Tripathi Didn’t Get JCOPE Approval To Join BNP
UB says he didn’t need it, calls SUNY policy “inaccurate”
Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Wednesday's column asked if President Satish K. Tripathi had followed SUNY policy when he joined the board of directors of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and accepted $265,000 in private salary from the UB Foundation and the SUNY Research Foundation on top of his $385,000 state salary.
SUNY regulations stipulate that Tripathi would have had to get approval from the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) before doing either of those things.
He didn't. But UB's position is that he didn't have to because SUNY's policy is "inaccurate."
Buffalo Niagara Partnership
Here's the SUNY policy (from "Summary of Presidential Compensation, Benefits And Other Terms of Employment") establishing that Tripathi needed JCOPE's approval to join the not-for-profit Buffalo Niagara Partnership's board of directors:
"It is hereby agreed that you may serve on up to two corporate boards of directors for compensation, and an unlimited number of not-for-profit boards without compensation, so long as approval is first obtained from [JCOPE]."
Tripathi doesn't get paid to serve at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership (BNP), but the above excerpt clearly indicates that you still need approval if you don't get paid.
Not according to university spokesman John Della Contrada, who referenced the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR) in Tripathi's defense:
"The JCOPE regulations on ‘Outside Activities' (Title 19 NYCRR Part 932) require JCOPE approval only for a policy-maker seeking to serve as a director or officer of a for-profit corporation or institution. This does not apply to BNP, a not-for-profit corporation. JCOPE approval is not needed to serve on the BNP board."
But, Mr. Della Contrada, the SUNY "Summary of Presidential Compensation" specifically says he needs JCOPE approval to sit on not-for-profit boards.
It doesn't matter, because he said the SUNY policy is incorrect:
"The language you refer to in the SUNY ‘Summary of Presidential Compensation' is inaccurate to the extent that it infers that JCOPE approval is required for membership on a not-for-profit board."
The way I read it, the SUNY policy doesn't "infer" anything; it states quite plainly that you need the approval for not-for-profits. And did you just say SUNY policy is inaccurate? He clarified:
"The language in the SUNY document could be interpreted in two ways. Either the phrase ‘so long as approval is first obtained from [JCOPE]' is intended to mean that approval is sought as necessary, i.e., only for the compensated for-profit board positions. Or it could be interpreted to apply to both the for-profit and not-for-profit board positions. The second interpretation would be wrong, as it is contrary to the regulations."
Well, to me, it looks like Della Contrada's "second interpretation" is not really an interpretation. It's exactly what the policy says (see the second paragraph of this section). His first interpretation requires a certain leap of faith. If the policy doesn't apply to not-for-profit boards, how come it says that it does?
Della Contrada was right about the JCOPE regulations in NYCRR Part 932 – they don't require JCOPE approval for membership on a not-for-profit board such as the BNP. But the SUNY policy does require it. And NYCRR Part 932 also says this: