Grandeau files DiNapoli complaint with JCOPE

Ethics compliance consultant David Grandeau deposited a complaint against state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in front of Janet DiFiore, chair of the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, just after the commencement of the public session of JCOPE’s Tuesday morning meetings in Albany. The complaint — which DiFiore crisply said would be accepted through proper channels — alleges that DiNapoli and OSC staff accepted “illicit benefits” from those backing a longstanding lawsuit against Chevron Corp., charging that the oil giant’s industrial efforts in Ecuador have resulted in widespread environmental degradation. Chevron disputes those claims, and has claimed judicial fraud has taken place as the case has made its long and winding path through the Ecuadorian courts. Chevron has so far

failed to get an $18 billion judgment imposed by the Ecuadorian courts in 2011 tossed by U.S. courts. DiNapoli, in his role as sole trustee of the Common Retirement Fund and its holdings in Chevron, has argued that the company should reach a settlement with the plaintiffs. Grandeau, a frequent JCOPE critic and the former executive director of the state Temporary Commission on Lobbying, is representing Chevron in the matter. The complaint alleges that the plaintiffs and their representatives “have made direct financial contributions to DiNapoli’s campaign, and have offered DiNapoli and his staff trips to Ecuador, celebrity access and political benefits.” To take those one by one: The complaint points to $8,000 in campaign contributions made to DiNapoli’s campaign in early 2009 by four individuals connected to the lawsuit or their associates — that’s not an amount most reasonable people would see as sufficient to procure the services of a New York State Comptroller. The complaint also points to $55,000 in contributions made to DiNapoli over more than three years (November 2008 to January 2012) by Orin Kramer, the former chair of the New Jersey State Investment Council and an investor in the plaintiffs’ effort. Kramer, however, seems like an unlikely bagman for an effort to curry favor with DiNapoli, seeing as he was the chairman of Democrats for Wilson, a group set up to support Republican Harry Wilson’s failed 2010 bid for the Comptroller’s office. The staff trips refers exclusively to a 2004 trip by OSC staffer Julie Gresham, and involved $1,000 in public cost, plus airfare. While the complaint says subsequent invitations were made, DiNapoli’s office says that no further taxpayer-funded trips have occurred. The offer of “celebrity access” points to the invitation by Amazon Watch, an environmental group that supports the plaintiffs, to set up a meeting between DiNapoli and Sting, plus the pop star’s wife Trudie Styler. The Stings are longtime environmental advocates. DiNapoli’s office says that meeting never occurred. The charge that DiNapoli accepted “political benefits” is even squishier, as it suggests that the Comptroller succumbed to “the lure of winning political points for supporting the ‘little guy’ in a fight against a large energy company, and for supposedly supporting the environment.” Per contra, Grandeau could just as easily claim that any elected official supporting Chevron was merely trying to win political points by supporting American industry in a fight against a rapacious tort system. The OSC released this tart response from DiNapoli: This is a baseless attempt by big oil to intimidate me and it won’t work. The allegations are without merit. Since 2004, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, along with dozens of leading investors worldwide, has called on Chevron to settle its nearly two-decade-long legal battle for polluting the Amazon. Chevron refuses. This effort is about protecting shareholder value and fulfilling my fiduciary responsibility to the New York State Common Retirement Fund. Instead of owning up to its corporate responsibility, time and again Chevron has denied its responsibility, distorted the facts and ignored the ruling of a court of law. I am confident that JCOPE will see through this blatant attempt to intimidate responsible shareholders who dare to question Chevron’s actions. Recent Actions by the NYS Common Retirement Fund: · · Here’s summary of Grandeau’s complain; the full document runs to 50 pages: Grandeau Chevron Complaint