Last night, during its final meeting before the summer hiatus, Community Board 7 held a closed-door executive session and voted overwhelmingly to direct District Manager Fernando Tirado to take a leave of absence while he runs for senate in the 33rd District.
Tirado announced his candidacy in late May to the surprise of many of the board's 30-plus volunteer members. Several board members expressed reservations about whether the board's work as a non-partisan government agency might be compromised in some way by Tirado's run for office. They asked Tirado to come up with a plan, in writing, for juggling both roles.
Then, last night, the board sat down to discuss the matter and ultimately voted in favor of a measure that directed Tirado to take a leave effective tomorrow. The board also reserved the right to re-evaluate the situation periodically. Board member Ozzie Brown said 22 people voted for the measure, six voted against it, and three abstained.
I talked to Paul Foster and Ozzie Brown of the board earlier today. They said that it wasn't that they feared Tirado would abuse his office, but rather that the board wanted to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest or partisanship.
“We needed to protect the board,” said Foster, who took over as chair of the board when Greg Faulkner left at the end of last year.
In an interview, Tirado said he thought he could effectively handle both roles and wanted to stay on until the petitioning process ends in mid-July. But he also said he understands the board's decision and says this will free him up to focus full-time on his campaign, which pits him against four other Democratic candidates, including the incumbent, Pedro Espada, Jr.