Saturday, March 29, 2014

Inside Bridgegate's Web of Relationships

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive." -Sir Walter Scott

They're calling it "venomous, gratuitous and inappropriate."
Some have even termed it "sexist."
Do you know what we're talking about? Have you been following this?
We're talking about the Mastro Report - the internal review of the Bridgegate affair conducted by the law firm of Gibson Dunn under the direction of former federal prosecutor Randy Mastro.
Although the Gibson Dunn investigation did not include interviews with key figures Bridget Anne Kelly, Bill Stepien and David Wildstein (it seems none of them are speaking to any investigator right now) it does come to conclusions about their participation in the Bridgegate affair and it contains this paragraph:
And when speculation of political retaliation surfaced as a reason for this lane realignment, Mayor Sokolich said he found it “incomprehensible that there’s any truth whatsoever to these rumors.” Something happened to change this dynamic dramatically, however, in August 2013. By that time, Kelly had become Deputy Chief of Staff, assuming the post left vacant by her predecessor, Stepien, who had departed in April 2013 to run the Governor’s re-election campaign. Because Stepien was her “benefactor,” Kelly relied heavily on him during this transition. And at some point after Stepien’s departure to run the campaign, Kelly and Stepien became personally involved, although, by early August 2013, their personal relationship had cooled, apparently at Stepien’s choice, and they largely stopped speaking.
It seems a lot of liberals, a lot of Democrat officials and a lot of critics in the media are upset about this aspect of the report. They want to know: Why discuss a supposed personal relationship such as this in the context of the investigation?
What does one thing have to do with the other?
According to Mastro, this bit of business about a discontinued "personal relationship" was included because it may have some bearing on why Kelly and Stepien were apparantly not communicative during what may have been a key period in the whole series of Bridgeate events.
From that standpoint, including it seems to make sense to us.
We've worked in situations where co-workers have developed an attraction for one another, became an item and then uncoupled. It isn't always pretty. And oftentimes it spills over into work.
Either of the parties in the relationship can and often do confide in another co-worker. Likewise one of more co-workers may view one or another party in the relationship as vulnerable after the breakup. Third parties may see opportunities, both personal and professional.
Or, one of the uncoupled co-workers may turn on the other (either directly or indirectly, openly or surreptitiously) in the workplace setting.
We're not saying any of this actually happened in Bridgegate. But we have seen these kinds of things happen.
And when these kinds of relationships occur in the world of power politics, well -- you've got a whole new dynamic.
Let's be frank about this: People who work at this level in the highly-charged world of government and politics work in an all-consuming atmosphere where the lines between the personal and the professional often become blurred. This is a world that assumes an air of unreality - an insular world fraught with pressure - a world of endless days and long hours. People become consumed with the heavy air of power that surrounds them and often, more than a little of it rubs off. They can start to feel invincible.
Also, there isn't a lot of time for contemplation. This is a tough, hard-knuckled world --  a world where people may be inclined take their solace when and where they find it.
Indeed, the Mastro Report takes note of the blurred lines between the personal and the professional in such a setting when it recommends new restrictions in the Governor's Office as follows:

Restrict the Use Of Personal Email Accounts For Conducting Official State Business
– The individuals responsible for these acts used their personal email accounts to communicate about this plan. That practice has to end. Absent extraordinary circumstances, public employees working in trusted positions should use their official state email accounts when conducting state business. As a matter of transparency, accountability, and public access, that is the prudent and responsible thing to do. The Governor’s Office should also make State employees aware of the implications, pursuant to public record disclosure and retention requirements, of text messaging to conduct official state business. This will further promote transparency, accountability and public access. 
So, yes it all of this goes into the mix.
Everything often is related to everything else and all of these factors bear on one another.
In fact, when the details of Bridgegate first began to emerge we confided to friends that we wouldn't be at all surprised if more than professional inter-relationships had some role in all this.
It's safe to say that we'd be even less surprised now.

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