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Tuesday, July 6, 2021

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer Sues Mayor de Blasio For Overriding City Procurement Practices in Violation of City Charter


New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer (left) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (right) (David Wexler for
 New York Daily News / Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)

Ok, here we go.

How many other cities in the US can watch their City government unravel at the demand of the City Comptroller?

 Betsy Combier

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NYC Comptroller Stringer sues Mayor de Blasio over COVID contracting practices, cites ‘alarming’ findings

by Michael Gartland, Daily News, July 6, 2021

City Comptroller Scott Stringer is suing Mayor de Blasio for extending the use of emergency COVID-era procurement practices that have allowed the mayor to forego scrutiny in order to push through city contracts — a move Stringer says has led to a fundamental lack of transparency.

On March 17, 2020, during the height of the COVID pandemic, de Blasio signed an executive order giving himself the power to override some city procurement guidelines, in effect suspending Stringer’s oversight authority over some contracts.

The practice has allowed de Blasio and his administration to push through contracts without Stringer looking over their shoulder, a power afforded to the comptroller through the city charter.

Stringer, who recently conceded defeat in his run for mayor, has complained about de Blasio’s use of emergency procurement powers periodically during the pandemic, but on Tuesday took the more drastic step of filing a lawsuit in state Supreme Court demanding that Hizzoner stop bypassing his oversight now that the city and state have ended many of the restrictions associated with COVID.

“The action of this executive order is a flagrant violation of the charter and an insult to the fundamentals of good government, and that’s why we’re going to court,” Stringer said Tuesday at a press conference just steps from City Hall. “We must re-establish the checks and balances that protect taxpayers.”

In court papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Stringer’s legal team described the “prolonged suspension” of his powers as having “eviscerated the comptroller’s ability to provide checks and balances against misuse, mismanagement, waste and fraud in contracts.”

Stringer said he is suing to also get access to “full documentation for the more than 1,500 contracts” that the city registered “without transparency during the pandemic.”

“His rationale at the time was that the city just didn’t have time for accountability. And now, 15 months later, the city has entered into more than $6.9 billion in contracts without charter-mandated oversight,” Stringer said, referring to de Blasio. “My office has examined some of these contracts, and the findings are alarming.”

According to Stringer, millions have been spent on supplies that “never materialized,” ventilators that “were never delivered,” and protective N95 masks that were not actually N95s.

“Even though Gov. Cuomo has ended the New York State emergency and even though the mayor himself has revoked many of the pandemic-related executive orders, the mayor has extended these procurement emergency powers more than 100 times, including as recently as last week,” Stringer noted.

Team de Blasio said the suspension of Stringer’s power was justified, though, and chalked the lawsuit up to Stringer seeking attention after his disappointing City Hall run.

“During the greatest challenge our city has ever faced, emergency procurements have saved lives, period,” de Blasio spokesman Bill Neidhardt said. “The comptroller is clearly trying to use this lawsuit to keep himself in the headlines after his failed mayoral bid.”

Stringer said the lawsuit isn’t really about him or de Blasio, though — that it’s about leaving a clearer financial picture for the next mayor and comptroller, both of whom will be sworn in next January.

“I’ll be damned if we’re going to walk out on December 31st with $7 billion truly unaccounted for,” he said. “That’s why we’re here today. This is not a place where I want to be. I want to be able to continue to do my work — not end up in Supreme Court.”