City Comptroller Scott Stringer decried Mayor Bill de Blasio’s spending of $6.9 billion worth of fast-tracked city contracts, while announcing Tuesday he’d taken the mayor to court to put a stop to the “unacceptable” practice enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The comptroller’s lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, is aimed at bringing back procurement laws and regulations that mandate comptroller oversight on City Hall’s spending — regulations that have been suspended since March 2020.
“This mayor does not have a great track record on transparency, [Freedom of Information Law], and good government, and I’ll be damned if we’re going to walk out on December 31 with $7 billion truly unaccounted for,” Stringer said at a press conference in Lower Manhattan.
“We can’t let this man’s hubris outlast the pandemic, or even his mayoralty,” said Stringer, who in June received just five percent of first-choice votes in his failed bid to succeed de Blasio.
On March 16, 2020 — just before the COVID-19 pandemic reached its peak in New York City — de Blasio signed an executive order that put a pause on regular procurement rules, with the aim of expediting the process with which the city buys goods and services during the emergency.
But as the Big Apple bounces back from the pandemic’s throes, Stringer wants to bring back normal checks and balances on city spending.
“The mayor has extended the procurement emergency powers more than 100 times, including as recently as last week, allowing the city to continue to spend without the oversight that my office is charter mandated to provide,” said Stringer on Tuesday. “People, this is unacceptable.”
“We’re gonna get to the bottom of this,” the city’s top bean counter vowed.
A rep for the mayor said the emergency procurements “saved lives” and accused Stringer of filing the lawsuit in an attempt to stay relevant.
“During the greatest challenge our city has ever faced, emergency procurements have saved lives, period,” said spokesman Bill Neidhardt. “The comptroller is clearly trying to use this lawsuit to keep himself in the headlines after his failed mayoral bid.”
In response, a Stringer spokeswoman accused de Blasio’s team of personally slighting the Democratic money manager rather than responding to the substance of Stringer’s beef.
“Once again, City Hall resorts to nonsensical cheap shots to distract from the mayor’s failed mayoralty and avoid accountability and transparency,” said the comptroller’s press secretary, Hazel Crampton-Hays.
“Putting the mayor’s ego aside, elected officials have a responsibility to protect taxpayers from waste, fraud, and abuse now and in the future,” she added. “We’ll see the Mayor in court.”
The suit comes after Stringer said in August he wanted to regain oversight of city contracts after a de Blasio political contributor received $120 million in no-bid coronavirus-related contracts in 2020.
“[I]t is imperative that my office resume its [City] Charter-mandated role of safeguarding taxpayer funds,” he wrote on August 25.
The mayor responded at the time that he still thought he needed to more swiftly spend city funds without comptroller contract oversight.
“We are far from out of this crisis,” de Blasio said during a remote City Hall press briefing last year.
“I think we need all the tools and all the flexibility we can to make sure we have what we need when we need it.”
This is the second time Stringer has brought the mayor to court during the pandemic.
In November, the comptroller accused de Blasio’s administration of failing to hand over records of city spending as it responded to the health crisis. A judge ruled that the city should turn over the records to the comptroller’s office by July 15 on a rolling monthly basis.
Additional reporting by Kevin Sheehan, Priscilla DeGregory, Abby Weiss and Len La Rocca
Metro | New York Post