Mayor Bill de Blasio should practice what he preaches by scrapping the coronavirus emergency powers he invoked last year to fast-track billions of dollars in spending that “circumvented” oversight, city Comptroller Scott Stringer said Wednesday.
Stringer said he agreed with de Blasio about revoking embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency pandemic powers and restoring local control over decision-making.
The state Legislature has agreed to strip some of Cuomo’s emergency powers amid sexual harassment and nursing home scandals engulfing the governor.
But Stringer said the same holds true for the mayor — who used emergency executive orders to “circumvent” the comptroller’s constitutional oversight duties while authorizing $5.2 billion in spending on 1,238 pandemic-related contracts.
Stringer claimed de Blasio will look like a hypocrite if he doesn’t restore the comptroller’s review over spending projects.
“I am writing today to urge you to finally rescind Emergency Executive Order (‘E.E.O.’) 101, Section 2, which has suspended laws and regulations related to procurement in New York City since March 17, 2020,” Stringer said in a letter to de Blasio.
Stringer, who is running to replace the term-limited mayor, noted that he wrote de Blasio on Aug. 25 and again on Oct. 21 of last year to raise objections about “circumventing” the comptroller’s mandated oversight role of approving and registering contracts under the city charter.
Stringer complained that “millions” of dollars have been squandered amid a lack of oversight.
De Blasio spokesman Avery Cohen responded, “Emergency contracts help stand up vaccine sites. They are why we were able to build a massive testing apparatus with zero assistance from the federal government. And under COVID emergency procurement, the Comptroller receives the same information about all of our contracts as he normally would.
“We can’t allow the Comptroller’s Mayoral ambitions to interfere with our pandemic response — even when he’s sliding in the polls.”
The Post reported last year that de Blasio donor Charles Tebele, whose Digital Gadgets company sells computer accessories, failed to deliver a $91 million city contract for N95 masks and ventilators in March at the start of the pandemic.
And in April, city officials awarded a $14 million no-bid contract for the delivery of food aid to the head of a Connecticut hauling company who’d pleaded guilty just weeks earlier to attempted tax felony, the Wall Street Journal reported at the time.
“This weekend you stated that ‘[t]he State legislature must immediately revoke the Governor’s emergency powers that overrule local control.’ I could not agree with you more,” Stringer said in the letter.
“I was heartened to see you taking a hard stance on the overreach of executive power and believe that it is long past time to apply this same principle to your own administration by rescinding E.E.O. 101, Section 2.”
Stringer said the city administration entered into 1,238 contracts totaling $5.2 billion — with $2.74 billion spent to date.
“It is shocking that over $5 billion of City funds have already been committed without the Charter-mandated oversight of this office. Furthermore, this office has been made aware of vendor integrity, partial or complete non-performance; and the overextending, overpaying and over-purchasing in emergency contracting that has resulted in millions of taxpayer dollars being lost,” the comptroller said.
“I did not agree with your decision to invoke E.E.O. 101, Section 2, but I understood the need to act swiftly to procure necessary life-saving goods and services in the earliest days of the pandemic. However, as we approach the one-year mark of the suspension of the checks and balances that govern our City’s emergency procurement process, the Executive can no longer use the pandemic as a shield to circumvent the independent oversight enshrined in long-standing statutes and rules,” Stringer said.
“I therefore urge you to heed your own call and rescind E.E.O. 101, Section 2 without further delay. To do otherwise would not only be hypocritical, but would continue to deprive taxpayers of the fiscal oversight guaranteed to them by the New York City Charter.”
De Blasio again on Wednesday complained that Cuomo controls who is eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccines and the distribution of doses.
“The more local control we get, the more equity we can provide,” the mayor said during his daily briefing.