Councilman Eric Gioia grilled the city’s budget director about the slush fund scandal during a heated Council hearing in City Hall just now.
Gioia asked, pointedly, whose job is to make sure there are no phony organizations in the city budget and what guarantees exist to ensure there are no fake groups in this year’s budget.
The budget director, Mark Page, said at one point that he felt like he was “being grilled by a local prosecutor.” He added, “I’m not sure this is the forum for you to be asking me these questions.”
When pressed about whose job it was to catch the phony groups, Page said that his agency got a list from the City Council, implicitly laying the blame with the head of the City Council, Christine Quinn. (One of her top aides, Chuck Meara, was sitting in the front row in the City Council chambers during the hearing, taking note of the exchange.)
Page told Gioia, “Your question about assurance from me that there’s nothing fraudulent in the line items [of the budget], logistically, is — looking backwards — is a problem for me as to how to do it.”
“It’s a big budget. I get it,” Gioia said. “But my question to you is whose job is it to make sure fake organizations aren’t slipped in?”
“You know, where do we get the list from?” Page asked rhetorically, eliciting some laughter from the small crowd in the audience. “I just gave you the answer. Somebody is creating the list.”
Shortly afterwards, Robert Jackson called for a point of order, and asked Finance Committee Chairman David Weprin to stop Gioia’s line of questioning. Shortly afterwards, Gioia stopped.
The next questioner, Diana Reyna, began by saying that Gioia’s line of questioning “never receives the opportunity to take place.”
Gioia is planning to run for public advocate.