March 27, 2014

Chris Christie's Legal Team Calls for Appointment of Gubernatorial Ombuds

An investigation by the New York governor's lawyers cleared Christie of wrongdoing in connection with the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal and also recommended the appointment of an Ombudsman. A report by by lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher called on Christie to appoint an Ombuds and a Chief Ethics Officer within his office to prevent similar situations in the future.

The report made the following recommendations: 
(c) Appoint An Ombudsperson Within The Governor’s Office Who Would Report Directly To The Governor And Issue Periodic Public Reports – While what occurred here were the actions of a few and not reflective of the whole, it is nevertheless concerning that they occurred at all. To assist the Governor’s Office going forward, and to restore public trust in the many honorable, dedicated public servants who work there, we propose that the Governor appoint an Ombudsperson—a senior statesperson of unquestioned integrity and independence— to serve as a sounding board and resource readily available for receiving complaints within the Governor’s Office and seeing that they get appropriately responded to. We envision that this Ombudsperson would report directly to the Governor and issue periodic public reports, at least annually, on his or her activities. We would also expect the Ombudsperson to help establish the duties and responsibilities of the new Chief Ethics Officer, described below, who would report to both the Ombudsperson and the Chief Counsel.

(d) Appoint A Chief Ethics Officer Responsible For Ethics Enforcement, Conflicts And Training Within the Governor’s Office – As a prophylactic measure going forward, the Governor should appoint a Chief Ethics Officer for the Office of the Governor dedicated to (i) addressing any ethics or conflicts issues as they arise, and (ii) overseeing training within that office to ensure that all who work there are aware of and sensitive to their obligations. The Chief Ethics Officer would report to the Chief Counsel, also report to and work closely with the Ombudsperson, and have direct access to the Governor.
Giv. Christie has not yet commented on the report.  (Time; Gibson Dunn Report.)


  1. Wow. This is a major WTF to start the day!
    John Z, do you have Christie on the phone yet?
    -Angry Ombuds

  2. Dear Angry -

    Pacifica builds appropriate Ombuds Programs (not ombudspersons) for Fortune 500 companies, other global organizations, and select private clients.

    We do not take part in PR campaigns financed by state taxes (Huffington Post Analysis of the Report mentioned above.)

    Found the idea of the Ethics Officer reporting to the Ombuds a fascinating twist.

    My guess is the leading applicant for this ombudsperson position, if it comes to pass - which I doubt, will likely resemble George Costanza more than me or anyone who staffs any of the programs Pacifica builds.

    John W. Zinsser
    Principal and Co-founder
    Pacifica Human Communications, LLC.
    Adjunct Faculty
    Columbia University

    1. I hope no offense was taken, John. You're really the only person with the KSA's to avert this absurd situation.

  3. Appreciate the words of support.

    This is not going to happen.
    When the federal inquiry happens there will be some responses.
    At that point things will begin to happen.
    I doubt that it will include an ombudsperson.

    I am attempting to schedule a meeting in New York 4/10-11 with the lead author of the report, just to talk through what an ombuds program is and is not. Needless to say his assistant is a tad...overwhelmed at the moment.

    John W. Zinsser