Wed, Jul 6, 2011
Comptroller Liu Not Getting the Publicity He Wanted
By Tara MacIsaac
Epoch Times Staff Created: Jun 28, 2011 Last Updated: Jun 28, 2011
NEW YORK—City Comptroller John Liu’s name has made headlines several times this month, but probably not in the way he had hoped for. The former councilman from Flushing held a press conference at the end of May to expose the dismissal of a key consultant involved in the CityTime scandal, Gerard Denault.
Crain’s New York Business and the New York Times have both reported on a letter allegedly sent to Liu from Preet Bharara, United States attorney in Manhattan, chastising the comptroller for his hasty actions.
Several articles have hit the press in the following weeks criticizing Liu for putting his political aspirations first, and his role as the city’s budgetary watchdog second.
With his eye on the next mayoral election, Liu has been attempting to gain political traction by criticizing many of Mayor Bloomberg’s actions. As his first move in office back in January 2010, he even publicly snubbed the mayor for a lunch date, a customary welcoming to office, by saying he didn’t have time to meet with the mayor.
When Liu held a press conference on May 25, at which he revealed facts of the ongoing CityTime investigation, the city payroll system that cost $700 million and ended in scandal when consultants embezzled $80 million, he was eager to be the first on the scene as the scandal unfolded. But in his haste to place himself at the front of the facts he may have interfered with the U.S. attorney’s investigation.
Liu’s press conference reportedly put the attorney’s office in a pinch, and they had to quickly improvise their planned investigation.
A letter from Bharara’s office spoke directly and in plain language about Liu’s impulsive press announcements about the investigation, “I am sure you can appreciate and understand that the best way to achieve these common goals [of prosecuting the CityTime culprits] is to allow the experienced career prosecutors and investigators from my office and DOI to continue their work,” quotes the New York Times, “free from concern that even well-intentioned actions or announcements by third parties without access to all the facts might compromise their ongoing investigation.”
A statement from Liu’s office acknowledges neither inappropriate action on the comptroller’s part, nor a chiding from Bharara.
“My office’s review of the CityTime project, which defrauded taxpayers of millions of dollars, has not interfered with the ongoing criminal investigation, nor have we been informed that it has,” reads the statement.
It is not the first time Liu’s eagerness to talk to the press has backfired.
In February 2010, Liu made a hasty call for former Gov. David Paterson’s resignation after the governor became involved in his aide’s domestic scandal. His reasoning was Paterson’s handling of the budget, but the timing of Liu’s announcement suggests he was hoping to capitalize on the momentum of the scandal. That particular blunder may have alienated the comptroller from the African-American community that supported Paterson.
Liu has garnered additional bad press by blurring the lines between his work as an auditor and catering to the unions that helped get him elected as comptroller. An article in Monday’s New York Post points out the most recent example of Liu’s posturing by announcing an audit of the Central Park Boathouse, only weeks after appearing at a union rally demanding ‘fair treatment, good wages, and decency and dignity for the [Boathouse] workers.’
A June 16 Daily News article added to the list of the comptroller’s “blunders” the 8,162 illegal election signs he posted to win his position in 2009. The signs earned him fines totaling $600,000, which he tried to evade through legal loopholes. For example, his lawyers had many of them dismissed because the summons was given to the wrong staff member at his office.
Liu’s office did not respond to requests for comment as of press deadline.
According to Crain’s, when Liu was first elected he had his staff rise every time he entered the room and greet him as “Mr. Comptroller,” a practice he discontinued when it earned him some chiding in the press.