There’s a new system for vetting member items this year, according to an agreement between City Comptroller Bill Thompson and Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler [clarified].
In a letter dated today, Thompson’s says that going forward from now on, he will examine all member items worth at least $5,000 (previously it had to be worth $25,000). The mayor’s office of contracts will review member items under $5,000.
In the short run, this may make things less comfortable between Christine Quinn, who advocated for such oversight, and her members, who opposed it. In the long run, this affects the tools the speaker has at his or her disposal to curry favor with lawmakers.
Thompson’s letter also says that this fiscal year, all organizations that receive discretionary funding this fiscal year will be reviewed by the Department of Investigations “to ensure that the funds were not initially earmarked for phantom entities.”
Also this year, The D.O.I. will conduct a review of approximately 100 current contracts between city agencies and local nonprofits.
UPDATE: A number of people don’t see this as a major power shift away from the Council and towards the mayor and comptroller, as I did in an earlier version of this item. One administration official told me “We’ve always had these powers,” and that “We’re using our oversight authority to crack down” on malfeasance. Others who have been critical of earlier budgetary proposals, like Peter Vallone Jr., welcomed today’s news.
So did City Councilman John Liu. “It’s good the comptroller is beginning to look at this.” When asked about the budgetary reforms Quinn proposed earlier, Liu said, “The thing the council members had an objection to was the idea of allowing the executive branch to completely dictate where the funding would go.” Today’s announcement, he said were different. “The comptroller is stepping up to the plate. Maybe he should have done that earlier.”