Taking Attendance

Written by Daniel Fitzsimmons on . Posted in News Our Town Downtown.


Councilman recommends community board members get the boot over absenteeism

Ben Kallos_optMembers of local community boards may soon be making attendance at meetings more of a priority.

In reviewing potential board members to reappoint to the Upper East Side’s Community Board 8, freshman Councilman Ben Kallos recommended to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office that several members not be reappointed because they were absent from 25 percent or more of mandatory meetings in 2013.

Of those recommendations, John Bartos, appointed in April 2012, claimed he was singled out by Kallos during the process for political reasons. Other members of the board whom Kallos recommended not be reappointed could not be reached for comment or would not comment on the record for this story.

According to Kallos’ office, they sent letters to certain CB8 members questioning their attendance records and raising other concerns, like arriving late to meetings and leaving early, if they were found to have been absent or tardy more than 25 percent of the time. Kallos told that he made that recommendation for all board members who fit the criteria – even those whose reappointment he had no control over – regardless of their political affiliations.

Kallos said that in making the recommendations, his office used information supplied by the borough president’s office.

“We literally used the information that was given to us by [Borough President] Gale Brewer,” said Kallos. “We had objective criteria and we looked at it and saw there was pretty high absenteeism on the board. I adopted a standard, and applied it to the comprehensive research that [Brewer’s] team did across 12 community boards throughout Manhattan in 2013.”

In New York, community board appointments are divided between the borough president’s office and City Council members in the districts that the board serves. Each incoming council member is responsible for reappointing – or not – those members that were appointed by their predecessor. However, the borough president can choose not to follow a council member’s recommendations.

Kallos said that he did not think his recommendations were harsh, and that it was part of an initiative to bring much-needed reform to the city’s community board process.

“I’m recommending community board reform for myself and 50 of my colleagues. I’m also recommending it for five borough presidents,” said Kallos. “In order to recommend those reforms, I have to be willing to implement them, so I have.”

In March, Kallos announced a report his office conducted that contained dozens of recommendations for reforming the city’s 59 community boards, including establishing term limits and ending “automatic reappointments…with consideration given to attendance, service and participation.”

Bartos, in an email to CB8 members forwarded to Our Town, said he was told by Kallos in a phone call that he would not be re-appointed to the board, “because of what he claimed to be my poor attendance record.”

“The justification for my removal seems a little odd,” wrote Bartos. “All absences were excused with advance notice given – I missed Land Use and Full Board last July when I was out of the country, and the others were due to either sickness on my part or pressing obligations – something I’m sure we can all relate to as board members.”

Board members are obligated to attend full board meetings and Land Use Committee meetings because any resolution coming out of the board goes through one or both of those bodies. The policy exists to ensure that everyone on the board votes on an issue before a resolution is issued.

In the email and in subsequent conversations with Our Town, Bartos said that he suspected his ouster was politically motivated, since he’s an active member of a local political club, the Manhattan Young Democrats, which had supported Kallos’ opponent in his city council bid.

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