A few weeks ago, the city's Board of Ethics turned heads when it announced a settlement with newly elected City Commissioner Stephanie Singer and her campaign treasurer, Ellen Chapman, for violating city campaign-finance laws.
Singer's campaign, on the eve of her primary race against decades-long incumbent Marge Tartaglione, accepted excess campaign contributions and, maybe more disturbingly, failed to report those donations during the pre-primary 24-hour reporting cycle. Among them, one Liz Kaplan wrote checks in the name of her husband and son, but all from her own checking account. Singer also accepted contributions from Daniel Singer, her father, totalling $4,700 ($2,100 more than the legal limit), which the campaign blamed on poor record-keeping.
Singer had self-reported the errors, the Ethics Board noted. But it was the second time her campaign had been found to have broken the rules: Last year, the Board of Ethics found Singer had made tens of thousands of dollars of last-minute expenditures on her personal credit card (not allowed).
The news was somewhat surprising: Singer had run a campaign of reform and good government.
Even more surprising was Hall Monitor's discovery this week that Chapman, whose job it was to keep the books clean, has been appointed by Singer to the coveted job of deputy city commissioner, a position Singer's predecessor, Tartaglione, had handed to her own daughter, Renee Tartaglione Matos. (Renee had to leave the position after she was found to have broken the law by doing election work on the job — which involves monitoring election work.) Singer defends the choice of Chapman, describing her as "reliable, smart and trustworthy."
Singer, who pledged to take "politics out of elections," also hired ousted committeewoman and political ally Tracey Gordon.
It's not unusual — or necessarily untoward — for elected officials to appoint those close to them. Presidents do it, mayors do it and city commissioners do it. Republican Al Schmidt, another successful reform candidate for the City Commissioners Office, hired two campaign staffers as deputies, explaining, they "share my work ethic and share my ideas."
Zack Stalberg, of the good government group the Committee of Seventy, agrees: "People get involved in campaigns for the opportunity to work in government down the road. That's a legitimate motive."
Fair enough, says Hall Monitor: Hopefully the work Singer's staff performs in the City Commission will be a little tidier than it was on the campaign trail.