Sunday, April 4, 2010

Top Bloomberg Aide to Lead Charity Board by Michael Barbaro - City Room Blog -

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Isn't this illegal or a conflict of interest..? if not, why not...

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.

The appointment suggests that Ms. Harris will now split time between her job helping oversee city government and her job with Mr. Bloomberg’s growing charity.

Until now, Ms. Harris has served as president of the foundation, helping to set up its operations. After Mr. Bloomberg won a third term, many expected Ms. Harris to postpone her plans to run the foundation.

In her new position, however, she is expected to play an even bigger role in the organization. After focusing on international causes, it is now expanding its reach into United States and, potentially, into New York City.

Ms. Harris will also lead the foundation’s new board of directors, a 19-member board that includes some of the biggest names in American business and government.

“This has been a persistent problem with the Bloomberg administration,” said Susan Lerner the head of Common Cause NY, a good government group. “There does not seem to be a truly effective barrier between the work which people who are on the public payroll do for the city and what they do for the mayor’s business or his personal interest.”

A spokesman for the mayor, Jason Post, said: “Patti manages the mayor’s personal philanthropy in her personal time and has for years. Nothing in today’s announcement changes that.”

Ms. Harris, the highest paid official at City Hall, with a salary of $245,000, will not be paid as chief executive of the foundation, Mr. Post said.

Asked how Ms. Harris would juggle the various responsibilities of her dual roles, Mr. Post said, “This is a voluntary, unpaid position, and consistent with her involvement in his philanthropy.”

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.

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.”

Among those appointed to the board of the foundation on Wednesday were Ms. Harris; Henry M. Paulson Jr., the former treasury secretary; Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida; Manny Diaz, the mayor of Miami; Cory A. Booker, the mayor of Newark; Maya Lin, the architect; and David L. Boren, a former United States senator and the president of the University of Oklahoma; and Kenneth I. Chenault, the chief executive of American Express.

Mr. Bloomberg also appointed his two daughters, Emma and Georgina Bloomberg, to the board.

Mr. Bloomberg started his foundation during his second term, and he has purchased space near his Upper East Side town house as a home for the charity.

Since then, the line between City Hall and his foundation has, at times, become blurry. Several of the mayor’s top aides at City Hall have taken jobs with the foundation, most recently his communications director, James Anderson.