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Attendance Log Used Unevenly to Boot Community Board Members, Records Show

By Lindsay Armstrong | April 15, 2014 10:38am | Updated on April 15, 2014 6:06pm
 New Councilman Ben Kallos and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (inset).
New Councilman Ben Kallos and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (inset).
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Kallos for Council; DNAinfo/Emily Frost

UPPER EAST SIDE — An effort to reform the community board re-appointment process by evaluating members on their attendance records is being applied unevenly on the Upper East Side — with some members who have missed multiple meetings booted while others with similar records remain in place, records show.

Three existing members of Community Board 8 did not receive re-appointments this year after freshman City Councilman Ben Kallos found that they went to less than three-quarters of their meetings last year — a new standard he is using to evaluate applicants with support from Borough President Gale Brewer.

Kallos and Brewer are each responsible for appointing a certain number of board members every year.

John Bartos, Cory Evans and Roy Carlin — whose re-appointments were determined by Kallos — were all removed from the board because they had missed more than 25 percent of mandatory meetings in 2013, according to a list released by Brewer's office last week.

They were the only three of the 24 CB8 members up for re-appointment this year who were not allowed another term.

However, Kallos did re-appoint standing members Sarah Chu and Barry Schneider, who also fell short of the stated attendance requirements, prompting critics to question whether the standard was being applied evenly to all members. 

"The way he made his criteria feels very arbitrary," said Bartos, 32, who had been on the board since 2012.

Kallos's guidelines — which only took into account attendance from 2013 rather than members' full two-year terms — state that anyone who misses more than a quarter of mandatory meetings risks not being re-appointed. 

“If you were to sample the whole board’s attendance over the same time period, there would be a lot of people in the same position that I am,” added Bartos, who questioned why Kallos did not review members' attendance records over the full two years. 

“It doesn’t make sense.” 

Kallos explained that meeting tardiness played a factor in the decisions to remove some members, noting he followed the lead of Brewer in introducing the stringent attendance rules.

“Borough President Brewer wanted to look at attendance as a main factor, so much so that she got the attendance records from the various community boards and gave them to City Council members,” Kallos said.

“The end goal is to make sure that we have community boards that are representative of their communities. To do that, people have to show up."

But Brewer's records showed that she didn't apply the same standards as Kallos to her own re-appointees. Additionally, the records both Kallos and Brewer cited differ from CB8's official attendance numbers, though neither explained the reasoning for the discrepancy.

Brewer re-appointed all 11 of the members under her consideration, even though four of them failed to meet the 75-percent attendance standard. In fact, two of the members she reappointed had attendance records worse than those of Bartos, Carlin or Evans, her records show.

Brewer's attendance data showed that CB8 member Albert Barrueco attended 36 percent of full board and 45 percent of land-use meetings. There was no number available for his committee meeting attendance. Member Christina Davis attended 64 percent of full board, 73 of land-use and 45 percent of committee meetings.

A spokeswoman from Brewer’s office said multiple factors — including attendance, nominations from fellow council members, interview results and the possession of special skill sets — were taken into account in the re-appointment process. She listed 12 factors that the borough president considered in the appointment process.

“While several other factors may influence decision-making these factors represent 90-95% of what was considered within each unique context,” the spokeswoman said in an email.

The attendance rates that Brewer's office used, which a spokeswoman said were based on data from CB8, did not always match up with the board's official attendance records. While most of the discrepancies in the two sets of data were small, some were significant.

For example, CB8 records show that Bartos attended 75 percent of land-use meetings — 10 percent more than Brewer's tally of 64 percent.  The CB8 numbers also show that Barrueco attended 63 percent of land-use meetings, rather than 45 percent indicated by Brewer's records. 

Both Brewer and Kallos are involved in a larger effort to reform community boards. As chairman of the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, Kallos recently held a hearing and released a report with recommendations to reform the appointment process. He has joined with other City Council members to introduce a resolution to adopt the reforms.

During the hearing, Brewer testified about the new approach she was adopting with regard to community board recruitment and appointment. She said that her office would evaluate members based upon their attendance, service to the board and performance. 

Kallos said he supported Brewer's re-appointments.

"I applaud the Borough President on these excellent choices, and believe they are representative of a reformed process of appointment that takes into account absenteeism, performance and expertise to ensure that boards can effect real change in our neighborhoods," he said in a statement.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect that Kallos's office had noted that meeting tardiness factored into the decision making. Additionally, following to the publication of this article, Kallos's office said it took into account a medical issue for Schneider that prevented him from attending some board meetings, Schneider and a spokeswoman said.