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Eleanor Roosevelt. Jackie Kennedy. Michelle Obama. Jamie Markowitz?
Borough President Markowitz defiantly lumped his wife in with those classic women from American history after an administrative law judge fined him $20,000 for getting free trips overseas for Brooklyn’s alleged “First Lady.”
And anyone who knows Brooklyn and its Beep agrees with him.
“His wife is a part of everything he does,” said Community Board 15 Chairwoman Theresa Scavo. “It’s baloney for the judge to say that she doesn’t belong.”
Jamie Markowitz doesn’t have an official title or assigned aides like the First Lady of the United States, but she has mastered the age-old adage that 90 percent of success is just showing up.
The queen of Kings County is constantly at the Beep’s side at important Brooklyn events. For instance, there she was on Sunday as the first gay weddings were held at Borough Hall. And our shutterbugs are always snapping her at galas for Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Museum.
And the Markowitzes practically double-dated the mayor of Istanbul and his wife when they visited Brooklyn in February.
Jamie’s unofficial First Lady duties don’t end with appearances — she’s also followed presidential first ladies by taking up a political cause, serving as the public face of her husband’s annual “Take Your Man to the Doctor Week,” which strives to convince hard-headed men that they’re not invincible and should get regular medical treatment.
The borough president’s budget doesn’t actually allocate specific funds a “First Lady,” but that doesn’t mean that Jamie isn’t traveling to events in style — or on taxpayers’ dime. The Beep spends about $175,000 per year on his government vehicle and three chauffeurs, according to the New York Post.
The trips abroad that got the Beep in hot water with a city ethics panel weren’t paid for by the people. Rather, Brooklyn’s Barack and Michelle Obama got comped by foreign governments and non profits.
“The respondent’s wife does not have any official role in the borough president’s office,” wrote Judge Kevin Casey, ruling that Markowitz must pay the fine. “Even though she actively participated in some of the events abroad, her attendance was not required. … There’s simply no meaningful comparison with the First Lady of the United States.”
Markowitz remains defiant about his wife’s undefined — and, clearly, misunderstood — role in public life.
“I am not ashamed of what I did, and I do not think this fine is fair or even sane,” he said. “When Jamie and I were on these trips foreign officials looked at us as a team.”
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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