Some Senate Dems Now Calling for Stimulus Transparency

ALBANY—Several Democrats in the State Senate are today sending a letter to David Paterson, calling on him to create an independent auditor to monitor the distribution of stimulus funds–and putting them on the same side as good-government groups and Senate Republicans who have already urged more tranparency in the process.

"In the event additional federal stimulus funds become available, New York State must have in place a system that proves we have invested taxpayer money wisely," the letter, signed by State Senator Jose M. Serrano, reads. "At a time when the country once again faces economic hardship, seeking leadership and dynamism from the public sector, we believe New York is uniquely poised to become a model for accountable, vibrant and speedy revitalization."

Serrano told me yesterday that there has to be an opportunity to "drill the data" in one location to see how funds are being used and how wisely. "I think Governor Paterson has done a great job getting us the money, and we have a great opportunity to lead the nation in terms of openness and transparency."

This point was first raised by advocacy groups like Common Cause soon after the funds were announced. Last week, Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos held a press conference also calling for more transparency.

UPDATE: There are also 17 Assembly members who have signed on to the letter, including Michael Gianaris, who joined Serrano at a press conference this afternoon.

The governor's office sent along this letter, which was addressed to Susan Lerner of the advocacy group Common Cause by stimulus czar Tim Gilchrist. It details the efforts so far taken to ensure transparency, which Gilchrist says is high on Paterson's list of priorities.

Additionally, Erin Duggan, a Paterson spokeswoman, said the governor remains open to suggestions.