The Commission

Welcome to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ (the “Commission”) website. The Commission plays a significant role in the operation and oversight of government –promoting integrity by helping those in public service understand their ethical obligations, ensuring transparency through rigorous public reporting disclosures, and providing accountability through enforcement actions to address ethical misconduct. This website is a resource for state officers and officials, lobbyists and their clients, and the general public, providing information on the Commission’s activities, as well as training and guidance for those subject to its jurisdiction.

The Commission consists of 14 members, three appointed by the Temporary President of the Senate, three appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, one appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, one appointed by the Minority Leader of the Assembly, and six appointed by the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor. The Commission Chairperson is selected by the Governor. Terms for the commissioners vary and are set forth in the statute. The Commission appoints the Executive Director.

Michael K. Rozen, Acting Chair

Mr. Rozen is President & CEO of TRGP Capital Management, LLC, a private equity firm focused on strategic investments in complex litigation, and a partner at New York law firm Rozen, LLP. Mr. Rozen has successfully negotiated thousands of disputes in such areas as product liability, toxic tort, environmental insurance coverage, shareholder class actions, employment discrimination and intellectual property, has been appointed by federal and state courts as Special Settlement Master in a variety of matters, has assisted corporations in structuring and negotiating prepackaged asbestos bankruptcies, was a Deputy Special Master of the Federal September 11, 2001 Victim Compensation Fund and resolved all claims arising out of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion and Penn State/Sandusky scandal. Mr. Rozen is Vice Chair and a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of Human Rights First. Mr. Rozen received his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center and his B.A. from Tufts University. Mr. Rozen was appointed to the Commission by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Robert Cohen

Mr. Cohen is a founding member and partner at Taylor & Cohen, LLP, a boutique litigation firm with an emphasis on complex commercial business disputes, employment law, and civil rights. He also spent a number of years as a litigation partner in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Prior to starting his own firm, Mr. Cohen was Director of Ethics and Lobbying Guidance and Special Counsel for the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Mr. Cohen served as a law clerk for Honorable Michael Hawkins of United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Prior to law school, he worked for several years as a legislative assistant in the Washington D.C. office of U.S. Representative Ed Pastor. He received his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School and his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania.  Mr. Cohen was appointed to the Commission by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. 

James E. Dering

Mr. Dering is a partner at Garfunkel Wild, P.C. (“GW”), a law firm that focuses on serving the business and legal needs of clients in the health care industry and other areas.  Mr. Dering works in GW’s Albany, NY office and is a member of the firm’s Health Care, Business and Compliance practice groups.  Previously, he served as General Counsel of the New York State Department of Health, and formerly was Deputy General Counsel and Director of the Bureau of House Counsel. As General Counsel, he was the chief legal advisor to the Commissioner of Health and oversaw approximately 125 attorneys and staff.  Mr. Dering previously served as Bureau Chief of the New York State Attorney General’s Heath Care Bureau, and held other titles with the Office of the Attorney General.  Prior to his government service, Mr. Dering was in private practice for more than 10 years and advised in the areas of heath care, insurance, corporate law and litigation.  He received his J.D., cum laude, from Albany Law School of Union University and his B.S. in Business Management from Ithaca College.  Mr. Dering was appointed to the Commission by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Marvin E. Jacob

Mr. Jacob is a recently retired partner of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, where he focused primarily on corporate financial restructurings. Prior to joining Weil in 1979 as a partner, he served as the associate regional administrator of the New York office of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. During his tenures at the SEC and Weil, he taught bankruptcy reorganization and securities regulation at New York Law School as an adjunct professor of law and published and lectured extensively. Since his retirement from Weil, Mr. Jacob's practice has focused primarily on mediations, arbitrations, public service and pro bono matters. From 2006-2009, Mr. Jacob served as a member of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct and in 2010 was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force on Public Authority Reform. Mr. Jacob was originally appointed to the Commission in December 2011 and was reappointed by Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie.

Seymour Knox, IV

Mr. Knox is the CEO of Knox International, LLC, a New York-based marketing and consulting group. For twenty years, Mr. Knox served as vice president of corporate relations for the Buffalo Sabres. He has served on various boards including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, Parks and Trails New York, Artpark in Lewiston, and the George Eastman House in Rochester. He graduated from Lake Forest College with a B.A. in American Studies and Art History. Mr. Knox was appointed to the Commission by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Gary J. Lavine

Mr. Lavine is associated of counsel with the Syracuse law firm of Bousquet Holstein PLLC. Mr. Lavine served in the United States Department of Energy as deputy general counsel for environment & nuclear programs during the administration of President George W. Bush. Previously, he was senior vice president & chief legal officer of Niagara Mohawk Holdings Inc. and senior vice president, legal & corporate relations of Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. Mr. Lavine served in a number of staff positions with the state Legislature, including legislative counsel to the minority leader of the Assembly; counsel, Senate Committee on Insurance; executive director, Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities & Commissions; and assistant to the chair, Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment. He served four terms as a member of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad. He received degrees in both business administration and law from Syracuse University. Mr. Lavine was appointed to the Commission by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

