Thursday, April 01, 2010

Unflattering Foundation Garment

City Room reported yesterday on the plans for one of the mayor's deputies to take over the running of his family foundation-while continuing to draw a public salary: "In a move without precedent in New York City government, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has appointed a sitting deputy mayor in his administration to simultaneously run his charitable foundation.As he seeks to ramp up the work of his charity, he named Patricia E. Harris, the second-most powerful official at City Hall, to be the chief executive and chairwoman of the multibillion-dollar Bloomberg Family Foundation."

Unprecedented indeed-and can any one say conflict of interest? Apparently not the lame-os over at the city's COIB: "In 2008, Ms. Harris and a City Hall aide, Allison Jaffin, obtained a waiver from the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board to work at the foundation while keeping her job at City Hall, arguing that her work was voluntary and involved minimal use of public resources. At the time, however, she held the title of president."

These are the same McArthur Awards winners who couldn't find any conflicts with Deputy Dan Doctoroff ceding public land without bidding to his old friend Steve Ross at Related. And the board, whose majority is appointed by someone named Bloomberg, miss the elephant in the room-the potential that a public servant will, while still being paid by the tax payers, be in charge of dispensing hundreds of millions of Bloombucks to some lucky sycophants. What's the old saying about silence being golden?

This is exactly how the mayor has plied his trade for eight years-using his invisible golden hand to exhort and intimidate groups and individuals. If Patty Harris wants to help Mike Bloomberg give away his fortune she should be gracious enough to simply beat a path to an exit door at city hall.

But what's truly egregious is that the mayor and his minions see nothing wrong with this blurring of the lines between the public interest and the mayor's own interest-particularly since it is rumored that he may be looking to launch a quixotic attempt at an independent run for the presidency.

As City Room points out: "The city’s charter generally prohibits government officials from entering into business relationships with subordinates, or performing private work on city time. The Bloomberg administration notified the conflicts board of Ms. Harris’s new title, but it is was unclear whether she sought a separate waiver before becoming the chief executive and chairwoman of the board at the foundation. Mr. Post said that Ms. Harris’s new responsibilities were “consistent with a prior C.O.I.B. opinion concerning her role with the foundation.”

We await-holding our breathe even-the editorial hue and cry over this tawdry maneuver that we are sure will come from the principled opionators at the local tabs. Until then, however, we bask in our own solitary rectitude.