Thursday, May 31, 2007

How did we miss this one.

Press Release

May 16, 2007

Buildings Department Accepts 2007 Sheldon Oliensis Ethics In City Government Award
Department Honored for Commitment to Ethics and Integrity

Buildings Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster, FAIA today accepted the 2007 Sheldon Oliensis Ethics in City Government Award, an annual award given by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) to a New York City agency that demonstrates a commitment to the promotion of ethics and integrity. The COIB voted to present the award this year to the Buildings Department in recognition of the Department's dedicated and successful efforts to infuse integrity, accountability, and efficiency into the Agency's operations. Steven Rosenfeld, Chairman of the Conflicts of Interest Board, presented Commissioner Lancaster with the award at a ceremony kicking off the COIB's 13th Annual Seminar on Ethics in New York City Government at the Center for New York City Law in Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn delivered keynote addresses at the ceremony, which was also attended by Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn and COIB Executive Director Mark Davies.

“When I was appointed by the Mayor in 2002, Commissioner Gill Hearn and I ironed out a plan to institute anti-corruption measures and bring integrity back into operations at the Buildings Department. This award today acknowledges a significant step in the right direction toward restoring professionalism, impartiality, transparency, and accountability at the Buildings Department,” said Commissioner Lancaster. “I'd like to thank Commissioner Gill Hearn for her full commitment to this effort and my staff for all their hard work over the past five years. We must continue to build upon our integrity program and never believe our job is done.”

“At Mayor Bloomberg's request, the Buildings Department and DOI joined forces in 2002 to address the corruption issues that the Buildings Department had been chronically experiencing. With steps taken by both agencies we have now seen a sustained change in what was previously an accepted culture of corruption at the Buildings Department. This was not possible without Commissioner Lancaster's determination and cooperation. The relationship between DOI and the Buildings Department is a model of how it should work. While we will remain vigilant, Commissioner Lancaster and her staff have helped make the Buildings Department an agency with greater integrity and the City a safer place to live. Commissioner Lancaster and the Buildings Department truly deserve this year's Ethics Award from the Conflicts of Interest Board,” said Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.

Since Commissioners Lancaster and Gill-Hearn began an integrity program for the Buildings Department in 2002, the Buildings Department has taken on numerous reforms aimed at eliminating corruption and increasing transparency and accountability. The Department's focus has been threefold: ethical standards in the Agency's Code of Conduct are strictly enforced; employees are provided with the tools, training, and support they need to develop a professional investment in the Department; and customers are made aware of the standards to which Buildings Department employees are held. Since 2002, the Agency, working with DOI has:

* Formed an ongoing partnership with the Department of Investigation to build a unique partnership and collaboration to eliminate instances of corruption within the industry and the Department.

* Created the Buildings Special Investigations Unit (BSIU) that works with both DOI and Buildings to investigate complaints and allegations of wrongdoing.

* Launched its first-ever Code of Conduct - the Agency's first-ever set of plain language guidelines for employee behavior - in 2004 to outline a zero-tolerance policy towards misconduct. Updated and publicly released in 2006, the Code of Conduct is strictly enforced at all levels of the Department.

* Increased the tools, training, and support that all employees need to do their jobs with professionalism and respect. Inspectors are being provided with handheld computers to yield fast results and digital cameras to document on-site conditions and increase transparency in the field. All employees also now have the opportunity to take continuing education classes at Buildings University, modeled after the NYPD's Police Academy, to learn more about the business and advance within the Department.

* Increased awarness among the industry to ensure customers and the public know and understand the ethical standards to which the Department's employees are held. After the most recent update in 2006, the Code of Conduct was distributed to not only the Agency's staff, but also to the people who do business with Department and made available to the public in the offices and online.

The Sheldon Oliensis Ethics in City Government Award is presented by New York City's Conflicts of Interest Board to honor an agency or individual for promoting ethics and integrity in city government. Its first recipient and namesake was the late former COIB Board Chair Sheldon Oliensis, who presided over the Board's transformation from an advisory body into one of the premier ethics agencies in the country. Past recipients have included the Departments of Transportation, Environmental Protection, and Investigation.

To learn more about the Department's ongoing partnership with the Department of Investigation or its efforts to increase transparency, efficiency, and accountability, visit the Buildings Department website at or call 311.

Contact: Kate Lindquist (212) 566-3473

The New York City Department of Buildings ensures the safe and lawful use of buildings and properties by enforcing the Building Code and Zoning Resolution. We facilitate development with integrity, efficiency and professionalism.

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