I cannot comment on the charges against Mr. McGowan because he was once represented by the law firm which employs me, and the case is technically still pending. I can comment, however, on the general issue of what needs to be done to avoid something like this from ever happening again without reference specifically to Mr. McGowan.
Andi Turco-Levin has demanded that the Board of Ethics conduct an investigation. However, this is not permitted by the City Charter.
Under § C 49-2, the Board of Ethics only has the power to issue advisory opinions. Moreover, the Code of Ethics deals only with receipt of gifts, conflicts of interest, etc. It does not deal with incompetence in office. Thus, there is no point in even asking the Board of Ethics to get involved. It sounds great for a sound bite, but it actually has no teeth.
It is not the Board of Ethics which is responsible to the people to investigate the copper scandal or things of similar nature. It is the Common Council. Yet, not one member of the Council has asked the Council to review the matter. The only one talking is Andi Turco-Levin. Unfortunately, she is asking the Board of Ethics to review this and they have no legal authority to do so. It is a purely political stunt.
Instead of political sound bites, the Common Council needs to take rational steps to protect city taxpayers. Here is what actually needs to be done according to the City Charter.
Under § C 13-3(B), "The Council shall have the power to investigate the affairs of every department or agency of City Government and the official conduct of every officer and employee. The Council shall have access to all records kept by all City Officers, departments of agencies of city government."
Furthermore, under § C 13-3(D) , "All powers of the city shall be vested in the Common Council, except as otherwise provided by law or this Charter, and the Council shall provide for the exercise thereof and for the performance of all duties and obligations imposed on the city by law. The Common Council shall be responsible to the electorate for the efficient and economical management of city government. "
Still further, under §13-3(F), "The Common Council shall limit city officers from making contracts for the city and regulate the manner in which the same are made."
The Council needs to use its authority under the Charter to first examine all of the documents involved in the matter. Then, the Council should turn over all documents to the District Attorney's Office to allow them to complete any criminal investigations. Other than full cooperation with the District Attorney's Office, the Council should not involve themselves in a current criminal investigation. Politics have no place in a criminal investigation.
Second, the Council should pass a law pursuant to its authority under §13-3(F) of the City Charter requiring that all contracts dealing with city owned properties must be in writing and be available for review by the public via a FOIL request. Oral contracts in this area are unwise. If something goes wrong, the responsibilities of each side (particularly the city) must be clear and in writing.
If the Council does this, then there can be no questions concerning the scope of authority given to any particular contractor or individual working on city property in the future.
I therefore call upon the Common Council to take action and pass this law immediately.