Statement of Executive Director
On February 28, 2012, Executive Director Ellen N. Biben made the following statement to the Commission:
Chairwoman DiFiore and members of the Commission, I am honored by the critical and rare opportunity that you have given me to work with you to help build this Commission and help restore public trust in government.
For too long, stories of corruption and abuse have dominated the news; stories of public servants serving themselves and their friends. New Yorkers have rightfully grown cynical.
Let us take the opportunity we have before us to reestablish for New Yorkers that public service is a noble pursuit – and that government shall be based on integrity and performance.
New Yorkers deserve a government that leads by example, one which puts performance over politics and public service over self interest.
To do this, government must regain the trust of the people it serves, and helping rebuild that trust must be one of this Commission's main goals.
We must focus first and foremost on the tools we have to help those involved in state government understand and comply with state ethics and lobbying requirements - using our powers to promote transparency wherever possible, and making education, training and guidance our highest priority and available to all.
Through the Public Integrity Reform Act and the establishment of this Commission, the Governor and the Legislature very clearly made ethics a statewide priority - and we must meet this mandate by ensuring that the Commission has impact and is accessible throughout the state.
Our first step is to build and staff the Commission – and to that end - as you know - one of the specific duties set forth in the statute is for the Executive Director to prepare a staffing plan for the Commission’s review and approval. Over the last few weeks I have been working in consultation with the Chair and staff to prepare a staffing plan that is responsible, sensible and will serve the Commission’s directives. The plan is based on a reorganization and consolidation of the existing structure to emphasize the core functions of the office and accommodate the Commission’s expanded authority and oversight.
Later today I will present this plan to you in greater detail- I do this today, on my first day – because I share the concern you have expressed to me – that our tasks ahead are challenging and we do not have time to waste. I look forward to your support so that we can begin to build the team we need to get to work immediately on our first priorities: clearing the backlog of investigations and requests for guidance; developing and making public policies and procedures for our own governance; expanding our education and training programs including online programs, and beginning the redesign of our web site to maximize compliance and transparency – all which are key components of our mandate.
Trust comes through knowledge and transparency. We start here and now on the process of earning from all New Yorkers their trust by demonstrating that this is a new day for ethics in New York State government. I thank you again for giving me the opportunity to assist you in the critical work of this Commission and look forward to working with each of you.
Ellen N. Biben