The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (“Commission”) today announced that it has settled with a former regional director of the New York State Department of Transportation (“DOT”) for a violation of the Public Officers Law.
John Cook, a former director of operations for DOT Region 7, which covers the North Country, agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and admitted that over a period of several years, he accepted improper gifts of annual hunting trip packages, which included airfare, lodging, and meals, that were offered by an employee of a DOT vendor with which Cook did business in his official capacity who was also a family friend. The trip expenses were paid for by the DOT vendor. Accepting those gifts violates the Public Officers Law which bars a State employee from accepting a gift over a nominal value if that gift can reasonably be inferred as intended to influence the employee’s official actions.
Cook had been in the job for more than 15 years before retiring in late 2016. The case was referred to the Commission for its action by the Office of Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott.