Monday, February 18, 2008

All in the family

This little piggy went to the City Council.
His name was Erik Dilan.
This little piggy got paid $122,500 a year, but that wasn't good enough.
This little piggy got money for his wife, too. Because the money was available and because all the little piggies were getting theirs.
What we recount is, unfortunately, no fable. Rather it is fact, as documented by the Daily News I-Team, which has been digging aggressively into the City Council's gross misuse of so-called member items.
Dilan is among the many lawmakers who have been dipping into enormous slush funds as a way to distribute taxpayer moneys to favored organizations. The process has entailed phony official records, an utter lack of accountability, alleged thefts and blatant conflicts of interest.
A Council member designates a group for funds, declaring it does valuable community service of some kind. With the lightest of scrutiny, the city writes a check. There's no audit on how the money is eventually spent.
The recipients of Dilan's largess have included the North Brooklyn Community Council, a nonprofit organization based in a Bushwick storefront. Over the past three years, Dilan has directed a total of $187,500 to the group in increasing chunks of money, $30,000 then $57,500 then $100,000.
The organization lists only one salaried employee on tax forms: executive director Jannitza Luna. And, surprise, surprise, Luna became Dilan's fiancée in 2006 and his wife in 2007. According to the group's last tax return, Luna was paid $45,000 in 2006.
What she did for the money is unclear, as is what the organization has been doing. On the most recent city filing, it reported organizing youth sports teams, but Dilan said the group now focuses more on "immigrant services."
That all this passed muster in the City Council demonstrates anew that lawmakers have run wildly out of control with member items.
The City Charter requires Council members to disclose conflicts of interest, including whether family members would benefit from grants. Lawmakers must reveal conflicts on the record of Council meetings and, since last year, on special disclosure forms. (That the forms are riddled with grammatical errors is beside the point.)
Dilan appears to have made the required reports, going so far on his written document as to deny, laughably, that steering money to North Brooklyn represented a conflict.
He asserted that the group paid his wife not with city money, but using a separate slab of pork he got from the state through a political pal, Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez.
By Dilan's reckoning, then, he's in the clear. He followed all the rules, so it's appropriate to pour money into his wife's employer. But it shouldn't be okay. Abolish member items.

Tuesday, April 22nd 2008, 4:00 AM Daily News Editorial

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