This CityTime scandal will we believe, prove to be the gift that keeps on giving-at least for those of us who didn't genuflect to the myth of Mike. We were definitely amused on Friday when the mayor opined that sometimes these kinds of things just slip through the cracks-the NY Post reports: "Somehow $80 million in alleged fraud just slipped through the cracks, Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday, when asked about the mind-blowing CityTime payroll scandal. "If you want to know how big projects have things that slip through the cracks, this is as good an example as you need," Bloomberg said on his weekly WABC radio show. His comments came on the heels of the arrest of six people charged with defrauding the massively over-budget CityTime project that was supposed to digitize worker time cards a decade ago."
Comptroller John Liu thought this was as funny as we did, and retorted that under this definition the Grand Canyon was also just a crack. All of which calls to mind one of our favorite lawyer jokes. A lawyer dies and goes to heaven. He complains to St. Peter that he is only fifty years old, and is too young to die. St, Peter looks down at his sheet of paper (perhaps a time sheet) and responds: "But it says here that you billed for eighty."
This is a gut wrenching scandal for the mayor because it goes to the heart of what should be Mike Bloomberg's strength-information systems. This is one area where he should have all the expertise in the world-but if he failed to give proper oversight to this initiative, what does that say of all his other claims to excellence?
In our view, CityTime will be the beginning of the end of the Bloomberg era of omnipotence. The critics, emboldened by this demystification of Mike will start to peck away at his legitimacy-and search for other areas to question his authority. The erosion appears to be inevitable-and will be advanced further as the details of how this scandal was allowed to fester become more fully known.
The NY Daily News begins this process yesterday, with a lengthy evaluation of the makings of the City Times scandal-it is not a pretty picture: "In March 2008, a veteran city consultant working on a complicated project called CityTime complained to the Department of Investigation. His letter had a bold title: "Fraudulent Timesheet submitted for time not worked. The complaint said "two senior level managers (Mr. Mark Mazer - consultant - and Mr. Scott Berger - consultant) sign weekly timesheets of [a senior manager] having full knowledge" the woman was absent or on vacation. As far as the whistleblower could tell, nothing happened."