NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York City Conflicts of Interest Board fined Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz $20,000 for bringing his wife along on official foreign trips without paying for her expenses, the board announced Monday.
In its ruling, the board said the two trips to Turkey and one to the Netherlands were legitimate city business for Markowitz and there was no problem with his accepting the free trips. But the board found that since the city wouldn’t have paid for Markowitz’s wife to accompany him, he shouldn’t have accepted travel expenses for her.
Markowitz said he was “flabbergasted” by the decision.
Markowitz spoke to 1010 WINS on Monday and said that the fine simply doesn’t make sense.
“I was proud of the fact that every penny for the round-trip airfare and for the hotel room and the buffets we went to were paid for by the foreign governments — not New York City. And that’s the part that absolutely confuses me,” he said.
“When you go over there, who do you think you’re meeting with? The mayors and their spouses,” he said, adding that he was expected to bring his wife.
The borough president warned that the ruling meant future mayors and other city elected officials would be unable to bring their spouses on official business overseas, unless they could afford to pay for it themselves.
The board estimated the value of his wife’s travel totaled at least $11,000. Their trips were sponsored by the governments of Turkey and the Netherlands, and by the Federation of Turkish American Associations.
“My wife had her own itinerary. She worked as I did. She joined me at most every event we went to and these countries expected us to be a team. And to fine us this kind of money, to represent New York City, without a dime of New York City money being used is crazy,” Markowitz told WINS.
Markowitz was fined $2,000 earlier this year by the board after his chief of staff acted as his lawyer when he bought a house in 2009.
“The United States federal government allows agency heads of the federal government, the Congress members to take their spouse on official trips. And the Conflicts of Interest Board said that I had a right to be there, except that if I want my wife to join me, pay for her. Well you know what? This wasn’t a vacation,” Markowitz said.
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