As if all the Primary Day snafus weren’t bad enough.
New York City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan has agreed to pay a $2,500 fine for taking an illegal gift from the contractor that supplies voting machines at Gotham’s 1,200 polling sites.
Ryan accepted a posh stay at the Marriott Marquis Times Square hotel in Manhattan in 2016, according to a settlement announced by the city’s ethics watchdog agency.
The Staten Island resident had also served on the the national advisory board of the contractor, Nebraska-based Elections Systems&Software for five years.
But he stepped down in 2018 after questions were first raised that ES&S was paying for his trips to attend conferences across the country.
Ryan’s ethics flap is just the latest embarrassment to engulf the embattled elections agency — which has come under fire for mishandling the distribution of ballots during Tuesday’s primary elections, including improperly allowing Democrats to vote in the primary of the minor Service America Movement party.
Voters also complained they never received their absentee or mail-in ballots to avoid having to vote in-person during the coronavirus pandemic.
“In 2016, ES&S held a Customer Advisory Board meeting in Manhattan. The Executive Director lives in Staten Island. ES&S paid for the Executive Director to spend two nights at a Manhattan hotel, the cost of which was approximately $760. There was no City purpose to stay at the hotel given that the Executive Director commuted to Manhattan every workday to perform his BOE job,” the city Conflicts of Interest Board said in a statement announcing the settlement.
Ryan, in a statement given as part of the settlement, admitted he violated the city charter that bars government officials from taking gifts from a contractor, ES&S, during the conference sponsored by the firm in Manhattan.
“On August 4, 2016, I attended an Advisory Board meeting at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan where I gave a presentation at 8:45 a.m.. On the night of August 3, 2016, I socialized with the other Advisory Board members who were in New York City to attend the Advisory Board meeting the next day. Such socialization was typical on the nights before Advisory Board meetings,” Ryan said.
“ES&S paid for me to spend two nights – August 3 and 4, 2016 – at the Marriott Marquis. I have been advised that the cost of these hotel accommodations was $762.80.. I reported to work at BOE’s Executive Office as normal on August 5, 2016.
He continued, “I represent that I believed there was a City purpose for the first night of my hotel stay at the Marriott Marquis because it would have been inconvenient for me to commute from my home in Staten Island to give a presentation to the Advisory Board at 8:45 a.m. on August 4, 2016, after socializing with other Advisory Board members in Manhattan the night before,” Ryan said.
“I had no similar belief to justify the second night of my hotel stay. I now acknowledge that there was no City purpose for my stay at a hotel in New York City given that I commute every workday between Staten Island and Manhattan in order to perform my BOE job. Although I did not realize it at the time, I now acknowledge that, by accepting a two-night hotel stay at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan from ES&S, I violated City Charter § 2604(b)(5), which states: `No public servant shall accept any valuable gift, as defined by rule of the board, from any person or firm which such public servant knows is or intends to become engaged in business dealings with the city….’”
Ryan said he initially obtained the ethics agency’s blessing before joining ES&S’s national advisory board as an unpaid member on December 27, 2013. He said COIB advised him that ES&S could pay for his expenses to go to the firm’s events across the country “so long as the expenses borne by ES&S were appropriate to fulfill the City purpose of my attendance.”
The embattled director agreed to step down from junket-laden gig advising the manufacturer of city’s ballot scanners in 2018 after NY1 reported that he took at least nine trips paid for by ES&S.
The manufacturer, which was awarded a $100 million contract to provide and maintain the new voting scanners, came under a firestorm of criticism during the 2018 elections after its ballot scanners jammed at numerous polling stations during misty weather.
Questions were raised about whether the firm misled electional offices during the bid process about whether its ballot scanners could withstand humid conditions. ES&S defended its actions and claims.
Board of Elections officials, meanwhile, said it’s unlikely that Ryan will be forced out over the ethics flap.
“Most of the commissioners support Mike,” said Elections secretary Fred Umane, the Manhattan Republican commissioner.
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