Mayor Bloomberg today insisted most of the problem with his scandal-scarred CityTime payroll project was cost over-runs – not corruption.
“The biggest expense was that they started out by underestimating the complexity and cost of the project and then, as they went along, kept adding things. That’s the biggest chunk,” Bloomberg said this morning on his radio show.
He added: “But there was an unconscionable amount of fraud.”
His comments seemed to reject allegations from Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who blasted the CityTime project on Monday as “one of the largest and most brazen frauds ever committed against the City of New York.”
Bharara was, at the time, announcing yet another indictment of consultants connected with the computerized payroll project – Reddy and Padma Allen, a husband and wife who co-owned a subcontractor called TechnoDyne L.L.C. That brings the total number of indictments to 11 people and one company, TechnoDyne.
The indictment claims that “virtually the entirety of the more than $600 million that was paid to [the main contractor, Scientific Applications International Corporation] was tainted directly or indirectly by fraud.”
The scandal has tainted Bloomberg’s third term, but he has largely dismissed suggestions that he or his administration is at fault.
“The system is now up and working and it seems to be working,” Bloomberg said on the radio this morning. “There was an enormous amount of fraud. How much it really is, will be, and how much you can recover, you know, you won’t know.”
Wow - the Mayor of Accountability takes no accountability for the CityTime mess.
In fact, he doesn't even agree that it is a mess at all.
Sure, he acknowledges there was corruption and overruns that just couldn't be helped, but overall he thinks the project is just great.
Talk about a lack of accountability.
The U.S. attorney said the following about the CityTime project:
The CityTime project was "corrupted to its core."
The fraud was "epic in magnitude, duration and scope."
$600 million dollars of the money the city paid for the project was either directly or indirectly tainted by the criminality.
This crime one of the "most brazen frauds ever committed against New York City."
That's what the U.S. attorney working on the case said about the matter.
11 people have been indicted in the scheme so far.
The U.S. attorney promises more indictments to come.
In Bloomberg's world, this is nothing to blink at.
You see, these were private consultants from the private sector, not unionized employees from the public sector, so really, what's the matter if the project goes nine years over the time it was supposed to be completed and increases from the original $63 million pricetag to somewhere over $700 million dollars?
So what if the consultants working on CityTime extended the project by years in order to steal $600 million dollars?
So what if the company hired to work on the technology project stole $400 million and had no other major clients (in fact, probably wouldn't have existed if not for the CityTime money)?
In the words of another great manager of government projects, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, "Shit happens!"
Ah, but can you imagine if the $600 million dollars had been stolen by unionized and public employees?
Oy vey, Bloomberg would have been talking all the day long about how crooked the city employees are, what a disgrace the unions are, how everybody involved needs to go to jail, yadda yadda unions suck yadda...
Same goes for what the editorial boards at the tabloids - the Times, the Murdoch Street Journal, the Post and the News.
They NEVER would let this theft - the worst EVER committed against the City of New York - pass with nary a bad word about the crooks, the companies themselves that enabled this thievery or the system that so was so lacking in oversight that the crooks oversaw themselves.
And yet, because these are private consultants working for private companies, well, what can we do about it?
Shit happens, you know?
The double standard applied to this crime is emblematic of our times (as I noted in this earlier post here.)
But $600 million stolen dollars is STILL $600 million stolen dollars.
So here is what ought to happen in this case:
The mayor ought to be arrested himself for criminal negligence in this matter.
Certainly he ought to be called to account and made to publicly state how it was that the worst fraud in the history of New York City was committed on his watch and continued for years after a whistleblower alerted the city to the matter.
And he ought to NOT be allowed to lay off thousands of teachers and close senior centers and firehouses in order to save a few hundred million when he has not only allowed $600 million to be stolen by the private consultants but plans to spend another $900 million on private consultants and tech spending for the NYCDOE next year, a bonanza of corruption and fraud that should not be allowed to go forward without significant scrutiny by outside entities independent of the mayor.
The Mayor of Accountability needs to to be held accountable himself for the corruption in the CityTime case, as well as the DOE corruption that has already seen one outside consultant arrested for stealing $3.6 million and a top DOE official resign because the company she was overseeing was stealing money from the DOE (even as she was sleeping with one of the owners.)
And these are just the crimes that have been revealed so far under Bloomberg's watch.
Remember, Bloomberg doesn't have to give a lot of details about how he spends money in capital projects, so who knows how much money the crooked consultants are getting away with in the no-bid contracts they've been handed by Bloomberg.
It is time for Bloomberg to go.
Time to go, old man.
Bermuda is calling.
And so is Sing Sing.
Enough is enough.