According to findings released on Monday by the city's Conflicts of Interest Board (and embedded below), Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz is being fined $20,000 for accepting free airfare and other travel perks for his wife Jamie during official trips to Turkey and the Netherlands in 2007 and 2009. The Times' City Room blog notes that the offending freebies were provided by the Dutch and Turkish governments, and the non-profit the Federation of Turkish American Associations.
This Conflicts of Interest Board fine is Marty's second of 2011, after he was made to pay $2,000 back in February for having his chief of staff serve as a personal lawyer on a real estate closing.
This time around, the $20,000 fine is in response to gifts adding up to something in the region of $11,000 that Jamie Markowitz received for official travel despite not being an official member of her husband's office's staff.
According to the Board's decision, Marty Markowitz
received these trips abroad because of his position as Borough President of Brooklyn and his wife went on all three trips because of her relationship to him. By accepting travel expenses for his wife for each trip, respondent used his position as a public servant for private or personal advantage. Simply put, his wife was able to travel with him abroad—for free.
Most problematic, though, is this passage regarding an exchange between Markowitz and the Board before one of the offending trips:
the record demonstrates that, prior to the travel at issue here, the Board advised Respondent in writing that if his wife were to accompany him on an official trip, he would be required to pay for her travel expenses. Subsequently, on the eve of his May 2007 trip to Turkey, Respondent in a letter to the Board acknowledged his receipt of that advice, writing that "[a]s indicated by the COIB..., I will pay for my wife's airfare, our meals and incidental expenses while in Turkey."
Responding to the fine, which he called a "terrible decision," Markowitz told City Room that during the trips he "had a real role—my wife and I visited mosques, schools, youth centers. When they bring you over, it’s not vacation—they make you work."