If you’re like a lot of people, you think that the City Comptroller is essentially an auditor, a bureaucratic nerd whose work has little relevance to your daily life. You’re right, but only partially. It’s true the Comptroller is an auditor, and he or she may be a bureaucrat and a nerd, but no other elected official has a greater influence on your economic well-being and on social issues that matter most to you and your family. And no one else in City government has greater potential to determine whether our city thrives or collapses.
The power of auditors in general has always been hugely underrated. During Prohibition, law enforcement and local government used all their resources in a desperate effort to stop the notorious gangster Al Capone. They failed. Finally, a single auditor leading a team of investigators put him away, and in doing so brought organized crime to its knees. Enron, a major U.S. corporation with a $60 billion market capitalization in 2000, was effectively closed down by government auditors who uncovered their massive fraud. Those are famous examples of the value of having capable, honest auditors. On the other hand, the reason Enron was able to perpetuate this massive fraud was the complicity of their independent auditors. That’s an example of the risk of having incompetent, corrupt auditors.
The Comptroller is the chief auditor and chief financial officer of NYC, and as such, is the ultimate protector of its people. He or she is responsible for making sure that all municipal agencies operate properly and efficiently within their budgets. We rely on the Comptroller to safeguard the City’s solvency and liquidity, to eliminate wasteful spending and to combat fraud and abuse in local government.
The Comptroller is responsible for ensuring cost-effective completion of local projects and the provision of essential services to all residents, regardless of immigration status, including education and law enforcement. City employees depend on the Comptroller to make sure they are paid fairly and on time. All those who work in NYC expect the Comptroller to vigorously enforce prevailing wage and living wage laws.
The financial security of almost all past and present city employees and their families is in the hands of the Comptroller, who serves as a fiduciary to the city’s five pension funds with nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars in assets. In that capacity, the Comptroller has a legal obligation to ensure that these funds generate the highest possible return, consistent with a prudent degree of risk. In order to achieve this goal, it’s imperative that the Comptroller have extensive and recent experience as a professional investment adviser and money manager. For their future financial security, voters need to select a candidate with this essential background. You also must be careful to avoid any candidate who might seek to use your investment portfolio to advance their own social agenda, which has become a disturbing trend of late.
To raise capital required for the City to function smoothly, the Comptroller is given the authority to market and sell municipal bonds. He or she also makes recommendations on all proposed city contracts and resolves claims both against and on behalf the City.
The Comptroller is personally accountable to everyone who lives and works in NYC in connection with all of these vital responsibilities. Of course, he or she isn’t expected to handle this work alone. In fact, the Comptroller heads a staff of over 800 skilled employees, including attorneys, economists, analysts, engineers, IT experts and others with specialized skills. So you can to the list of this executive’s vital responsibilities, being an effective leader and manager.
It should be clear that the policies and actions of the Comptroller influence every aspect of your daily lives, as well as the future of this great City. Electing a new Comptroller in 2021 is a very serious decision, and every voter should invest some time to closely examine the qualifications, character, philosophy and track record of the candidates for this office.
Here’s perhaps the most important fact for each voter to bear in mind – by statute, the job of NYC Comptroller is an independent elected official. That means the candidates’ political party should have no bearing on your choice to fill that position. Comptroller of NYC is one of the rare elected offices where political considerations are irrelevant. It’s all about selecting the candidate most qualified to earn your trust.