Conflicts of Interest Board has Conflicts of Interest?

The New York Times reported today that the Conflicts of Interest Board ruled last night “that members of the City Council may vote to modify, extend or abolish term limits even if they will directly benefit from such a change, dealing a blow to three officials who had argued that it would violate ethics laws for Council members to alter term limits without a public referendum.”

The argument was brought before the Conflicts of Interest Board by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and City Council Members Bill de Blasio and Letitia James.

The Board also “concluded that if the voters find the Council’s actions ‘unseemly or even outrageous,’ they can and should make their views known in the voting booth.”

Oh Please. After Mayor Bloomberg has spent $100 million to install himself back into office? They’re kidding, right?

However, the greater question is what happened to a very interesting complaint brought before them by New York Public Interest Group and Common Cause. As I wrote on October 10th, the two advocacy groups “filed a complaint with the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board stating that the Mayor’s behind-the-scenes deal-making with fellow billionaire Ronald Lauder, Estee Lauder heir, amounts to a violation of city ethics laws. Bloomberg promised Lauder – whose issue since at least 1993 has been term limits – a position on a Charter Revision Commission in return for not challenging (with his money) Bloomberg on overturning voted-in term limits.”

As I noted – and the Board’s decision yesterday just makes it that much more apparent:

“Ethics not being Michael Bloomberg’s strong point, I’m not so certain this will mean much to him. The city’s Conflicts of Interest Board members are all appointed by the Mayor. (See Decision: Daniel L. Doctoroff.)”

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