About Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is an award-winning journalist covering environmental policy for the Explorer since January 2020. She also takes photos and videos for the Explorer's magazine and website. She is a current member of the Legislative Correspondents Association of New York. Gwen has worked at various news outlets since 2015. Prior to moving to upstate New York, she worked for a D.C. Metro-area public relations firm, producing digital content for clients including the World Health Organization, the Low Income Investment Fund and Rights and Resources Initiative. She has a master's degree in journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She has bachelor's degrees in English and journalism, with a concentration in ecology and evolutionary biology, from the University of Connecticut. Gwen is also a part-time figure skating coach. Contact her at (518) 524-2902 or gwen@adirondackexplorer.org. Sign up for Gwen’s newsletter here.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Todd Eastman says

    Interesting situation…

    … should expert input be disallowed because someone has expertise and internal institutional knowledge in a case held in a public forum…?

    How transparent should a regulator be, especially when state’s resources are involved?

    The APA, by making an issue of ex-employees providing public comment only makes it appear something is amiss.

  2. Walter Linck says

    Yes, Todd. And I’d like to add here that Barbara, and then I, each contacted staff of the Commission for an opinion about me making comments on this issue – exactly as employees and ex-employees are encouraged to do. We each spoke with the same, very helpful staff member who presented us with what seemed a well considered, rational opinion that yes… I was not violating the ethics law by submitting my comments on this issue in the public comment process.

    I didn’t need to go further. However, since the board of the Commission has surprisingly never issued a formal, full opinion on the question, I was called back by the staff person and asked if I WOULD go further and formally put it before the Commission.

    Well, THIS IS WHAT THE ADIRONDACK PARK AGENCY SHOULD HAVE DONE IN THE FIRST PLACE! Instead, though, the lawyers quickly rejected my two comment letters in late July/early August without any valid legal conclusion – no more justification than their vague warning to me that I “may” have violated law. So I have agreed to do as the Commission staff member asked, and the question will now go before the full Commission – even though I have no assurance (gulp) what the outcome will be. It’s clear an answer is needed that will benefit State employees across New York in the future.

    The essence of it all, though – and the most angering thing to me – is this: APA management chose to quickly write me an intimidating letter over taking the time to go through the only correct process and do the right thing. That’s a show of “ethics”?

  3. Thomas Pfeiffer says

    is there any requirement of ‘harm’ intended proven in such cease and desist order? was there any personal damaging remarks to the agency that cause harm?
    if policy decisions are merely questioned or opposed, why should freedom of speech law not apply? what was the audience for said comments that harmful status requires cease and desist order? is Delores Umbridge in charge of the agency?

    • Walter Linck says

      Very funny. Indeed, Thomas…

      One could say that the Ministry of Magic is declaring that all history at APA, as might be revealed to you Muggles in any way whatsoever (from merely pointing to the existence of key documents to storytelling) has vanished.

      I must be extremely careful, now.

    • Adk Resident says

      The acceptance of the State Ethics Law is a condition of State employment. “Freedom of Speach” is not absolute and after employment by the State of New York is tempered by the conditions of employment, accepted by the employee when they took an employment offer from the State (and not forced on anyone). It is not dissimilar to an employment contract or a Non-Disclosure Agreement – that in exchange for accepting employment, the employee agrees not to discuss certain matters either as an employee or after employment.

  4. Walter Linck says

    I agree completely with that, as I would expect all State employees would. But what does that matter? It doesn’t inform either of the two big questions here one iota.

    Firstly, even the Commission staff responsible for providing over-the-phone guidance for State employees and ex-employees have agreed among themselves that neither the language of the Law, itself, nor the language of any of the formal, full opinions issued by the Commission provide a clear enough answer as to whether or not an ex-employee (as a member of the public) may do what I did without concern: provide comments to their State agency (“at the behest of the agency”) during a formal public comment period. Mind you, this is even though the attorney and staff person I spoke with supported me quite strongly and provided me with the opinion that I was within my rights. Directly contrary to the implication and tone of APA legal staff’s letter to me, I was assured I don’t need to worry about any legal consequences.

    Secondly, the language of the Law doesn’t deal AT ALL with just what is or can be considered to be or “classified” by an agency as “confidential information.” Mind you: I released no Agency documents and would not do that. I did not excerpt or even quote any Agency documents in my comments. To make a point I DID, however, quote a few words of opinion from a fellow State employee and friend at the time as they were spoken to me in a casual, “water-cooler” type conversation about a relevant topic. (And I’ve since remembered and confirmed that another co-worker and friend of mine was standing with me at that time and also heard him express that opinion.)

    How illegal is it for me to recount that little story?! To the end of my life, should I be forbidden by APA’s order from telling it to anyone either verbally or in writing, for fear of fines and/or other legal consequences? From the overreaching language of their order to me, that’s actually my situation, now.

    Are we living in China?

    Maybe our new Governor, Kathy Hochul, thinks so and won’t be at all embarrassed if this generates a civil-rights/free-speech lawsuit on my behalf.

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