Rochester for All supports pending City Council legislation to strengthen financial disclosure forms required of city officials. The deputy mayor shared information on his current form that raises ethical issues.
The proposal from Council members Carolee Conklin, Molly Clifford and Adam McFadden would require officials to disclose all sources of income and amounts of the income, something not currently required. This additional information will make it easier to identify potential conflicts of interest.
However, Rochester for All believes the legislation could go farther. The city charter allows the Records Access Officer to “withhold as an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy the categories of value or amount.” City Council should remove this provision. We can look to the state, which does not redact the categories of value and amounts in lawmaker disclosure forms.
“We are thrilled City Council wants to strengthen disclosure forms,” said Rochester for All Director Eric Stevens. “They should go a step farther and post forms that have not been redacted on the city website.”
These forms are important, especially when we know Deputy Mayor Cedric Alexander has outside financial interests. He was not required to disclose his payments from CNN. Alexander also frequently travels to give speeches, and the public should know who is paying.
Alexander’s disclosure form, signed April 26, 2017, indicates the city purchased “100 copies of my books on Amazon.com.” Alexander’s book, The New Guardians: Policing in America’s Communities for the 21st Century, retails for $14.99 in paperback. It is not available in local libraries.
Rochester for All filed an open records request on October 27 for the receipt of the purchase. The records have been under review since October 30. After asking last week for a specific date we could see the records, the city told us we could have them by December 28.
“We need to know when the purchase was made, who authorized the purchase, and why the books were purchased,” said Rochester for All Chairperson Rachel Barnhart. “Public officials cannot use their position to enrich themselves. Someone should have flagged an ethical conflict when purchasing that quantity of books from a deputy mayor.”
If the purchase was made before Alexander was appointed, there are still questions about why the books were purchased and whether the purchase played a role in job negotiations.