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Regarding Mr. Cherkasky

October 18, 2010

Something significant occurred last week that was barely noted in the media. It prompted no critical review or commentary. It was like the proverbial tree falling deep in the forest.

The head of the state Commission on Public Integrity, Michael Cherkasky, announced that he was resigning. The official explanation was that he had “too many conflicts of interest.”

Excuse us for being a little edgy here, but the proper response to a revelation like this is not a shrug.

Think about it: The head of the government panel responsible for investigating conflicts of interest admits that he has – not one conflict of interest, but many, too many to continue serving.

Shouldn’t someone review the situation to determine the nature of the conflicts? Shouldn’t someone inquire as to whether these conflicts may have influenced the work of the commission? And shouldn’t someone ask whether anybody else on the commission has similar conflicts?

Alas, this situation really doesn’t appear to bother anyone except for David Grandeau, the former head of the State Lobby Commission who has been beating a drum of discontent toward the successor commission almost since its inception.

We’ve never quite known what to make of Mr. Grandeau. There are times when he makes a ton of sense to us, and times when he seems, well … obsessed and angry.

But now we understand why. There is simply no oversight of the Public Integrity Commission. It can say and do whatever it wants and nobody questions it.

This is wrong. There must be always be oversight of government entities, especially state ethics panels.

There’s more about Mr. Cherkasky: The proposed remedy for his conflicts of interest is for him to resign, not immediately, but on January 1. That means he will continue to serve as chair of the commission for the next two and a half months.

How does this square? Mr. Cherkasky’s conflicts are ok now, but not ok after the first of the year?

But wait, it gets even better: Mr. Cherkasky says that another reason he is resigning is because the commission’s budget has been reduced and that the commission cannot properly investigate all matters brought to its attention. In fact, the commission is now practicing “triage” and picking only isolated cases to pursue.

Now just for the sake of argument, what would we do if the Superintendent of the State Police announced that he wasn’t pursuing all reports of crime brought to his attention? Wouldn’t we want to know what “triage” meant in this context? Wouldn’t we want to know what type of crimes the State Police were ignoring?

Back to the commission. How exactly has ethics law enforcement been compromised? What crimes are not being investigated? What conflicts of interest are being ignored?

We’re trying really hard not to sound exasperated here (like Mr. Grandeau.) But this situation is deeply troubling.

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