New York State
Ethics Commission

Paul Shechtman, Chair
Karl J. Sleight, Executive Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 22, 2001

            ALBANY – The New York State Ethics Commission today presented the first Theodore Roosevelt Ethics Award to the State Department of Insurance in recognition of its outstanding commitment to ethics in government.

            Karl J. Sleight, Executive Director of the Ethics Commission, said, "This award recognizes the significant work that agencies do to advance the goals of the ethics laws in New York. It will be the highest honor conferred by the Ethics Commission. We hope that all state agencies will strive to be recipients of this notable honor."

            "We are honored to receive the Theodore Roosevelt Ethics Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Ethics Commission. This Award acknowledges the Commission’s confidence in the integrity of the Department’s employees which is an essential component of our governing mission to serve the public," said New York State Insurance Department Superintendent Gregory V. Serio. "I accept this great honor on behalf of both my predecessor, former Superintendent of Insurance Neil D. Levin, whose leadership afforded us this commendable award, and the 1,500 Insurance Department employees. And I reaffirm our commitment to continuing the high standards set forth by the Ethics Commission."

            The Department of Insurance received a plaque inscribed with the following quote from Theodore Roosevelt, the former Governor of New York:

"We can afford to differ on the currency, the tariff, and foreign policy; but we cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty in government if we expect our republic permanently to endure."

            While in public office, Theodore Roosevelt earned a reputation for opposing government corruption. He supported civil service reform as a member of the New York State Assembly and the federal Civil Service Commission, as president of the New York City Police Board and as Governor. Speaking in 1903 as President of the United States, he said, "The exposure and punishment of public corruption is an honor to a nation, not a disgrace. The shame lies in toleration."

            Mr. Sleight said, "While the Ethics commission has established a record of identifying and punishing those who violate the laws, we feel strongly that education and training also are important in making state employees aware of the law. The Department of Insurance has worked closely with us to guarantee that such efforts are successful."

The Department of Insurance was selected for the award based on ten criteria, including:

- designating a person to perform the functions of an Ethics Officer, thus ensuring that the agency meets its obligations under the ethics laws, and to act as a liaison with the Ethics Commission;

- developing an orientation program which includes written materials informing new officers and employees of their obligations under the ethics laws and how they may make complaints to, or seek advice from, their supervisors, the Ethics Officer, or the Ethics Commission about ethics law matters;

- conducting, or allowing the Ethics Commission to conduct, ethics training programs approved by the Ethics Commission, informing the agency’s officers and employees of their obligations under the ethics laws; and

- taking appropriate measures to foster compliance with the timely filing of financial disclosure statements by its covered employees.

            Mr. Sleight said, "The vast majority of state employees are dedicated public servants, who are guided by the highest ethical standards, and work hard everyday to deliver the services that the people of New York desire. Unfortunately, too often, the good work of the many is overshadowed by the corruption of the few."

            Mr. Sleight noted that the State Museum was an appropriate place in which to present the award, since Theodore Roosevelt was present at the opening of the original museum facility in 1916. Mr. Roosevelt then said, "This museum should keep aloft the standard of those who delight in all knowledge and all wisdom that can not be reduced to or measured by any monetary scale."

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