Delinquent Community Board Members Face Ouster, Councilman Warns
UPPER EAST SIDE — New City Councilman Ben Kallos has rankled members of his own community board with a plan to shut out members who fail to show up for meetings more than a quarter of the time — leading to the likely ouster of at least two sitting board members, sources said.
Kallos, who is responsible for filling 15 of the 50 seats on the Upper East Side's Community Board 8, instituted a controversial new policy this year for evaluating members who want to be re-appointed to the board at the end of their two-year terms. Any member whose yearly attendance rate at any kind of meeting falls below 75 percent risks not being re-appointed, he said.
“I have set an objective standard to reduce absenteeism and am closely examining any re-applicants who missed or were late or left early from more than 25% of meetings,” Kallos said in an email. “I have raised concerns over everyone seeking reappointment with low attendance so that we can make room for new members who will show up and participate and help build boards that better serve our communities."
As a result of his stringent new guidelines, Kallos has told Community Board 8 members John Bartos and Cory Evans, who have both served on the board since 2012, that he does not plan to re-appoint them, Bartos said.
Sources said six other board members were also contacted regarding attendance but that no final decisions had been made.
Kallos refused to disclose whether Bartos and Evans would be re-appointed. Kallos has not publicly announced his final decisions on appointees, even though new terms usually begin on April 1.
A spokeswoman from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer's office said none of the community boards have been officially notified about appointments, but will be by the end of the week.
Bartos, 32, said he was surprised when he received a call from Kallos last Friday evening informing him that he was out.
“I didn’t think anyone could go after my attendance record, because I’ve missed very few full board meetings,” said Bartos, who is currently a full-time MBA student at Fordham University and formerly worked for the Manhattan Young Democrats.
According to Community Board 8 records, Bartos has missed seven of the 38 mandatory land-use and full board meetings that occurred during his two-year term from April 2012 to March 2014, putting his overall attendance rate at 81 percent.
However, Kallos only evaluated attendance for the 2013 portion of the term. As a result, Bartos had a 64-percent attendance record for full board meetings during the year — missing four of the 11 meetings, according to CB8 records. Bartos missed two of the eight mandatory land-use meetings, leaving him with a 75 percent land-use attendance record in 2013, records show. All of the absences were excused because he gave advance notice.
Kallos' office initially accused Bartos of only attending 64 percent of land-use meetings. When asked about the 11-percent discrepancy with CB8 records, Kallos' office blamed faulty data.
Kallos staffers said they did not calculate the attendance numbers themselves, and had not obtained attendance records directly from CB8, instead using data they received from Brewer's office.
Bartos said at least one other board member, Cory Evans, was told his re-appointment was in jeopardy due to attendance. However, Community Board 8 records show that Evans attended 81 percent of full board meetings and about 88 percent of land-use meetings in 2013 — more than the required 75 percent.
Bartos and Evans both fell short of Kallos’ criteria for attendance at committee meetings in 2013, according to records, attending only 55 percent of the meetings, which are not mandatory.
Evans did not respond to requests for comment.
Bartos did not dispute the attendance records, but he said he thought he would be judged for his entire term, rather than year by year.
“If everyone were being held to this standard, there wouldn’t be many people left to serve on the community board,” Bartos said.
The board's records showed that 11 other members also missed six or more mandatory meetings in 2013. Kallos oversees the appointment process for five of these members, while the other six fall under the jurisdiction of Councilman Dan Garodnick or Brewer.
It's not clear whether Kallos would have met his own criteria for re-appointment when he served on CB8 from April 2006 to December 2007, records show. Kallos missed only three of 23 total meetings while on CB8, but records show he was late to five of 11 meetings in 2007 — a 55-percent on-time rate.
Kallos said he did not recall his frequent lateness, but added that he believed the tardiness policy was stricter during his time on Community Board 8 than it is now.
The reforms come on the heels of Kallos' March 3 resolution and hearing before the City Council to boost oversight for community boards, an issue that has roots stretching back to then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's reforms implemented for Manhattan boards.
Kallos, who is chairman of the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, released a report last month that was packed with community board policy proposals. The report advocated a stricter re-appointment process with consideration given to attendance, participation and service. No specific attendance standard was set. Other recommendations included instituting term limits for community board members and not allowing political staffers or those who sit on the executive committees of political parties to serve on their local boards.
Notably, both Bartos and Evans sit on the executive board of the Lexington Democratic Club, one of the organizations that performs functions like petitioning on behalf of the Manhattan Democratic party. While membership in a political club is not an automatic disqualifier, Kallos' recommended reforms are focused on removing politics from community boards.
Jonathan Horn, chairman of CB8's Street Life committee on which Bartos served last year, said it would be a mistake for Kallos to dismiss him.
“John has been one of the most enthusiastic new members to come on to the board," Horn said. "He represents youth and energy, which is what we need."