Slush Fund Scandal at the Charter Commission
June 17th, 2010

The City Council’s now infamous slush fund scandal got its 15 minutes at the City Charter Revision Commission last night.

Under the headline of government integrity, the commission examined issues of ethics and corruption at the fourth of five issue hearings scheduled before it decides what to put on the ballot this fall. Several attendees suggested the commission examine the council’s distribution of member items — commonly thought of as pork barrell spending and the subject of alleged and confirmed criminal activity at City Hall.

“The issue of council integrity is too important to be left to the current rules or the current speaker,” said Columbia Law Professor Richard Briffault — one of the expert panelists last night. Briffault urged the commission to consider more in depth disclosure of the member items, including all of the connections elected officials have with recipients’ staff.

As part of the discretionary funding process, a council member already has to file a conflicts of interest form disclosing if he or she or their family has any connection to the nonprofit slated to receive funding. Last year, the council gave out $48.8 million in discretionary spending.

This year, Councilmember Larry Seabrook became the second council member to be indicted for money laundering in connection with the council’s discretionary funds. Conferences for his trial start next week.

Former councilmember Miguel Martinez is now serving a five year sentence in federal prison for stealing public funds partly through discretionary items.

After the scandal broke, Council Speaker Christine Quinn implemented a number of reforms to make sure the council funded legitimate nonprofits. She beefed up some of those reforms earlier this year.

At yesterday’s hearing, Mark Davies, the executive director of the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, which opined on the issue of member items post-scandal, defended the speaker.

“Speaker Quinn, as I understand it, is the one that blew the whistle,” said Davies. “The way the system has been set up, it really is a model for the country.”

Discretionary funding wasn’t the only issue discussed last night. The Conflicts of Interest Board urged the commission to consider increasing its maximum fine from $10,000 to $25,000. It also asked for the power to disbar attorneys and suspend vendors should they be caught with major conflicts of interest violations.

The Campaign Finance Board also had its own idea: disclose independent expenditures. More on that issue here.

By on June 17, 2010, 3:28 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,nextNY,Work and Labor | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “Slush Fund Scandal at the Charter Commission”

  1. Lawrence1202 Says:
    June 18th, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    check out the video just released at ReutersExposed.com about Thomson Reuters and their executives.

    actually topical

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