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Mayor’s bill would ease disclosure rules for pols

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A City Council hearing on legislation that would lessen financial disclosure requirements for elected officials and citizens who volunteer for public positions was canceled last week, but advocates of the bill said it could spur people to become involved in public service.

The bill, written by the city Conflicts of Interest Board and introduced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would reduce disclosure requirements for public servants as well as a variety of civic participants, such as board members of nonprofits.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said Monday's hearing on the legislation was canceled and had not been rescheduled.

The bill has drawn support both from city elected officials and the Citizens Union, a nonpartisan civic organization that acts as a watchdog for city government and political reform, but with conditions.

"We understand the city is interested in not imposing an undue burden on people who want to serve in some capacity, but under current state law they would be required to fill out the same forms as elected officials," said Rachel Fauss, a Citizens Union spokeswoman. "What we don't support is lessening the requirements for elected officials, considering that city requirements are stronger than state law."

Fauss said the bill would encourage civic participation by volunteers, which could include board members at organizations such as the Queens Public Library or Manhattan's Natural History Museum.

But she cited recent incidents, including state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio's (D-Richmond Hill) arrest for allegedly taking bribes from those seeking his influence in Albany, as examples of why the Citizens Union did not support lessening requirements for elected officials.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said he believed the Legislature in Albany should conform to stricter city requirement laws rather than the other way around.

"Clearly, you don't want to discourage people from volunteering, but I also don't know why you'd want to know less about your elected officials than you already know," he said. "We should be forcing Albany to follow our example. [Legislators] shouldn't have side businesses that interfere with their jobs without them having to undergo full disclosure."

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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