Sunday, July 15, 2012

NYC DOI: Dumb or Ignorant?

The NYC Department of Investigation is going about town crowing about its work recovering tax payer monies from rampant fraud and abuse. As the Queens Chronicle reports:

"By definition, the city’s Department of Investigation tends to keep a low profile in its day-to-day operations. So it was uncharacteristic last week when the department touted a record year for investigations and enforcement in the fiscal year ending June 30. And DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn, now in her 10th year in the post, was in a mood to brag about her staff in a statement issued by her office.

“This fiscal year the DOI closed more cases, made more arrests and recovered more funds than last fiscal year, all of which is a testament to the tenacious work of DOI’s team of investigators, rooting out fraud, protecting taxpayer funds and ensuring that corruption is exposed and stopped,” Gill Hearn said

A number of thoughts here. In the first place if there are a record number of arrests and recovered funds it just might mean that fraud and theft are rampant in the Bloomberg administration. But one of the cases that Gill Hearn cites, CitiTime, is in truth an exemplar of the cluelessness of her boss, no?

As the paper tells us: "The largest financial recovery by far was the $506 million settlement reached with the CityTime payroll contractor." But here was a case where the vaunted Bloomberg acumen on technology was absent as these techno-thieves kept on running up the billing-but, hey, congrats for closing the door after the horses have left the barn.

Juan Gonzales highlights the incompetency that led to the DOI's involvement:

"Federal prosecutors have finally begun to unravel one of the biggest scandals of the Bloomberg era. But one major question remains: Where were city officials all those years that computer consultant Mark Mazer and his cronies allegedly stole more than $80 million in taxpayer money from the CityTime project?"

All of this crowing also masks the fact that the DOI has been asleep at the switch when it comes to corruption in Queens-as Juniper Park's Robert Holden helpfully points out:

“Do higher numbers mean they are doing their jobs better or that there is just more corruption?” Holden asked. “If they are doing their jobs — and this is their job, what they get paid to do, root out corruption — great. If arrests are up in record numbers, if they are out there encouraging and protecting whistleblowers, great.”

But Queens, he said, always seems to be ground zero for corruption in the city. He cited the recent finding of an investigation into the Willets Point development plan by the state attorney general that found local groups, including one headed by former Borough President Claire Schulman, engaged in illegal lobbying practices. “This could just be the tip of the iceberg,” Holden said. “You can just look at those numbers in so many ways.”

And Commissioner Gill Hearn needs to answer why she has allowed the EDC corruption to go unpunished-with almost half a million tax payer dollars still in the hands of the Shulman LDC. That would be getting too close to the powers that be, however, and the commissioner will not likely bite the hand that feeds her.