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CB 9 leader fined over parade work

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The longtime district manager of Soundview’s Community Board 7 has been slapped with a $7,500 fine by the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board for turning the board office into operations central for the private annual Bronx Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Under an agreement with the CIOB, district manager Francisco Gonzalez, longtime president and current chairman of the parade, agreed to pay the fine to settle a series of findings by the board involving violations of the city’s conflicts of interest law for public employees.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a longtime nemesis, immediately called on the board to remove Gonzalez, who narrowly survived a recent removal vote after Diaz a number of sympathetic supporters to the board, which covers Soundview, Castle Hill and Parkchester.

The CIB found that Gonzalez, district manager since 1993, used the community board’s office, personnel, conference room, copier, fax machine, phones, and computers to plan the annual affair, which features a week of parade-related events, including the selection of various parade queens, culminating in the grand parade down the Grand Concourse, with a host of politicians joining the marchers. This year’s parade on June 2 drew several thousand marchers, bands, floats and other participants, with parade watchers lining the Grand Concourse.

Because of strained relations with Gonzalez, the borough president has boycotted the parade for the past few years.

Gonzalez and the Diaz family have often tangled with each other, going back to Diaz Jr.’s days as an assemblyman and with his state Senator father, Ruben Diaz Jr., a former city councilman.

Diaz’ communications director, John DeSio, said the borough president’s office is currently reviewing the COIB’s findings “and the misuse of taxpayer funds to support his parade.”

“The findings of COIB represent a violation of the public trust. If similar conclusions of taxpayer abuse had been found about an elected official, that official would be forced to resign,” said DeSio. “Our office hopes that both Mr. Gonzalez and the members of Community Board #9 understand the gravity of these charges and act accordingly.”

Gonzalez received a waiver from the COIB in 2000 to run the parade as its president, with the board “explicitly advising” him that his work for the parade must be performed when he is not required to be working on city time or using city equipment, personnel or other resources.

The board charged that Gonzalez turned the district office, located at the Bruckner Plaza Mall, into parade planning central, with parade-related meetings five to eight times each year in the conference room, with parade volunteers using office equipment, computers, as well as Gonzalez using his city computer and laptop for parade work.

It said he instructed CB9 employees to perform parade work on city time, kept parade materials stored in the office and had persons interested in the parade to send applications in on the office fax machine.

Gonzalez, whose salary is $98,104 according to city records, did not respond for comment.

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group