Comptroller sums up his career
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Comptroller John Liu, who has less than three months left in office, summed up his career as the New York’s financial watchdog as a success, pointing out that he saved the city $5 billion by scrutinizing expenditures and bringing municipal government excesses to light.
“We have been closely scrutinizing these outside consultants,” Liu told Community Board 11 (Bensonhurst-Bath Beach) on Thursday. Liu said he helped expose the CityTime scandal, in which a private contractor allegedly milked the city for millions of dollars with a faulty program that was supposed to keep track of city workers’ hours.
The CityTime program, which was meant to overhaul the city’s payroll system and was originally supposed to cost $73 million, wound up setting the city back an estimated $700 million. The scandal was uncovered in 2011.
The New York Times reported in 2012 that the contractor, Science Applications International Corporation, agreed to a deal with federal prosecutors to pay the city back $500 million in order to avoid prosecution.
Liu said he was also instrumental in getting the city to take a close look at its 911 emergency call system, a system fraught with delays and breakdowns.
Liu, who was a guest speaker at Community Board 11’s monthly meeting at the Bensonhurst Center for Rehabilitation and Health Care at 1740 84th St., told board members his office was also a careful manager of the city’s pension fund. Through his work, the city is seeing a great return on its investments, he said.
The comptroller’s presentation had the feeling of a farewell address. Liu will leave office on Dec. 31 after serving one term. He will be succeeded by one of two men running for comptroller; Democrat Scott Stringer or Republican John Burnett. Liu ran in the Democratic Primary for mayor on Sept. 10, but finished fourth.
“It has been a privilege to serve as city comptroller,” he told board members. “I was an immigrant from Taiwan. I never dreamed I would run for public office,” he said.
Liu made history as the first Asian-American to win a city council seat. He represented the 20th Council District in Northeast Queens from 2001 to 2009. He is also the first Asian-American to become city comptroller. He won election to that post in 2009.
But Liu won’t be able to take it easy in his last few months on the job. The comptroller and his staff are monitoring developments in Washington DC. He warned that the ongoing government shutdown, as well as the fight between President Obama and congressional Republicans over raising the debt ceiling, could hurt New York City. “My office is keeping a close eye on it,” he said.
If the country goes into default, the city will feel the effects, Liu warned. “We simply will not have money,” he said, adding that funds for benefits and other expenditures would dry up. “It’s going to be very detrimental,” he said.
Liu, a Democrat, charged that “a small number of extremist congress members are holding the country hostage.”
The shutdown and the debt ceiling battle should end, Liu said. “It’s time to get on with it. Don’t let the country get to the brink of default,” he said.
The comptroller said he would work “to ameliorate the affect on New York City.”
Liu’s talk also had lighter moments. He recalled that prior to running for city council; he served on his local community board. He joked that he would double board members’ pay. Community board members are unpaid volunteers.
Liu paid tribute to Board 11 members, praising their dedication to the neighborhoods of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach. “It’s really impossible work,” he said.