Well, that didn’t take long. During the White House Recovery and Reinvestment Act Implementation Conference, Vice President Joe Biden issued a warning to the nation’s governors:
We’ve asked a lot of the American people, a great deal of the American people, in supporting this effort. And so this is a different deal. This is not your usual federal grant going to states. And I want to be blunt with you, off-script here: The fact of the matter is all that is legal is not acceptable. Let me say it again. Just because it may be legal, it is not acceptable -- some of it.
New York Gov. David Paterson’s former ousted chief of staff, William Cunningham, reportedly was negotiating a new employment contract while he was “working on the distribution of federal stimulus funds.” If the reports are accurate, Cunningham’s actions are neither legal nor acceptable.
Gov. David A. Paterson’s former chief of staff took a brief turn helping the state distribute stimulus money on Long Island before he exited government for an executive job at North Shore-LIJ Health System.
But if William J. Cunningham III is valued by North Shore for all his many friends in government, in his role as a vice president in charge of governmental relations, those ties cut both ways. Experts say he may have landed himself in an ethical minefield because North Shore is seeking more than $200 million in stimulus aid from his old boss.
The state’s ethics law prohibits Cunningham, as a former member of the governor’s staff, from lobbying any state agency on any matter for two years after he leaves government. He is barred for life from dealing with any specific matter he worked on for the state. And because he served as a top deputy to Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi until he went to work for Paterson in April 2008, he is still barred from dealing with the county for another year under Nassau’s ethics code.
In their, um, defense, the health system says Cunningham will focus on lobbying Washington. Apparently, his new employer didn’t get the memo about the restrictions on lobbyists. So, they may not know that ProPublica is tracking who’s lobbying on the stimulus.
The Stimulus Oversight Working Group may file a complaint with the New York State Commission on Public Integrity calling for an investigation of Cunningham’s alleged ethics violations.
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