Update at end of post.
Rachel Barnhart will file a complaint against City of Rochester Former Chief of Staff Jeremy Cooney for illegally lobbying city government on behalf of his client, Uber.
The complaint against Cooney will be filed with the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics. It details how he failed to register as a lobbyist, despite having direct dealings with city government. His employer, Mercury Public Affairs, lobbies the City of Rochester on behalf of Uber.
Disclosure laws are designed to prevent this kind of situation from happening. A high-level city worker shouldn’t be able to turn around and start lobbying his former employer without any transparency. The public deserves to know who is influencing their elected representatives.
Barnhart also filed a complaint against Mayor Lovely Warren with the city’s Board of Ethics. Several violations of the ethics code occurred. Warren gave Cooney special access. Warren showed favoritism for Uber. Warren allowed Uber to use city property for a job fair and to advertise its service.
Mayors should not allow their City Halls to be used for profiteering. They should not show favoritism to lobbyists, especially unregistered ones. They should not allow corporations to have such influence.
Warren’s administration has been ethically challenged from the start. The events of this week show she hasn’t learned. She puts her own interests and corporate interests above those of citizens.
Mayoral candidate Rachel Barnhart yesterday filed a complaint regarding illegal lobbying activity conducted at Rochester City Hall.
In response to the complaint, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren told reporters that she “did not attend” the event in question and that no lobbying activity took place. A picture posted to social media by an employee of the lobbying firm in question, Mercury Public Affairs, shows that Mayor Warren has not been entirely truthful.
“What took place earlier this week was unquestionably lobbying activity,” Barnhart said. “Mercury Public Affairs is a registered lobbyist for Uber. Uber has a profound interest in preventing scrutiny of its business practices. It is deeply troubling that the Mayor continues to tell half-truths to cover up her unethical conduct.”
According to state filings, Mercury Public Affairs is retained by Uber specifically to lobby the City of Rochester, among other municipalities. One Mercury employee who attended the event at Rochester City Hall was Rachel Noerdlinger, who maintains an Instagram account under the username rachelnoerd. The day of the event, Noerdlinger posted a photo proving she met with Mayor Lovely Warren and Deputy Mayor Cedric Alexander.
“As a public official, Mayor Warren has a duty to be transparent in her official business. The photo posted by the lobbying firm employee proves that she met with Uber representatives. It also is unusual that instead of simply sticking to facts, Mercury Public Affairs appears to have taken sides in the Mayoral race, supporting Warren with ad hominem attacks. Obviously, Uber has a vested interest in maintaining Warren’s favor,” Barnhart added.