Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christine Quinn's CityTime Scandal Dishonesty

Best Little Sidestep in NY City Council : ''No one, even in the Daily News, would have thought this was happening,'' said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Really ?

Last week, a giant scandal of theft of possibly over $100 million dollars in taxpayer money began to break wide open, exposing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a self-described financial Wizard of Oz who argued his experience in funneling money should earn him a controversial third term in office, to criticism that he was no wizard at all. Joel Bondy, the executive director of the Office of Payroll Administration, was suspended after investigators alleged that city contractors used fraud to rob the city of at least $80 million under the CityTime automated payroll system that, contrary to Speaker Quinn's denial, has been under intense scrutiny for several years as a result of the system's runaway, costly over-runs.

Here is the text of the shocking statement, made in total denial by Speaker Quinn, after details of the first $80 million of theft was exposed by a joint investigation team :

''No one, even in the Daily News, would have thought this was happening. ... The Council's had a number of oversight hearings on CityTime. I think we're all anxiously awaiting the results of what the deputy mayor will find. You know, everyone was very unhappy I think across the city to hear this yesterday. But I was grateful to the mayor that he reacted quickly and thoroughly and that he's putting the deputy mayor in charge. ... I don't know that he could have done anything more quickly than as soon as he found out yesterday. You know, you can't, sometimes these investigations start and you can't, you may even know about them, and you can't do anything. They have to play their course out to get to the point where law enforcement can make the arrest. So really, the mayor could not have done anything until after yesterday. He didn't let any grass grow under his feet.''

The $80 million theft led to the emergency announcement that Mr. Bondy would be suspended. It was separately reported by NY1 that,''In the wake of Bondy's suspension, Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith will have direct oversight of the CityTime payroll system.''

Meanwhile, many people believe that the $80 million that prosecutors alleged has been stolen, is only the tip of the iceberg. As early as March 2008, questions were being raised around a shady government contract that was awarded to Science Applications International Corporation (''SAIC''). SAIC is the main contractor for the CityTime automated payroll system ; at the time the contract was awarded, it was reported to be worth only $68 million. As of March 2008, that contract had been inflated by an additional $280 million and was, at that time, worth a total of $348 million. So far, prosecutors can prove that $80 million has been stolen.

In a separate analysis of the CityTime scandal, the newsroom of WNYC radio has estimated that, to date, New York City has spent ''more than $630 million on CityTime, which was supposed to cost just $63 million.''

More and more, $80 million looks like just the tip of the iceberg.

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