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Somerville officials seek ethics standard, transparency in nonprofits

Posted by Jarret Bencks  November 9, 2012 10:01 AM

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Aldermen in Somerville spoke in support of a proposal to apply the city's ethics standards to nonprofits Thursday, but no action will be taken until it is reviewed by a subcommittee.

An audit of the Community Action Agency of Somerville conducted in June found that its executive director, Kimberley Smith-Cofield, made over 100 personal purchases with an agency credit card. The details of the audit were revealed in a Globe report this week.

During their meeting Thursday night at City Hall, Aldermen said they wanted to amend the municipal ethics standards to extend it to nonprofits awarded money by the city, but a proposal to do so had to be reviewed by the Legislative Matters Committee first.

"This has been in front of this committee for a number of months and certainly considering some of the things that have happened lately, this must be pushed through," Alderman Sean O'Donovan said Thursday.

The city's ethics standard requires elected officials to file financial interests statements with the city. The aldermen unanimously approved a motion to finalize the amendment "as soon as possible." They also approved a request to ask City Solicitor Frank Wright what power they have to force transparency in city nonprofits.

Alderman Bob Trane, who submitted the initial proposed amendment with Mayor Joseph Curtatone as a sponsor, said the city needed more oversight of nonprofits awarded grants.

"We don't want to see people running around with a credit card like they have carte-blanche on the citizens' dime," Trane said.

The Legislative Matters Committee, chaired by Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, is expected to meet next Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com.

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