CityLaw Profile: Mark Davies, Executive Director of the Conflicts of Interest Board

Mark Davies, Executive Director of the Conflicts of Interest Board.

Mark Davies, Executive Director of the Conflicts of Interest Board.

After mayoral election, COIB Executive Director’s focus remains on prevention. Mark Davies is currently in his twentieth year as the Executive Director of the Conflicts of Interest Board. He is a native of Long Beach, California who moved to New York in 1968 to attend Columbia University, where he majored in German and English. Following his graduation in 1971, Davies studied Germanic Philology at Philipps-Universität in Marburg, Germany on a one year fellowship. Upon his return to the United States, Davies enrolled in Columbia Law School, a choice he made after considering other options, including seminary and a medieval studies program at Yale.

Davies graduated law school in 1975 and began his legal career at Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine, a Wall Street firm. He later taught at St. Johns Law School and was a visiting professor at Fordham Law School. While teaching, he also worked as counsel to a small firm in Westchester focusing on municipal law. In 1987, Governor Mario Cuomo asked Fordham Law School’s Dean John D. Feerick to head up the Moreland Act Commission to investigate municipal corruption throughout the state. Feerick asked Davies to lead the non-New York City division of the Commission. In 1988, Davies returned to Fordham Law School as a visiting professor teaching New York Practice, which since 1990, he has continued to each as an adjunct professor. Between 1990 and 1992, Davies served as Executive Director of the Temporary State Commission on Local Government Ethics which investigated municipal conflicts of interest and proposed a new state municipal ethics law to replace Article 18 of the General Municipal Law. Davies returned to private practice when, in late 1993, he interviewed for the New York COIB, a position he began in 1994 and has held ever since.

Davies believes that the purpose of any ethics board, including the COIB, is to promote the reality and the perception of integrity in government. To prevent ethical violations by the City’s public servants, the COIB focuses on training public servants through a wide variety of training tools and methods. By the end of December COIB will have taught almost 600 live training classes this year, involving about 20,000 City employees. There are, however, more than 300,000 City employees, so the Board must adopt alternative training methods. This means creating training DVDs, posters, website clips and access to ethics FAQs on COIB’s website. The newest method includes interactive web-based training. In addition to training, the COIB also provides formal and informal advice to City employees concerning future conduct, administers the financial disclosure system, and prosecutes violations of Chapter 68 of the City Charter, the City’s ethics law.

Davies compares his role as Executive Director to a chief executive officer of a small private company. He is tasked with the responsibility of making all the pieces work together and managing the administrative, personnel and budget issues as well as reviewing everything that goes out of the office.

The highest priority on Davies’ wish list is obtaining a protected budget. The COIB operates with a very lean budget of approximately two million dollars; a cut as small as 10 percent could result in laying off three or more staff members, over 10 percent of the staff. A protected budget would prevent potential interference with the work of the COIB through manipulation of the budget. The COIB is the only New York City agency which has the power to tell employees what they can and cannot do, including those who set the budget. Those same employees are covered by the COIB and could possibly have matters pending before the board during budget negotiations. This potential conflict is the main reason Davies believes the COIB deserves a protected budget.

Davies is proud that COIB is world renowned for its success and has entertained visitors from a third of the world’s nations. COIB employees have given talks at the United Nations, conducted training in Cairo at the request of the Egyptian government, lectured in Brazil at the IV Global Forum on Fighting Corruption, worked with The Carter Center in Jamaica, and presented ethics training in Eastern Europe at the request of the U.S. State Department.

With the November election decided, Davies’ focus remains on prevention. He foresees that 2014 will begin with a heavy schedule of training seminars and expects that COIB’s advice hotline will be extremely busy.

Davies suggests that anyone who senses that they may have a conflicts issue call the COIB’s attorney of the day hotline. The COIB staff fields thousands of calls each year in order to help City employees understand their responsibilities and avoid putting themselves into compromised situations. Davies hopes the new de Blasio administration will follow in Mayor Bloomberg’s footsteps and have all of his deputy mayors and cabinet members attend COIB training because “it sends a message when the top person, the Mayor, takes the position that ethical misconduct will not be tolerated.”

To find out more about the COIB visit

By: Elizabeth Osley (is a City Law Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2013).


By: Elizabeth Osley

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