The Governor is hot on the trail to dismantle LIPA’s existing structure and privatize the utility. However he has dragged his feet on releasing the Inspector General’s report on LIPA’s Billing practices dating back almost 2 years ago…..LIPA has gone through a tremendous amount of criticism of its management over the course of these two years so it would seem logical that the quicker that this report is released the better for the ratepayer. Certainly any guidance to LIPA to minimize additional bad decisions could have been possibly avoided and certainly saved the rate payer grief.
“In April 2011, Cuomo asked the former Inspector General Ellen Biben to investigate the billing practices of the Long Island Power Authority, an announcement that rated a Red Room news conference in which Biben promised a “swift and thorough” audit.
Almost two years later, the public hasn’t seen a word of it — even as LIPA descended into a black hole of mismanagement. According to the same administration source, the audit isn’t even in the inspector general’s hands anymore.”
Seiler: Wanted: a watchdog for good
Published 10:33 pm, Saturday, February 16, 2013
Next week, Ellen Biben marks the end of her first year as the inaugural executive director of the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Someone buy her a beer, because she no doubt needs it.
Feb. 28 marks a different sort of professional anniversary for Catherine Leahy-Scott, who was tapped to serve as New York’s acting inspector general after Biben’s departure from that post.
I have never spoken to Leahy-Scott; if she walked up on the street and punched me, I would not be able to identify her to police. But observing the work that emerges from the inspector general’s office, I’ve never had cause to think she is anything but a dutiful public watchdog.
So why hasn’t she — or anyone else — been hired on a permanent basis?
The last time I posed this question was in September, when Leahy-Scott marked six months of acting status. At that point, Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s communications director, Rich Bamberger, explained the delay by noting that “it is difficult to recruit for these positions because the salaries are not competitive with private sector comparisons and Albany’s reputation over the past years is not inviting.” (He meant Albany the state of mind, not the city — I think.)
The proof of this difficulty could be seen in Bamberger’s own departure for the private sector in the following month, and the speedy exit of his replacement, Allison Gollust — who announced her jump to CNN on Friday.
Six months later, the administration is striking a slightly different tone: “We don’t have time limits,” a Cuomo administration source said last week. “We have performance standards and the acting inspector general is meeting and exceeding them.” In the private sector, someone who exceeds performance standards might expect to be hired on a non-acting basis.
The inspector general’s office has a flexible mandate. It can investigate the actions of anyone drawing a taxpayer-funded paycheck — such as State Fair officials called out for poor procurement and security procedures in a report issued last Thursday.
Previous governors have used the office to tackle big game. Say what you will about former Gov. David Paterson, but he empowered Joseph Fisch to go after the state Senate, the Commission on Public Integrity (the forerunner to JCOPE) and even Paterson’s own office.
Cuomo seems content to allow the inspector general to hunt in a more circumscribed territory.
The office hasn’t been able to follow through on a few significant investigations. An audit of the New York Racing Association has been percolating since May 2011, even though NYRA has been essentially taken over by the state.
In April 2011, Cuomo asked Biben to investigate the billing practices of the Long Island Power Authority, an announcement that rated a Red Room news conference in which Biben promised a “swift and thorough” audit.
Almost two years later, the public hasn’t seen a word of it — even as LIPA descended into a black hole of mismanagement. According to the same administration source, the audit isn’t even in the inspector general’s hands anymore.
Instead, the work has been absorbed by the Moreland Commission investigating storm response after Irene, Lee and Sandy. That Cuomo-created body is co-chaired by Benjamin Lawsky, the superintendent of the Cuomo-created state Department of Financial Services. Lawsky is a longtime Cuomo protege whose physical and stylistic resemblance to the governor is close enough to make many in the Capitol murmur about the moral issues posed by human cloning.
Put another way: If the governor was trying to engineer his own candidate for comptroller or attorney general, that person would look a lot like Lawsky — by which I mean a lot like Cuomo.
I hope that Leahy-Scott doesn’t read any sort of professional slight into this analysis. After all, this column isn’t really about her.
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