NEW MOTION SEEKS DETAILS ON MARYLAND AGS USE OF BLOOMBERG FUNDED ATTORNEYS
By Energy in Depth’s PATRICK HALL
A new court filing in the lawsuit against Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh seeks to further pull back the curtain on the Michael Bloomberg-backed State Energy and Environmental Impact Center (SEEIC) at the NYU School of Law, and the program’s continued efforts to place privately-funded attorneys focused on climate change and prosecuting energy producers in state Attorneys General offices around the country.
Brought by Government Accountability and Oversight, P.C. (GAO), the filing calls for the release of Frosh’s “application” to hire two “Special Assistant Attorneys General” through the SEEIC program, which would provide details on how the Maryland AG’s office sought to deploy these privately-funded SAAGs. The motion notes that Frosh is the only AG of the 11 whose work is being supported by Bloomberg-funded SAAGs that is withholding his application from the public.
Making Frosh’s application for SEEIC support public is vitally important for several reasons. Firstly, as EID has outlined before, that a private donor like Bloomberg is funding state law enforcement officials to specifically pursue issues in which he is interested is beyond concerning. As the hiring application for the program states:
“The opportunity to potentially hire an NYU Fellow is open to all state attorneys general who demonstrate a need and commitment to defending environmental values and advancing progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions.” (emphasis added)
The legality of this arrangement is even further called into question by the fact that Frosh brought on the SAAG under the pretense that they would be working “pro bono” – yet previously released emails show the SAAG would receive a salary of $125,000 through SEEIC. As the motion notes:
“The Bloomberg Center granted the Application and, on January 3, 2018, extended an offer of employment to Joshua Segal “as a Research Scholar, in the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at New York University,” stating in the same letter, “[y]our annual base salary will be $125,000” plus employee benefits and that, “[d]uring your employment, you will be seconded to the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Maryland as a Special Assistant Attorney General.”… Following Segal’s acceptance of this offer, Defendant AG Brian Frosh appointed him “as Pro Bono Assistant Counsel” pursuant to State Government Article 6-105(f).” (emphasis added)
Yet, despite the clear conflict of interest that employing a privately-funded SAAG in a “pro bono” position represents, Frosh has only shared a redacted version of the application claiming that the details are “protected by the attorney-client privilege.” An interesting tactic, considering the Director of the SEEIC, David Hayes, stated just last month that no such privileged relationship exists:
“The law fellows’ duties of loyalty and confidentiality run solely to state attorneys general, consistent with all applicable law.”
This begs the question, what is AG Frosh hiding?