Lobby firm hires beleaguered McGreevey aide Golan Cipel was homeland security adviser and then a policy counselor. He left after questions about credentials and duties.

Posted: August 30, 2002

TRENTON — Gov. McGreevey's controversial former homeland security adviser has landed a job, with the governor's help, at one of the state's largest lobbying and public-relations firms, a company official confirmed yesterday.

On Tuesday, Golan Cipel will start at the MWW Group as vice president in charge of its Israeli public-relations unit in New York. Cipel, an Israeli national, replaces Ronn Torossian, who left the firm two weeks ago.

"We had a need in our Israeli practice," said Robert Sommer, executive vice president of MWW. "The fit was an absolute natural."

The hiring may spark yet another wave of controversy over Cipel because MWW has a long list of clients with business before the state. Among its lobbying clients is the Parsons Infrastructure & Technology Group, which is negotiating concessions with the McGreevey administration to keep its lucrative contract to operate New Jersey's car-inspection system.

McGreevey has threatened to cancel the contract, citing state reports that contended Parsons had used political influence to win the job of building, maintaining and operating the inspection system. The reports accused Parsons of mismanaging the new emissions system, which caused long lines when it was launched in the winter of 1999-2000 because of equipment failures, computer glitches and staffing shortages.

"It's business as usual in Trenton," Assemblyman Joseph Malone (R., Burlington) said of Cipel's hiring.

Kevin Davitt, a spokesman for the governor, said the administration would not treat MWW and its clients any differently. "To assume that they will get whatever they want is incorrect," he said.

Although it is not uncommon for former government employees to find work at lobbying and public-relations firms, the circumstances of Cipel's hiring, after his brief and stormy tenure in government, are unusual.

The 33-year-old former campaign aide stepped down as McGreevey's homeland security adviser in March after it was disclosed that he lacked the credentials and security clearance to hold the $110,000-a-year position. Cipel remained on the state payroll at the same salary as "policy counselor" to the governor.

The McGreevey administration has repeatedly refused to detail Cipel's role as policy counselor. After the latest round of newspaper articles questioning his duties, Cipel resigned.

McGreevey has acknowledged that he gave Cipel, who had become a political liability, a job reference. Cipel's last day on the state payroll was Wednesday.

"Mr. Cipel provided valuable input, critical thinking, and was of assistance," McGreevey said Wednesday, describing the reference he gave for Cipel.

It had been expected for weeks that Cipel would land a job at MWW, which has ties to the McGreevey administration. Sommer, a Democratic fund-raiser, served on McGreevey's campaign finance committee.

Sommer said his firm had had discussions with Cipel and administration officials about Cipel for several weeks. He said Cipel, who will work in the firm's headquarters in East Rutherford, will not be a registered lobbyist.

"We had discussions with the McGreevey administration about Golan's availability and interviewed Golan several times, and we're delighted to have him," he said.

When asked if MWW and its clients would benefit from providing the governor's close aide with a soft landing, Sommer said: "I've got a responsibility to the 150 employees of MWW. If Golan wasn't an ideal fit for us, Golan wouldn't be with us."

Sommer touted Cipel's experience in public relations, including his work as a spokesman for the Israeli Consulate in New York and, before that, the mayor of the Israeli city of Rishon le Zion.

MWW last year reported earning slightly more than $1 million from its legislative lobbying activities in New Jersey, making it the 11th-largest lobbying firm in the state. It is also the largest public-relations firm based in New Jersey, and among the top 20 in the nation.

Contact Eugene Kiely at 609-989-8990 or ekiely@phillynews.com.

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