YONKERS – School board members will have to begin filing annual financial disclosure statements next year under a reform that closes a loophole in the city’s ethics rules, Mayor Mike Spano said Monday.
The city government’s Code of Ethics has for years required top Yonkers officials and non-advisory board members to disclose to a city ethics board any financial ties that could pose a conflict of interest. But the Board of Education has not been subject to that rule, even as its unpaid trustees have wielded control over a half-billion-dollar annual city schools budget.
Spano said Monday the new disclosure requirement will fix a “glaring lack of oversight” and “ensure decisions are made in the best interest of our city.”
“This new measure is another critical step in continuing our efforts to provide residents of Yonkers a government that is as open and transparent as possible,” Spano said.
He said the Yonkers Board of Ethics enacted the measure in response to a letter he recently sent inquiring about the loophole. The school board was notified of the change Monday. The new requirement does not apply to the superintendent; city attorneys were looking late Monday into whether the schools chief is subject to any such disclosure rules.
The board and the district spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.
The change comes over two months after Yonkers Inspector General Kitley Covill called on the board to yank a three-year contract extension it had approved for the superintendent without first giving public notice. In an investigation undertaken at the mayor’s request, she also found the extension violated a state law limiting a schools chief’s overall contract to five years. The board later approved a shorter, two-year extension.