There oughta be a law.
Borough President Markowitz is demanding that the city relax its ethics regulations so that he and other top elected officials can bring their spouses on international junkets.
Markowitz issued his call for new rules just days after he was slapped with a $20,000 fine for allowing his wife to accept freebies on three of his official trips overseas.
“It’s not a law, just a set of regulations that the city has in place,” Markowitz said on Thursday. “[The city] should seriously consider clarifiying it.”
He defiantly claimed that Jamie Markowitz’s travel perks were legitimate because she is “the First Lady of Brooklyn.”
Under the Beep’s proposal, such borough “first ladies” would be allowed to take the same freebies that are given to their elected spouses, who are allowed to take free trips to promote the borough or the city — as Markowitz did on the trips to Turkey and the Netherlands in 2007 and 2009.
His wife tagged along and got free travel, earning the fine.
“[Markowitz] received the trips abroad because of his position as borough president of Brooklyn, and his wife went on all three trips because of her relationship with him,” Judge Kevin Casey ruled last week. “By accepting travel expenses for his wife, [Markowitz] used his position as a public servant for private or personal advantage.”
Markowitz disagreed, saying that the freebies were a gift from a foreign government, not an abuse of American taxpapers.
“I should be commended,” he said.
Markowitz’s call for relaxed ethics law would stop short of lower-level elected officials.
“A legislator is only one out of 50, out of 60, out of 80,” he said. “A borough president is one out of one.” (There actually are five borough presidents.)
Still some councilmembers are backing Markowitz’s bid to increase his wife’s ability to join him on international trips, saying that Jamie Markowitz is, indeed, our First Lady.
“Wives play an official part the lives of elected officials,” said Councilman Dominic Recchia (D–Coney Island). “People come up to our wives, ‘Oh I’m having a problem with this; I’m having a problem with that.’ And our wives come back to us. They’re involved in our professional lives.”
And Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park) said the council’s ruling was an unfair and harsh reading of the law.
“What they did to the borough president bordered on surreal,” said Fidler. “[Turkey and the Netherlands] weren’t buying any undue influence. What was the advantage to them? It’s not like they were going to get a discount on the Brooklyn Bridge.”
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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