Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In Liu of Integrity

Comptroller Liu has only been in office for a few short months, but already he is demonstrating some real promise. As the NY Times reports today, Liu is shining the sunlight spotlight on the quasi-governmental and, in our view, extra legal actions of the city's Economic Development Corporation: "The agency responsible for economic development under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has failed to turn over to the city more than $125 million in payments, taxes and fees, according to an audit conducted by the city comptroller to be released on Wednesday."

Now the question is, just what else will Liu find if he really turns over the EDC rock? But for its part, EDC is on firm legal grounds. How do we know? Well, because the city's own lawyers say so: "In a detailed two-page rebuttal, the development agency defended its practice of keeping certain money, citing a supportive opinion from the city’s Law Department. The rebuttal belittled the comptroller’s findings, noting that the audit had found a “tiny fraction” of imprecise accounting by the corporation by amounts like 0.2 percent, 0.03 percent and 0.34 percent."

Can anyone say second opinion? But seriously, what this all indicates to us is that the activities of this secretive and arms length-supposedly not for profit-entity need better oversight. And the next item that should be on the comptroller's agenda is the illegal funding of illegal lobbying that is purportedly under investigation by the attorney general's office-you know, the actions of the renowned Professor Claire Shulman, the mistress of misdirection.

If sequestering funds is a violation of city law, than how does the use of public money for lobbying done by an organization that is proscribed by NY State law from engaging in political activity sit with Mr. Liu? We plan to meet with him to hopefully find out-because according to a NY Times report from last year, Shulman's group is not the only one being improperly used. And given the fact that Andrew Cuomo seems to have his hands full with the machinations of all things Espada, the interjection of the comptroller into this matter is certainly both appropriate as well as timely.

And the actions of EDC in letting a-reportedly 11 million dollar-contract to the environmental firm URS should also be on the Liu agenda. URS issued a fraudulent report on proposed Van Wyck ramps-it was discarded by NYSDOT, yet the URS people are still gainfully employed revising the ramp report in the EDC's creative writing seminar. How these consultants are chosen-and the quality and honesty of their work product should be addresses in audits as well.

The plain fact here-something that EDC's Lombino would acknowledge before going over to the dark side-is that EDC operates with too little scrutiny and accountability. If Lui's auditing can alter this situation, the public interest will be advanced.