Every state in the U.S. — including New York — has an elected comptroller with a large professional staff of auditors and accountants. The Comptrollers job is to make sure that the governor and state agencies are spending tax dollars according to what the budget says, and that those funds are not stolen or wasted. Comptrollers are also supposed to make sure that state contracts are awarded using a fair and competitive process. Basically, the comptroller is elected to keep an eye on how public funds are spent. Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo has adopted a deliberate strategy of undermining the Comptroller’s power and making personal attacks on the Comptroller for doing his job. This article in Gotham Gazette does a good job highlighting our concerns.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent assertion that Comptroller Tom DiNapoli should “educate himself” and that the comptroller’s audits on state economic development projects are “dead wrong” and “opinion” drew a lot of attention. Many Albany observers took it as a sign of Cuomo’s growing sensitivity to criticism about his signature projects.
Those projects, like the Buffalo Billion, are the subject of a federal investigation headed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The state Legislature remained fairly removed from oversight of the projects until very recently. However, several government watchdogs say that Cuomo’s attacks on DiNapoli are part of a long-running pattern of Cuomo trying to weaken the comptroller’s oversight of the executive branch.
“The governor hates oversight and the governor actively works to undermine and weaken anyone who is keeping an eye on him,” said John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany, a group that has closely followed the Buffalo Billion economic development project. Kaehny noted that Cuomo and the Legislature approved a measure in 2011 that prevented DiNapoli from reviewing contracts at SUNY and CUNY ahead of time. “The governor has been undermining the comptroller from his first budget,” said Kaehny of Cuomo, who took office in January 2011.