NYS Commission On Ethics and Lobbying in Government Appoints Key Staff
Expanded Staffing Plan Progresses with 11 Appointments
Filling Critical Positions with Experienced, Dedicated Public Servants Advances Oversight, Compliance, Training & Enforcement Efforts, Improves Transparency
ALBANY, NY (Aug. 17, 2023) —
The Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government (COELIG) today announced several important personnel appointments as the agency expands staff to implement its mission to exemplify the highest ethical standards and restore public trust in government through education, compliance, and vigorous enforcement of the state’s ethics and lobbying laws.
“We are diligently and thoughtfully assembling a cohesive team with diverse talents to uphold the state’s ethics and lobbying laws while improving confidence that state government is working in the public’s interest,” Executive Director Sanford N. Berland said. “I am excited to welcome our newest colleagues and confident their expertise will be key in achieving the Commission’s critical goals.”
“Integrity, trust, and transparency are integral to the work of the Commission and COELIG staff, and to those who are called upon to uphold those high standards,” Chair Frederick A. Davie said. “We are grateful these professionals have chosen to join us in their new roles and know they will do great things for the Commission and the people of New York.”
Jennifer Bliss has been appointed Senior Counsel for the Investigations and Enforcement Division. Ms. Bliss joined JCOPE in 2019 as Associate Counsel for Ethics and Guidance, a role in which she advised and assisted members of the regulated community by providing advice and guidance relating to New York State ethics, lobbying, and civil service laws. Prior to state service, Ms. Bliss represented survivors of domestic violence in all aspects of family court proceedings as an attorney for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. Ms. Bliss holds a Juris Doctor from the University of California at Berkeley and a master’s degree in Education from CUNY’s Lehman College.
Breanna Kajano is now Deputy Director of Statutory Filings. Ms. Kajano began her work for the agency with its predecessor in 2005. In her nearly 20 years here, she has worn many hats, and most recently held the title of Supervisory Filings Specialist in COELIG’s Lobbying Unit. Ms. Kajano assisted with the launch, enhancement, and testing of the Lobbying Application website and supervised the work of Filing Specialists, among other duties. Ms. Kajano earned an associate degree in Sociology from Houghton College.
Amy Nicotera was promoted to Deputy Director of Discrepancies and Research. Ms. Nicotera joined COELIG’s predecessor agency in 2006 and has most recently served COELIG as the Assistant Director of Discrepancy Programs and Research. In her role, she has monitored compliance by lobbyists and clients, ensuring the accuracy of reported lobbying activity, and assisted filers in correcting any discrepancies that may exist. Ms. Nicotera holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications/Journalism from Russell Sage College.
Jeanne Beattie was hired as the Assistant Director of Communications. Ms. Beattie joins COELIG after nine years at the State Education Department, where she most recently served as Senior Media Relations Specialist and Public Information Officer. Prior to that, Ms. Beattie was the Executive Producer at WTEN-TV, the ABC affiliate in Albany, and has more than 15 years of experience in broadcast journalism as a television news producer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of South Carolina.
John Amoroso is serving as a Confidential Investigator. Mr. Amoroso brings more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement, ten of which were spent as a police detective specializing in complex fraud and financial investigations. Most recently, Mr. Amoroso served as a Senior Investigator for the State Education Department. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from SUNY Delhi and is currently attending graduate school at the UAlbany School of Criminal Justice.
Brionna Neal has been promoted to the position of Training Associate. Ms. Neal joined JCOPE in 2018 as a training assistant, helping to design and maintain training courses that support COELIG’s Ethics and Lobbying training and outreach. She also monitored compliance statistics of statutorily mandated training for State employees and lobbyists and provided information and education to the regulated community. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Management from Clemson University.
Michael Smith was hired as a Training Associate. Mr. Smith was most recently a Senior Trainer in the Professional Development Program for the Research Foundation for SUNY. There, he designed and conducted in-person and virtual training programs for State Executive Branch employees and was a Mastery-level trainer. Mr. Smith has also worked as an English as a Foreign Language Teacher. He holds a master’s degree in Education from the University at Buffalo.
Brendan Fanning joined the Commission as a Compliance Analyst. Mr. Fanning joins COELIG’s Compliance Audit and Review Unit from the New York State Justice Center, where he worked as a Records Access Legal Assistant. Mr. Fanning earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from UAlbany and is pursuing his master’s degree in the same field of study at the UAlbany Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy.
Martha Rivera serves as the Commission’s Executive Assistant. Ms. Rivera most recently worked at the State Offices of the Inspector General as an Investigative Aide for three years. She has more than 16 years of experience working in the financial services sector and more than three years in state service. Ms. Rivera holds a bachelor’s degree from Baruch College in History.
Christina Hernandez has been appointed Assistant Filings Specialist in the Commission’s Lobbying Unit. Ms. Hernandez previously served as a COVID-19 hotline operator and tracer for the State Department of Health, educating the public on current guidance, verifying important health information with consumers, and utilizing resources to work with local health departments as needed. She is a graduate of George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School.
Taylor Smith came on board as a Communications Assistant. Ms. Smith cultivated and expanded her experience with social media management, content management systems, and graphic design during two years as a Communications Department intern for the State Education Department. She graduated summa cum laude from UAlbany with a master’s degree in Communication/Political Communication and holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from SUNY Oneonta.
About the New York State Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government
Created by New York State Law in July 2022, the Commission’s charge is to restore public trust in government by ensuring compliance with the state’s ethics and lobbying laws and regulations. It has jurisdiction over more than 300,000 officers and employees at State agencies and departments, including commissions, boards, State public benefit corporations, public authorities, SUNY, CUNY, and the statutory closely affiliated corporations; the four statewide elected officials; members of the Legislature and candidates for those offices; and state and local lobbyists and their clients.
The Commission administers, enforces, and interprets New York’s ethics and lobbying laws by providing information, education, and guidance regarding ethics and lobbying laws; promoting compliance through audits, investigations, and enforcement proceedings; issuing formal and informal advisory opinions; and promulgating regulations implementing laws under its jurisdiction.
The Commission promotes transparency by conducting its proceedings publicly to the fullest extent permitted by law and by making the financial and other disclosures filed by those subject to the Commission’s authority publicly available. These disclosures include, but are not limited to, annual financial disclosure statements filed by over 30,000 individuals, and activity and expense reports filed by lobbyists and their clients.
The Commission consists of 11 members with staggered four-year terms nominated by the Governor, Senate Temporary President and Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, Assembly Speaker, Assembly Minority Leader, Comptroller, and Attorney General. The Independent Review Committee, comprised of the Deans of the State’s 15 accredited law schools, determines, based upon stated criteria, whether nominees should be confirmed for appointment.