Definitely not priceless

May 14, 2003

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.comTrip to Kansas City, airfare, and lodging ... $496.91Executive dinner ... $117.69Ticket to the big hockey game ... $85Forgetting

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.com

Trip to Kansas City, airfare, and lodging ... $496.91

Executive dinner ... $117.69

Ticket to the big hockey game ... $85

Forgetting you're governed by ethics regulations designed to keep New York public officials from handing over the state treasury to special interest groups . . . Painful. Very painful.

Just ask Richard Turan. He knows. Turan, president and CEO of Nassau Health Care Corporation, and six others are being investigated for alleged violations of the New York State Public Officers Law. They are accountable to this law because they work for a public benefit corporation. Rather than charging expenses incurred during business dinners and site visits pertaining to vendor selection for a multimillion dollar IT contract, they let the vendors pick up the tab.

Only three of the 87 charges brought against this group, which includes the chairs of radiology and emergency medicine and a registered nurse, do not involve travel or food. Those three-a couple tickets to a hockey game and a $99 pat on the back for a promotion-may be slips in judgment, but they are hardly criminal offenses, at least not in my book.

They are, however, in the book being read by the New York State Ethics Commission, which catalogued them and the other 84 alleged violations in multicolumn charts with the names of the vendors, the dates, the type of violation, where it took place, the group costs (because many instances involved more than just one person), and the cost assigned to each individual. The only things I found missing were the 8 x 10 glossies with the circles and arrows and the aerial photographs showing the approach and getaway for each crime.

Take away the expenses associated with food, travel, and lodging, and the ethics commission is left with a couple of hockey tickets and a "recognition for promotion" token-three counts out of 87. The New York Ethics Commission needs a reality check.

The regulations they are applying to the staff at Nassau Health Care are meant to keep public officials from receiving gifts-real gifts-like all-expenses-paid junkets to Bermuda or Hawaii. While Kansas City and Malvern, PA, are certainly nice cities, they are not at the top of my list of places to visit the first chance I get.