Friday, April 15, 2011

Out of Comptroller

NY State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has issued a report criticizing the abuse of local development corporations, and in the words of Richard Nixon, it is a "limited, modified hangout." Here's the YNN report: "

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is introducing a package of measures designed to limit local governments’ use of local development corporations, which his office charged are “out of control” and have committed to an “ongoing pattern of abuse.”

DiNapoli’s measures include giving his office tighter control over LDCs, prevent LDCs or other non-profit organizations fund local governments, restricting compensation of some LDC employees in certain instances and requiring an LDC’s contract with a local government to be of fair value."

Sounds pretty powerful, doesn't it? Here's DiNapoli's quote: "Local governments are supposed to use LDCs for economic development purposes,” DiNapoli said. “But we found that isn’t always the case. Time after time, our auditors uncovered LDCs being used to skirt the laws governing local government operations. And that’s costing taxpayers money.”

So what's missing in the comptroller's critique? DiNapoli evidently is considering only those LDCs which are incorporated by state and local governments, and is disregarding all those other LDCs which are privately incorporated and which may be considered "local authorities". Kinda like the Claire Shulman subterfuge.

At the web site of the Office of the State Comptroller, there used to be a page which listed all of the "Class C" Public Authorities, and at one time included Claire Shulman's LDC in that list of local authorities. That entire page and its list of local authorities has been deleted from OSC's web site. So much for public accountability.

One one hand, DiNapoli announces tighter controls for a limited number of LDCs; on the other, he removes from public view the entire list of local authorities. A coverup disguised as an unmasking. Typical of the Machiavellian advice, it's better to appear good than to be good.

If DiNapoli had not eliminated the Shulman genre of LDCs, his call for comptroller auditing authority might have been courageous-especially when an LDC is violating state law and misrepresenting itself when applying for state funds. So pardon us for being overly cynical here. But the erasing of the Class C authorities from the comptroller's website speaks of a conscious coverup since his office has been made fully aware of the questionable Shulman activities.

Perhaps the press should ask him why he needed to scrub his website. After all, that is not the way to demonstrate greater transparency and cleaner government.