The New York City Conflicts of Interest Board will review charges that advertisements featuring New York City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman promoting a city bond program violate city conflict of interest rules.
Mark D. Hoffer, executive director of the board, said he and his staff will review the charges made by comptroller candidate Alan G. Hevesi. Hevesi, a Queens assemblyman, is challenging Holtzman for the Democratic nomination for city comptroller.
In a letter to Hoffer, Hevesi yesterday asked that the board "consider whether the advertisements comply with the New York City Charter and the rules of the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board."
Hevesi said the problem with the ads is that they serve the dual purpose of promoting the bonds while acting as de facto campaign commercials.
"They curry favor with the comptroller, who selects the members of New York City's underwriting consortium," Hevesi said in a statement.
In addition, he said, "The advertisements violate at least the spirit of the contribution limits of the New York City campaign finance law and may well violate the rules themselves."
"I'm looking at the matter," Hoffer said. "I plan to put this before the Conflict of Interest Board as soon as possible. If the board thinks there is a problem, we will ask the Department of Investigation to investigate the matter."
The advertisements, which appear on television, feature Holtzman promoting the NYC Bonds program. NYC Bonds, also known as mint-bonds, are sold in small denominations and are designed retail investors. City Mayor David N. Dinkins is also featured in the television advertisements.
Maerwydd McFarland, a spokeswoman for Holtzman, said advertising for the NYC Bonds program is handled by Prudential Securities, the lead underwriter of the program. The city plans to sell NYC Bonds during its next bond sale, she said.
"We do this every time we sell NYC Bonds." McFarland said. "It's all handled by the underwriters. Focus groups show that the city will have more success selling the bonds" if Dinkins and Holtzman are featured in the commercials.
McFarland said she did not know how much the advertising costs, but said it is deducted from the bond sale as a marketing expense.
A Prudential official in charge of promoting the program could not be reached for comment.