Comptroller Scott Stringer today called for more city agencies to use his office’s “ClaimStat” program to track suits filed against the city, which he said could save as much as $70 million a year.
Testifying before the City Council today on the city budget, Mr. Stringer argued that the city’s commissioners—all appointees of Mayor Bill de Blasio—should follow the lead of NYPD chief Bill Bratton in using the tool to see where lawsuits are cropping up and allocate resources to prevent future legal payouts. Modeled on Mr. Bratton’s own anti-crime ‘CompStat’ system, ClaimStat identifies what a particular lawsuit arises from and what the nature of the claim is.
“We use the example with the Parks Department of tree limbs falling, hurting people, the city has to pay out million-dollar claims, but there’s a correlation between the claim and the amount of money that’s been allocated for tree pruning,” he said. “So it’s no accident that tree pruning, that tree limb cases went up when the budget eliminated a million dollars for tree pruning.”
Mr. Stringer’s remarks were in response to Manhattan Councilman Corey Johnson’s inquiries about how the city was dealing with slip-and-fall suits from injuries sustained as a result of broken pavements in his district.
“ClaimStat is a tool for just these issues. So when an agency, when an agency sees claims for something that’s happened over and over again, the ClaimStat tool can show you, whether it’s Chelsea or East New York, where claims are coming from, if it relates to slip-and-falls, potholes, all those issues,” Mr. Stringer said.
The comptroller alleged that commissioners have little incentive to use the tool because legal claims do not come out of their agency budgets, but out of the general fund—and specifically, out of a $700 million reserve Mr. Stringer has set aside for dealing with lawsuits. He argued that the Council must use hearings to pressure more agencies into using ClaimStat.
“We’ve got to move the agencies to recognize that part of their responsibility is reducing claims in their agency,” he said. “We should look at the ClaimStat as a way of saying ‘you know, in our budget priorities, maybe we should spend more money in this area related to those claims.”
Effective use of the system could slash annual losses to lawsuits by as much as 10 percent, he claimed.
“There’s $70 million that could go toward education or housing or the environment,” he said.
Asked after the hearing if he had broached the issue with the mayor, Mr. Stringer told the Observer “we address everything with our partners in government.” Mr. de Blasio’s office indicated it was open to embracing ClaimStat, and noted it had opened a new unit aimed at more efficiently handling claims against the NYPD and that it had increased the outlay for tree pruning.
“We welcome all ideas to make the City more effective and better able to serve its citizens,” said spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick.
Updated to include comment from Mr. de Blasio’s office.