State Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) said he believes the state Legislative Ethics Commission should conduct a probe to determine whether it is “inappropriate” that a Queens firm in which state Sen. Toby Stavisky’s (D−Whitestone) son is a partner lobbies her Higher Education Committee.
Padavan, who has not officially called for an investigation of the matter, said he is concerned the Parkside Group, a political consulting and lobbying firm that runs political campaigns, is able to lobby the Senate Higher Education Committee, which Stavisky chairs.
Evan Stavisky, the senator’s son, is a partner in the Manhattan firm.
“There should be a complete investigation of Parkside and the influence peddling they’ve taken part in across the board, which includes the chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee,” Padavan said. “The ethics commission does not need to be told to do these things. It’s part of their job, whether a request is made or not. I think it’s inappropriate.”
But a spokeswoman for Stavisky said the senator sent a letter in January to the Legislative Ethics Commission, made up of state lawmakers as well as appointees by the Senate majority leader and state Assembly speaker, in which she asked for an opinion on the matter.
In the letter, Stavisky said she had prohibited her son from lobbying her or members of her staff despite the fact she is not required to do so by law. But she wrote she has not instituted a prohibition on the entire Parkside Group.
On Feb. 26, the ethics commission issued an advisory opinion which determined the senator’s “office policy is prudent and appropriate.”
“We conclude that a conflict of interest between the legislator’s duties and her son’s position does not exist,” the commission concluded.
The commission also said “since there is no prohibition against the [senator’s] son lobbying her directly, she may allow other members of the son’s firm to lobby her and her staff.”
The commission’s executive director said that by law she could not confirm or comment on any advisory opinions made by the group.
A spokeswoman for Stavisky said the senator is “a longtime supporter of legislation to raise ethical standards in state government.”
But Padavan said he believes there is a conflict of interest involved in Parkside’s lobbying efforts.
“Parkside represents many public entities, including the City University of New York,” he said. “At the same time, they involve themselves in running the campaigns of legislators who have a direct impact on nonprofit organizations like city universities. To me, that doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Last year, the Parkside Group helped run City Councilman James Gennaro’s (D−Fresh Meadows) bid to unseat Padavan. But the state senator won the race by 485 votes.
In April, Stavisky released a statement in which she said the state was allocating $120,000 annually to a commission that looks after the northeast Queens shoreline to “perpetuate Frank Padavan’s political patronage jobs.” The senator made the comment after the Northeast Queens Nature and Historical Preservation Commission was cut from the state budget.
At that time, Padavan dismissed Stavisky’s claims, saying most of the commission’s members were Democrats.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.
©2009 Community News Group
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