Thursday, March 20, 2014

Conflict Of Interest Policy Being Developed By Roosevelt Island Residents Association Ethics Committee - Public Meeting Tonight

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Ethics Committee Chair Mickey Rindler submitted the report below to the March RIRA Common Council. The RIRA Ethics Committee is meeting tonight 8:15 PM at 425 Main Street Party Room. The public is invited to attend.

From Mr. Rindler:
Report of the Meeting of the RIRA Ethics Committee, Feb. 20, 2014, in the Roof Party room, 425 Main St, 7:30 pm
  • Mickey gave a brief history of the committee’s work on a Code of Ethical Conduct (COE) since December. The CC voted in a five member committee at the February meeting but Nicole Walden will need to be replaced as she has not responded and did resign from the CC.
  • The consensus was to begin working first on a Conflict of Interest policy as this was straightforward and required to be in place by July due to a new state law requiring nonprofit corporations to have one that includes several specific components. The Code of Ethical Conduct will also need to be finished by June as well if it is to be implemented in the next term. Also, there was discussion of the need to inform the public and to train council members concerning to a the new policies.
  • The committee discussed a draft proposal written by Mickey base on a version he obtained that met the new state law. Some minor changes were recommended (these will be in the next draft).
  • There was extensive disagreement about Article II, in particular the paragraph concerning potential conflict of interest with CC members who have relationships with government entities, RIOC in particular. A spectrum of views was expressed on this issue. While most seemed to agree that we need to have something in the code, there was no a consensus on the language. It may need to be settled by the CC itself at the next meeting.
There was general agreement that the requirement that those with a conflict, especially if it involves RIOC, be asked to leave the room, as is required by the new law is unreasonable for us. Ultimately, several attendees agreed to look into the possibility of consulting an attorney about this point through any of the following: Ben Kallos, Micah Keller, the CB8 attorney, or the state ethics board to see whether how strictly this requirement would apply in our specific case.

The committee agreed that secretary will keep the forms (not the ethics committee) and it was agreed that for voting purposes, an individual who was not voting due to a COI would be recorded in the minutes as such but would count towards a meeting quorum.
  • Other general issues that arose were whether the first part of article II should include a statement to the effect that CC members are to be encouraged to recuse themselves if a potential conflict exists and whether passage of a COI will require a 2/3 vote of the council. These issues were not settled at the meeting.
  • Article V on Violations was problematic as well. How does it work practically? There was general agreement that this article needs substantial revision to be workable for the CC. Mickey and Frank agreed to work on correcting it.
  • The group went over the two COI forms that each member will be required to sign – one stating that they received the policy and the other a disclosure form. There was agreement that the disclosure document should include relationships with all business entities on the Island and not just Cornell Tech.
The Ethics Committee will schedule another meeting for mid-March.