There's Nothing More Elusive Than Ethics in Government

By Gabe Pressman
|  Wednesday, Feb 3, 2010  |  Updated 5:15 PM EDT
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There's Nothing More Elusive Than Ethics in Government

NBCNewYork

It's become a culture of clowns.

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It goes on and on. Revelations about the incredible lack of good judgment -- and ethical lapses -- of our government officials seem to be growing. No wonder the citizens of New York have lost faith in the people who make the laws -- and the people who are supposed to enforce them.

The latest revelations about the mayor, the governor and the Legislature are enough to make any citizen angry.

Mayor Bloomberg says it’s okay that a City Hall political operative named Maura Keaney has just been given a $143,000 job at the Board of Education. The Conflicts of Interest Board has fined Ms. Keaney $2,500 for ethical wrongdoing in 2007 for making fund-raising calls to unions while she worked for Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

When she worked for the City Council, Ms. Keaney helped change the law to enable Bloomberg to run for a third term. Bloomberg brought her into his campaign, paying Ms. Keaney $4,250 a week and a $150,000 bonus. And now she’s got a job with the Department of Education.

The Mayor said he was delighted about Ms. Keaney’s new job. As for her tangle with the Conflicts of Interest Board, Bloomberg said, "When you screw up, you fess up to it and pay your penalty and get on with it."

Times columnist Jim Dwyer comments that, in politics, government and business, lying, truth shaving, obstructionism and timely amnesia "are not firing offenses; they’re practically a job requirement."

Gov. David Paterson had a meeting the other day with the Rev. Floyd Flake of Queens. Flake said they discussed whom he might support in the governor’s race. But he made no commitment, said Flake, and both men agreed it was probably too early for that.

Was it just a coincidence that, three days earlier, Paterson had awarded a state contract to develop and operate a casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack to a group in which Flake is an investor? A week before Flake had expressed support for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. In the political game, people say things they don’t mean or mean things they don’t say. Go figure.

And then there’s the latest chapter in the longest-running saga in Albany -- "How to Get Ethics from an Unethical Bunch." The governor has vetoed the Legislature’s attempt to set up ethics panels to scrutinize elected officials and to require greater financial disclosure from lawmakers.

The Governor, to his credit, doesn’t think that establishing an ethics commission to police the ethics of the lawmakers who create the commission is the right way to go about it. He believes there should be a truly independent commission.

Said the governor, waxing astronomical, "We must bring fundamental change to the culture of Planet Albany."

He’s right in one respect. What goes on up there is out of this world.

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