Board of Elections commish fined on ethics charge

By Gabriel Rom

Michael Michel, president of the city’s dysfunctional Board of Elections, has been fined $10,000 after helping his daughter’s live-in boyfriend land a string of positions with the board.

According to a three-page settlement released Sept. 10 by the City’s Conflict of Interest Board, by awarding the positions, Michel was “indirectly benefiting [his] daughter financially with each promotion,” and must pay $10,000 to the COIB.

In April 2014 the board requested that the Department of Investigations investigate Michel after a TimesLedger article alleged that Michel hired his daughter’s fiancé for a position at the BOE, according to a DOI memorandum attained through a Freedom of Information Law request

Michel, who is also the Queens Republican commissioner of the BOE, was found to have helped his daughter’s boyfriend, Joseph Cintron, land a series of jobs at the Board of Elections.

Cintron started working for the BOE in May 2013 in a temporary position, earning $24 per hour. According to the memorandum, Michel submitted Cintron’s resumé to BOE executive management and wrote an email to the BOE Chief Financial Officer John Ward–who was later fired by the board for malfeasance–to confirm Cintron’s hiring. At that time, Cintron was living with Michel’s daughter and their son in Michel’s Middle Village/Maspeth apartment.

About six months later, Cintron received a promotion to a permanent position as an administrative assistant at the Queens Voting Machine Facility. Michel recalled that he participated in the commissioners’ vote to promote Cintron during the executive session, and that prior to the vote, he had recommended Cintron’s promotion to BOE management to both the executive officer and the Queens Borough Office.

Two months later, shortly after registering a domestic partnership with Michel’s daughter, Cintron was promoted yet again receiving an $8,000 salary upgrade.

Cintron’s rapid advancement at the BOE did not go unnoticed. A number of complaints were filed over his irregular working hours and perceived special treatment due to his relationship with Michel. The DOI’s review of time records revealed that in 2014 Cintron used a total of 221 hours of leave.

The BOE has long been a target for city good-governance groups and city watchdog agencies. Michel took the reins from Jose Miguel Araujo, the former Democratic president of the BOE, who was fined $10,000 himself for putting his wife on the agency’s payroll so their family could receive health insurance.

In 2013, towards the end of the Bloomberg administration, the city Department of Investigation published an extensive report illustrating widespread nepotism, wastefulness and incompetency at the BOE, concluding that the agency should be transformed into a non-partisan entity. The report noted that lax hiring procedures have led to at least 69 BOE employees working with relatives, including two commissioners.

In 2014, soon after Michel had offered Cintron his second promotion, an individual close to the borough’s Republican Party told the TimesLedger in 2014 that “this type of nepotism should never be allowed.”

“Close to 10 percent of the staff at the Board of Elections is related to one another, which suggests significant problems in terms of nepotism in hiring,” DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said while testifying in February about the report.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

More from Around New York