Commission on Public Integrity Charges Three Lobbying Entities In Connection with Legislative Receptions

Commission on Pubic Integrity Charges Three Lobbying Entities In Connection with Legislative Receptions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 17, 2009
CONTACT: Walter C. Ayres
                     518-474-4418

ALBANY — The State Commission on Public Integrity today announced that it has charged three more lobbying entities with violating the gift ban contained in the lobbying law when they allegedly held receptions for public officials and provided complimentary food and refreshments in excess of nominal value.

The three entities are the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors, Inc., the New York State Association of Healthcare Providers and United University Professions. The Association of Health Care Providers admitted the violation and paid the Commission $250 as part of the Settlement Agreement, and will provide the Commission with a list of attendees.

Previously, the Commission had brought charges against five other entities for sponsoring legislative receptions that violated the law. Four of them have admitted violating the law and have provided lists of public officials who attended the events. A $250 settlement with the fifth entity, the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors, was approved by the Commission at its meeting last week and is being announced today.

The Public Employee Ethics Reform Act of 2007 significantly changed the law by prohibiting public officials and State officers and employees from accepting gifts of more than nominal value, which the Commission has determined to be no more than the cost of an ordinary cup of coffee. Gifts of $75 or less had been allowed in the past, and receptions such as these often were permissible and common.

Michael Cherkasky, Chair of the Commission, said, “Since these investigations were made public, the Commission has received many inquiries from lobbyists and State officials asking whether such receptions constituted unlawful gifts. We have succeeded in making lobbyists, clients and State officials aware of the fact that the law has changed and that mere ‘meet and greet’ events no longer are acceptable.”

The Commission intends to take appropriate further action with respect to any Executive Branch employees who attended the receptions. In addition, the Commission has forwarded the names of legislators who attended to the Legislative Ethics Commission, since the Commission on Public Integrity lacks jurisdiction over the legislature.

Copies of the Notices of Reasonable Cause are available on-line at http://www.nyintegrity.org/enforcement/norc.html