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Fidler Calls Full Disclosure Bill a Dead Issue

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A proposed City Council bill holding community board members to the same financial disclosure standards as elected officials “ain’t happening,” according to a city lawmaker opposed to the measure. Speaking to Community Board 18 last week, City Councilmember Lew Fidler said the bill “died on Dec. 31,” and has not been introduced again. The measure, known as Intro No. 765, was introduced in December by Manhattan Councilmember Gale Brewer. It seeks to amend the city’s administrative code, requiring financial disclosure by board members, who serve as unpaid volunteers. Members are either appointed by the borough president or members of the City Council. The city’s 59 community boards serve as a link between the public, and city agencies and elected officials. Boards review the city’s budget, have an advisory role in land use and zoning matters, as well as other items affecting residents’ daily life. They are also privy to information about local developments well before the general public might become aware of them. Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano urged Fidler to further discuss the bill with members if it “rears its ugly head” again. “Board member is a volunteer position. They should, on their honor, stand up when they have a conflict,” Fidler said. “To subject someone to rigorous scrutiny—as you would someone who is a commissioner of a city agency seems—overbearing,” Fidler. The information—which could potentially reveal any conflicts of interest members might have—would be subject to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, and could become public knowledge. An accompanying resolution asking the state to make financial disclosure forms less burdensome was introduced this week. Intro No. 765 will not be reintroduced just yet, Brewer told this newspaper. If the state grants the city permission to craft its own disclosure form—making it less lengthy—then the Intro 765 will be re-introduced. “I do not think anyone who is a volunteer should fill out the long forms,” Brewer told this paper. “But even as a volunteer, there is still a possibility for conflict, so I think there should be a short form,” she said. Brewer, who represents Manhattan’s West Side, said there are precedents for volunteers filling out financial disclosure forms. As a former school board member, Brewer said, she was compelled to fill out the forms. Community Education Council members also must fill out disclosure forms, she said.

Posted 7:10 pm, October 10, 2011
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