Billy's Boondoggle

The Comptroller's Payroll Becomes a Political Playground

Many on this list, like Castell and Brooks, are widely known for their governmental competence, while the hiring of others, such as Mosley, Echevarria, and Bader, appears crassly political. Incredibly, Mosley's financial disclosure forms list personal loans she made to Chris Jackson, a former Brooklyn district leader who has been the subject of an explosive Manhattan and Albany criminal probe, and to Tish James, Norman's candidate against City Councilman James Davis in 2001. Echevarria was closely associated with the unsuccessful council candidacy of Richie Perez, who was recently ordered to pay the Campaign Finance Board $72,132 for 2001 violations. As respected as Brooks is, his wife was law secretary to Gerald Garson, the judge now under indictment for taking videotaped bribes in his chambers, and the financing of her own judicial campaign has raised eyebrows.

When Thompson's office obtained a copy of the list of employees who might be included in this story, it notified everyone that they were not to answer Voice questions about their own political pedigrees. When the Voice wrote a letter seeking specifics about the listed individuals, a spokesman replied that we had "incorrectly identified" some employees as politically connected but named no one, insisting that staff is hired solely "on the basis of experience and qualifications."

While there is certainly nothing wrong or unusual about elected officials hiring campaign or clubhouse operatives, the abundance of them on Thompson's payroll is unmistakably newsworthy, especially at a time of fiscal austerity and in a professional office whose top duty is protecting the city's financial integrity. Thompson and his staff treat any press pursuit—whether the issue is patronage or the budget-balancing role of city unions—as if it is a breach of civility, so accustomed is he to patty-cake coverage. Yet he wants to be taken seriously, not only as a comptroller who runs an on-the-merits shop but as a potential mayoral candidate, either in 2005 or beyond. To merit that treatment, he'll have to shed the Brooklyn baggage or step forward to explain it.

Thompson (left) and Norman: Their alliance may prove an embarrassment should the comptroller run for mayor.
photo: Cary Conover
Thompson (left) and Norman: Their alliance may prove an embarrassment should the comptroller run for mayor.

Research assistance: Zoe Alsop, Michael Anstendig, Ross Goldberg, Phineas Lambert, Brittany Schaffer, and Jessica Silver-Greenberg

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