There were and continue to be criticisms about the requirement that City Council members relinquish virtually all outside income. Some stemmed from concerns that an outright ban on outside income could discourage small business owners from running for office, according to Council Member Ben Kallos, who co-sponsored the legislation and chairs the governmental operations committee. The bill was tweaked to make allowances for passive income and would not force electeds to dissolve their business entities completely.
“It’s just what we could reasonably expect from people. So, if somebody has spent their career as a small business person, and brought that small business experience to the City Council, which can be invaluable…,” said Kallos. “After four years or eight years, [that person] could return to their community, and continue doing what they did to begin with.”
Rather than stripping a small number of elected officials of their non-governmental livelihoods, the goal was to ensure that Council members focus on their districts full-time, and to avoid any real or apparent conflicts of interest.
“It is a concern for me that someone with business before the city could hire a member of the City Council in the hopes of gaining influence,” said Kallos, who represents Manhattan’s 5th Council District.
Kallos said that before taking office in 2014, he personally retired from the practice of law in three states and dissolved LLCs for companies he had started. He said he is still in the process of dissolving several non-profits he created.
“All of them have had, literally had no business since I got elected. But, it can be a complicated and weird, long process,” he said.
While dissolving these entities is not required by the bill, Kallos said, “I felt that as the author of the law in question, I have to set a good example and go one step further than the law requires.”