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Councilman Garodnick Wants to 'Reset' City Comptroller's Office

Tuesday, April 03, 2012 - 03:52 PM

Standing on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday, City Councilman Dan Garodnick of the Upper East Side spoke with reporters about his recently launched campaign for city comptroller. Very recently launched, in fact: an announcement shortly after 6 a.m. that morning had officially kicked off what observers had anticipated for months.

Timing, it is said, is everything, and Councilman Garodnick’s timing is particularly attuned to the troubles suffered by the person currently holding the job, Comptroller John Liu.

“The comptroller’s office needs a reset,” Garodnick stated during his city hall press conference. He went on to say “the distractions over there” in the comptroller’s office had kept important issues like pension reform and audits from being seen through a political prism.

“That’s not fair to New York City taxpayers,” he said.

Since a fundraiser for Liu’s campaign was arrested last fall, serious doubts have been raised about the potential for Liu to run next year for the office he wants, which is mayor. After his campaign treasurer, Jenny Hou, was accused of trying to skirt campaign finance rules, some wondered if Liu would even be able to keep his job as comptroller.

Garodnick’s decision confirms the belief that at least he and those around him see Liu as mortally wounded, politically.

“It's a vote of no confidence from Garodnick, that's for sure,” said CUNY political science professor John Mollenkopf.

In particular, observers say, the possibility—some think inevitability—of another member of Liu’s team being arrested in the ongoing investigation is something Garodnick, who is casting himself as a kind of reformer, could be counting on.

“Garodnick wants to get out there in front of the inevitable Chung Seto indictment,” said one Democratic insider, referring to a top political adviser who has been in the New York Post’s crosshairs this week. “He's trying to carve out a territory as the clean-cut reform, against the backdrop where two of the last three comptrollers—either themselves or one of their close associates—have been indicted.”

Actually three out of the last four comptrollers—Elizabeth Holtzman, Alan Hevesi, Bill Thompson, and now John Liu—have come under some cloud of suspicion at one point or another, with Hevesi holding off until he was in the state comptroller’s office.

As it stands, Liu appears to remain fully committed to pursuing his goal of mayor. If the current comptroller remains out of the race to become the re-elected comptroller, there’s a good chance Garodnick and any of the other candidates likely to join the race in the future will find plenty of fodder in Liu’s current and, possibly, future political troubles to use in their announcement speeches.

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