By John Tozzi
No, yes and no, according to Alex Kipp, the director of training and education at the city's Conflicts of Interest Board.The Conflicts of Interest Board is a group of five mayoral appointees, confirmed by the City Council, who review situations in which a worker or official's public role may be compromised by financial, political or personal interests.Kipp told the chairmen and chairwomen of Queens community boards that their unpaid members must be just as vigilant as elected officials and paid city workers in avoiding conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety during a meeting Tuesday at Borough Hall.”Our actual focus is to try to help you keep your face and your name out of the newspaper,” Kipp said.While he said that “there are always going to be a few corrupt bad apples” who intentionally abuse their public roles for private gain, most of the board's work deals with cases where a conflict is inadvertent.”As community board members, you are probably expected to have conflicts of interest because you have vested interests in your community,” Kipp said.In most cases, he said, board members with conflicts have to disclose their interest in an issue first. Then they can discuss it like any other member of the board. But they must generally abstain from voting.Community board members are not allowed to ask staff to work on political campaigns because they are technically the superiors of the staff, who might feel pressure to participate – just as a teacher might feel pressured by a principal requesting the same kind of help, Kipp said.But members are allowed to vote on zoning changes that affect them, because rezonings affect broad areas, not just the interests of a single homeowner, he said. However, a member with a direct interest in an issue, such as a business applying for a variance, must disclose his interest and cannot represent the applicant, Kipp said.Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 174.