Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Update On DHCR/RIOC Chairperson VanAmerongen Resignation To Join Affordable Housing Law Firm - Government/Private Sector Revolving Door Or Not?

Revolving Door Image From CREW

An update to this post linking to a NY Observer article regarding the resignation of NY State DHCR Commissioner and RIOC Board Chairperson Deborah VanAmerongen. According to the article, Ms. VanAmerongen is resigning as DHCR Commissioner to take a position with the Affordable Housing Group of the Nixon Peabody Law Firm.
... Ms. VanAmerongen is jumping to the private sector ship, joining a firm that has an active affordable housing group and one that does significant work with Ms. VanAmerongen's agency, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, including deals this year.

... A spokeswoman for the DHCR said Ms. VanAmerongen recused herself from decisions with the potential for conflict of interest.

Steve Wallace, a partner who heads Nixon Peabody's affordable housing group, said Ms. VanAmerongen, who is not an attorney, will be a "strategic policy adviser," offering guidance on affordable housing issues in New York and nationally. The firm represents developers and lenders, among others in the affordable housing industry...
Several readers of the post were critical of Ms. VanAmerongen and expressed concern over potential conflicts between her former position at DHCR and new private sector job including this:
VanAmerongen should disclose her business dealings with Nixon Peabody as commissioner. How well has this firm done during her tenure?
However, another reader supported Ms VanAmerongen:
You guys have all the answers, but don't know squat. At least Ms. VanAmerongen made her meetings with the RIOC Board of Directors. Her predecesor and the person who comes next .... No Shows. You'll see. All of you want to throw stones and nit-pick.

I worked with her and she has integrity. Good for her that she's moved on to a higher paying job. Public Service is a thankless job. If any of you could do it, you'd all jump to make more money for you & your families too.
I inquired of RIOC President Steve Shane:
As you know, DHCR Commissioner/ RIOC Board Chairperson VanAmerongen resigned these positions to join the Affordable Housing Practice Group at the Nixon Peabody Law Firm.

Does Nixon Peabody represent RIOC currently, previously, or are they bidding for future work?

Also, are they (Nixon Peabody) representing any other parties involved in past, current or future Roosevelt Island issues including but not limited to the potential privatizations of Island House, Rivercross and Westview.

Thank you.
Mr. Shane replied:
Nixon Peabody does no work for RIOC, is not bidding on any and any suggested relationship to the Commissioner's new relationship post State employment is entirely without foundation.
Later that day Mr. Shane elaborated:
In reviewing my e mail to you as to Nixon Peabody, the information therein is absolutely correct.

However, notwithstanding that they have not done any work for RIOC nor are they bidding on any, they are, as a large, well established law firm with a long and well deserved reputation for expertise in the area, inter alia, of affordable housing. In response to prior solicitations, Nixon Peabody is on the pre-approved panel of law firms who could be considered for employment by RIOC for matters as they might arise.

RIOC maintains such panels of architects, engineers, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, etc. with appropriate sub-panels) to respond to immediate needs without having to go through a more lengthy process in formal public bidding. We do then have a less formal bidding process among the panel members, having already familiarized ourselves with the individual qualifications of the panel members to meet the needs of the individual situation. Every so often, we refresh the panels by putting out an RFQ and bringing a recommendation to the Board for a reconstituted panel.
I replied:
Thank you for the additional infomation.

It appears that Nixon Peabody was involved in representing the Tenant organization at Island House during privatization efforts in 2005. I don't know if NP is still involved in this process.

Also, my inquiry was not meant to imply any impropriety, just fact checking.
The NY Times reported yesterday on Governor David Patterson's call for ethics reform in NY State's executive and legislative branch.
In a conference call on Tuesday, aides to Gov. David A. Paterson on Tuesday briefed reporters on the governor’s proposal for ethics reforms that, if enacted, would be the most far-reaching such overhaul in state history...
The article does not reference any policy having to do with State Officials leaving their positions to join private sector businesses in the industry that they regulated during their time in government. However, the New York State Commission On Public Integrity describes the current "Revolving Door Policy" in New York:
... The revolving door statute is designed to keep former State employees from using their former government connections to benefit themselves, their clients or the business for which they work after leaving State government. It does this (1) by restricting for two years the contacts they can have with the agency where they worked and (2) by restricting the work they can do on matters on which they worked while in State service. The first restriction is known as "the two year bar" and the second as "the lifetime bar."...
You can follow Governor Patterson's Ethics reform proposals at NYU's Brennan Center For Justice.


Anonymous said...

It's very curious ????

Shane "Forgot" that RIOC had selected Nixon Peabody as a panel law firm.

What else is he forgetting???

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

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