J. Gerard McAuliffe, Jr.

Mr. McAuliffe has been a sole practitioner in his own general practice law firm in Johnstown since 2002, with an emphasis on family, matrimonial, estate, personal injury, and real estate matters. He has also served as the Fulton County Public Defender and Administrator since 1996. Mr. McAuliffe previously spent time with the New York State Office of Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force and the Ontario County District Attorney's Office. He is a member of the Fulton County and New York State Bar Associations. He received his law degree from Albany Law School and his undergraduate degree from Siena College. Mr. McAuliffe was appointed to the Commission by Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan.

Barry C. Sample

Mr. Sample is Chief Operating Officer for Instructional Systems Incorporated, and has an extensive background in New York State government, including work under three governors. Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for State Operations under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Before that, Mr. Sample was the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs & Community Relations under former New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall. He was also Deputy Budget Director for the New York State Division of the Budget under Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, and served in various executive positions at the Division of Criminal Justice Services under Govs. Mario M. Cuomo and Hugh L. Carey, including Deputy Director of Criminal Justice and Executive Deputy Commissioner. Mr. Sample was an Associate Coordinator for the University at Albany in the Center on Minorities and Criminal Justice. He was also an Instructor in the university’s Department of Afro-American Studies. Mr. Sample is also a current member of the New York State Gaming Commission and former member of the New York Judicial Nominating Commission and the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. He received two Master’s Degrees and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University at Albany. Mr. Sample was appointed to the Commission by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Dawn L. Smalls

Ms. Smalls is currently a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner with a focus on complex commercial litigation, government response and crisis management. Prior to joining the firm as a partner, she directed the Ford Foundation’s work in democratic participation and served as a Program Officer at the Open Society Institute, where she was responsible for grant making strategies for non-partisan civic engagement and political reform. Ms. Smalls served as Executive Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services from 2009 to 2011, acting as chief regulatory officer for the agency and as a principal advisor to its Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Chief of Staff. During the 2008 presidential election cycle, she was a Regional Political Director for the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign and the New York State Political Director for the Obama for America campaign. From 1998 to 2000, she served as Assistant to the White House Chief of Staff and as a Special Assistant in the Office of Management and Budget. Ms. Smalls received her law degree from Stanford Law School and her B.A. from Boston University. Ms. Smalls was appointed to the Commission by Senate Minority leader Andrea Stewart Cousins.

George H. Weissman

Mr. Weissman is Chair of the Cortland College Foundation, Inc, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Government Law Center at Albany Law School and Chair of its Governance Committee. In his over thirty years of government service, Mr. Weissman served in various capacities in the legislative and executive branches of government. He received his J.D. from Albany Law School of Union University. Mr. Weissman was appointed to the Commission by Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos.

James A. Yates

Mr. Yates is a retired Supreme Court Justice, serving from 1997 until 2011, as well as sitting on the New York State Court of Claims from 1992 to 1997. He previously served as Counsel to the Speaker of the New York State Assembly from 1989 until 1992 and again from 2011 to 2015.  Prior to that, he also served as Chief Counsel to the Assembly’s Codes Committee, Counsel to the Assembly Majority, and Legislative Counsel to the Speaker. He has served as a Commissioner on the New York State Sentencing Guidelines Commission, the Commission on Uniform State Laws and as a Board Member of the IOLA Board for New York. In addition, he has taught criminal law, ethics and legislative process at New York University School of Law, New York Law School, CUNY School of Law, Cardozo School of Law and Pace University School of Law and has co-authored textbooks on criminal procedure. He received his law degree from Rutgers University School of Law and his undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Mr. Yates was appointed to the Commission by Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie.  

Seth H. Agata, Executive Director

Seth H. Agata was appointed Executive Director of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics in March 2016. He previously served as Chairperson of the New York State Public Employment Relations Board and Counsel to the Governor and as well as First Assistant Counsel and Ethics Officer to the Executive Chamber. Before joining the Governor’s staff, he was Assistant Secretary for Program and Policy (with oversight of the Assembly Codes, Correction, Election Law, and Judiciary Committees) and Senior Associate Counsel in the Office of Counsel to the Majority for the New York State Assembly. He served as Counsel for Investigations in the Office of State Comptroller, Assistant District Attorney for Columbia County, and a trial examiner in the New York City Office of Collective Bargaining and was in private law practice in New York City and Columbia County. He co-authored The History of the New York Court of Appeals, 1932-2003 (Columbia U. Press, 2006) and has written on other topics. Mr. Agata is a graduate of the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and the Cornell Law School. He is a member of the New York State Bar Association and the American Bar Association.