What does it mean to be transparent?
That’s a question Community Board 8 chair Rosemary Ginty should ponder, especially when it comes time to spend dollars that came from the pockets of hardworking taxpayers.
Ginty should be commended for her fast thinking in securing a venue for a suddenly scheduled land use committee meeting that no one had planned for initially. Getting the right amount of space and parking on short notice, that’s not an easy feat, yet Ginty was able to pull it off.
And yes, the Riverdale Temple was expensive — $1,300. That was $325 per hour, in order to hold an official hearing on the proposed Hebrew Home at Riverdale expansion.
But where Ginty should not be commended is her lack of transparency when it came to this expenditure. Yes, she discussed the cost with some officers, and with land use chair Charles Moerdler — but all of it was done in private settings.
In fact, it wasn’t until a reporter uncovered this expense more than a month later that anyone outside this tight circle of CB8 officers and chairs even knew this cost existed.
Ginty had every opportunity to talk about this expenditure — which is $1,300 more than the board has spent on space in at least the last four years combined — at the June 6 executive committee meeting. But she didn’t. She could have brought it up at the June 18 board meeting. But she didn’t.
In fact, she didn’t speak about this expenditure publicly until the July 26 land use meeting — and that was only after she and some board members were contacted by this newspaper about the expense.
Even then, Ginty didn’t share how much, exactly, was spent.
For Ginty, the decision was already made. There was nothing else to be decided, so there was no need for public disclosure. Legally, with New York’s Swiss cheese public records laws, she could very well be protected.
But Ginty still has an obligation to the people who supplied that money for her to spend. While she may indeed have had no other choice but to write a check for $1,300, she did have a choice in whether to share that unusual expense with the very people who supplied those funds.
Ginty chose not to do it. She robbed the people who supplied the money the opportunity to consider the expenditure and provide their own input, whether it was too late to do anything about it or not. Every single person entrusted with precious taxpayer money, like Ginty, has an obligation — whether it’s morally or otherwise — to be completely open with how they spend taxpayer money.
And that includes whether it’s a future expense, or a past one. We the people who bankroll these activities have the right to know.
Ginty says she wouldn’t do things differently if presented with this situation again. We hope she considers otherwise.