Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Juan Gonzalez Wins Polk Award

There isn't much good news these days when you scan the papers, but this story put a smile on my face:

Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez has won the 2010 George Polk Award for Commentary for exposing massive fraud by consultants hired to eliminate chicanery in the city payroll system.

Gonzalez's reporting uncovered a taxpayer boondoggle of more than $720 million in the CityTime contract.

His hard-hitting columns led to the federal indictments of four consultants and their relatives, and the resignation of the director of the city's office of payroll administration.

"It's a great honor, but best of all is the news that prosecutors seized $27 million from bank accounts of dummy companies tied to the fraud," Gonzalez said. "For once, taxpayers got some of their stolen money back."

It is the second time that Gonzalez, 62, has won the prestigious honor named after the CBS newsman killed in 1949 while covering the civil war in Greece. Long Island University bestows the annual award to honor the best in American journalism.

"All our judges agreed that his scoops and his doggedness were instrumental in bringing this scandal of waste to taxpayers' money to light," said John Darnton, curator of the George Polk Awards.

Gonzalez, who has worked at The News since 1987, began probing CityTime in 2009 after whistleblowers tipped him off to shenanigans dating back to 2004.

"We're grateful to Long Island University for recognizing Juan's pioneering work on this important story," said Daily News Editor-in-Chief Kevin R. Convey. "We're proud to have a colleague as hard-nosed, dogged and dedicated to justice as Juan is."

Gonzalez dug into that story and kept digging even as the city itself said "Oh, no, nothing's happening there, everything's fine."

Good to see that once in a while, old school journalism - the kind where the reporter DOESN'T listen to the elite powers that be and digs into a story despite what they say - still exists.

Congratulations, Mr. Gonzalez.

If you keep digging into that story or the related stories of no bid city contracts okayed by the Bloomberg administration, you might be able to send Mayor Moneybags where he belongs - into exile with Hosni Mubarak.