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September 2, 2009: Vol. 1, No. 6
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Iannece acted ethically on developer issue: Government sources

TimesLedger Newspapers

City Council contender Jerry Iannece said he did not violate any city laws by acting as Community Board 11’s chairman at a June meeting during which a Bayside developer who contributed to Iannece’s campaign discussed plans to expand its operations.

Democrats Paul Vallone and Tom Cooke, both of whom are Iannece’s opponents in the race to replace Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), criticized Iannece Friday during a TimesLedger Newspapers debate at the Flushing Library for taking part in the CB 11 meeting two months ago. At the board meeting, Bayside’s Briarwood Organization laid out its proposal to allow the developer to purchase a house next door to its Bell Boulevard locale where the company could expand.

According to city campaign finance records, Briarwood co-owner James Riso contributed $1,000 to Iannece’s campaign Oct. 22.

But Iannece said he excused himself from the discussion of the proposal as well as a debate that followed and a vote. The board voted down the proposal 26-7.

“What I did was 100 percent unequivocally out of the handbook,” he said. “In fact, I was overcautious. I could have legally voted, but I didn’t because I thought it was the right thing to do. So, I went over and above.”

Iannece said he was within his authority as the board’s chairman to lead the meeting.

Government sources said city law would not have prevented Iannece from fulfilling his duties as CB 11’s chairman during the meeting and that he could have legally voted on the proposal.

Still, during the debate and in phone interviews this week, Iannece’s fellow opponents in the District 19 Council race said they believed he should have not taken part in the CB 11 meeting.

“I don’t know whether he broke the law, but what is of greater concern is the influence of special interest groups and developers,” Cooke said. “It’s an ethical matter, not a legal matter. We need elected officials who are free from special interests, so they can be on the side of the homeowners.”

But Chuck Apelian, vice chairman of Community Board 7 and campaign manager for Vallone, said he believed Iannece violated the law despite the view of government sources that he was well within the legal guidelines.

“The law is very clear — you must first disclose to the full board that you have a conflict,” he said. “Secondly, you are prohibited from chairing the meeting. Jerry recused himself, which is fine. Then he participated, which is fine. But he did not announce at the beginning of the meeting that he was not allowed to chair the meeting.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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