Monday, December 27, 2010

Bye Bye Bondy

The CityTime scandal continues to roil the waters with the resignation of NYC's real life Inspector Clouseau, Joel Bondy, as head of the Office of Payroll Mismanagement. The NY Times has the story: "The Bloomberg administration official responsible for overseeing a huge, troubled payroll and timekeeping project for New York City employees that is the focus of an $80 million federal corruption case said on Thursday that he was resigning. In a one-sentence letter to the board that oversees his agency, the official, Joel Bondy, said he was leaving as executive director of the Office of Payroll Administration effective Dec. 31. Last week, Mr. Bondy, who has not been charged, was suspended without pay. His biography was removed from the agency’s Web site early this week."

Scrubbing the website, however, will not be good enough to remove the ongoing stench of this corruption-and the uncovering of the people responsible for this colossal failure of oversight has really just begun. DP reports: "Mayor Bloomberg has struggled to explain how $80 million could have seemingly slipped through the cracks despite warnings from reporters like Gonzalez, from city Comptroller John Liu and even whistleblowers, but insists the city has "zero tolerance" for corruption.

So, in this context, the "zero tolerance" mantra is a fairly meaningless phrase, n'est pas? As the scandal continues to unfold, the question of tolerance is transcended by the more compelling concern about competence-as in the case of, what did they know, and when did they know it? Which brings us back to the last person who seems to have had some critical faculties in regards to this program-former OPA director Richard Valcich.

As you may recall, Valcich wrote the following to the crack consultants now accused of looting the CityTime program-as Juan Gonzales highlighted: "A certain level of professionalism and compliance with acceptable industry standard practices is expected of a contractor responsible for the execution of a $100m[illion]+ project," Valcich said. He further noted that SAIC had increased costs of some hardware by 400%. SAIC's "commitment to quality is almost non-existent and is reflected from the top down," Valcich wrote. He added the city had spent "approximately $35 million on CityTime and does not have a tangible system to show for it." A more damning assessment is hard to imagine - but in all the City Council oversight hearings about CityTime the past few years, no one at OPA or City Hall ever mentioned the Valcich letter."

But Valcich, as the Times reported, also had accused the consultant of trying to entice him with an illegal job offer: "In a disclosure that raised an additional question about SAIC’s conduct, a letter made available on Tuesday through a state Freedom of Information Law request suggests that in 2002, SAIC broached the idea of a job offer to the executive director of the payroll office at the time, Richard R. Valcich. In the letter, to an SAIC senior vice president, regarding a meeting they had had, Mr. Valcich wrote, “I do apologize if I seemed rude and abruptly” shortened “your discussion on a future postcity employment position with SAIC. In my capacity at the Office of Payroll Administration,” he added, “it is inappropriate to discuss any post employment with a company that I do business with such as SAIC.”

It's hard to believe that the diligent Valcich, who resigned in 2004, didn't pass this inappropriate inducement on to some city overseer-perhaps COIB or DOI. This is an avenue of investigation that deserves more further scrutiny-after all, zero tolerance is rendered moot when facts of a burgeoning scandal never penetrates the thick skulls of those who are supposed to be aware of these kinds of egregious behaviors. DOI is  now trying to take belated credit for its investigatory work, but it may turn out that the agency was asleep at the switch when certain facts began to emerge that should have jump started a much earlier investigation.

All of which brings us to the curious editorial silence of the Times. After all, the NY Post weighed in on this right away-on December 17th-and the Daily News followed in similar fashion three days later. But the Times, in spite of all the good reporting it has done on this furor, remains mute. What could the paper be waiting for? Perhaps, they want to do their first editorial on the Duke lacrosse case before commenting on this Bloomberg scandal, who knows? But if Murdoch and Morticia can break the billionaire Code of Omerta, than Pinch should be able to as well-unless there's something we're not aware of that's forcing the Heir of Nepotism to seal his lips.

But we haven't heard the last of this juicy thievery-and what follows will all revolve around the failure of oversight. As the management failure here becomes clearer, it may just turn out that the real NYC Inspector Clouseau is not the hapless Joel Bondy, but none other than the city's chief  khokhem , Mayor Mike Bloomberg