

Justice or Just Us?

We have been complaining quite loudly about the Cuomo choice for the new head of the ethics commission-and the manner in which the comely Ellen Biden was chosen. The arm twisting by the governor-for the ethics chair!-bodes ill for her independence from the state's chief executive and his entire administrative retinue. The WSJ weighs in on this controversial choice:

"The governor’s office encouraged commission members to vote for Biben. In the week leading up to the vote, Cuomo’s office directly reached out to legislative leaders to promote Biben’s hiring, according to people familiar with the conversations. The commission approved her in an 11-to-3 vote and offered her the job, which she accepted."

What this indicates to us-and Biben's refusal to even respond to Willets Point United's request that her IG office look into the governor's choice of Joan McDonald as NYS DOT commissioner underscores our concerns-is that the legislature will be a target rich environment but the governor's minions will be an out of bounds game preserve. But why are we so exercised about the Biben choice?

It's quite simple really. It appears to us that Governor Cuomo actively thwarted the original investigation into the city's illegal use of a development corporation to lobby for the Willets Point project. After getting into a legal dust up with the Bloomberg administration over subpoenas in 2009-2010 then AG Cuomo did a disappearing act after September, 6, 2010 when the mayor endorsed his gubernatorial bid. A few short months later he appoints Joan McDonald (a former EDC executive) to head DOT-the key agency in charge of the oversight of the controversial Van Wyck ramps.

McDonald-at least to out knowledge-never even asked for a waiver for a clear conflict of interest. While at EDC as late as 2007-the lead agency in the Willets Point land grab-she was the vice president for transportation! Gee, might she have a built-in bias on the ramp issue in favor of her old patrons? And lo and behold, after her taking over, DOT does a 180 and becomes completely sanguine about ramps that had created a huge amount of skepticism in the previous administration of DOT.

So, WPU writes to Biiben who doesn't feel any slight compunction about looking into the complaint-or even deign to bother to write a reply that acknowledges the potential conflict of interest charge. And this is the governor's choice for ethics chair? This kind of double standard is why the federal prosecutors have a field day with NYS lawmakers. The governor should be ashamed of this appointment and the manner in which he executed it.