Big day yesterday in Bloomberg Land: First there’s the $80 million computer ripoff right under the mayor’s nose. If you thought that might have been embarrassing, you thought wrong. The mayor’s soon-to-be-world’s-largest-media-company also chose yesterday to announce that it will start publishing editorials on all its many platforms promoting its founder’s ideas about the way the world should work. They even came up with a great and original name for it: “Bloomberg View.”The Times quotes Matt Winkler, co-author of the fine volume,”Bloomberg by Bloomberg” and editor in chief of Bloomberg News saying that editorials will of course “be consistent with the values and beliefs of the founder.”
But why stop there? Why not have Founders Day sales like P.C. Richards does every year?
The Times‘s Jeremy Peters notes that this presents a “host of conflict of interest questions for the mayor” who is not supposed to be running his company while running the city.
Not a problem, says Bloomberg City Hall spokesman Stu Loeser. “Weighing in from time to time is consistent with his being the majority shareholder of the company he founded,” Loeser told the Times.
Maybe the first Bloomie-torial will deal with how to keep con artists away from the computer consulting business. The bigger story yesterday was how the Mayor-Who-Brings-Business-Know-How-To-The-Table got hoodwinked to the tune of $80 million by a crew of sharpsters.
The money was ripped off from the CityTime project, which ought to be right in the computer billionaire’s sweet spot: A computerized system to keep better track of city workers’ payroll and time sheets. It was supposed to cost $63 million. The tally is now well north of $600 million and counting, with much of the work still uncompleted.
Let’s let Juan Gonzalez, the Daily News columnist who has been beating the drum about fraud in the CityTime program for over a year, ask the question:
“How did a cutting-edge payroll system meant to eliminate fraud and waste by public employees become what prosecutors say is a nest of even bigger fraud, waste and money laundering by private contractors?”
City union officials — whose members are being laid off for budget cuts — have also been screaming about the huge cost overruns in the project for years. Here’s Lillian Roberts of District Council 37:
“CityTime may have become the poster child for abusive outside contracts, but we believe it is merely the tip of the iceberg and an outrageous example of the greed and corruption that are the result of an unregulated procurement process.”
The mayor painted himself yesterday as a victim. “The issue is that here we had somebody that we trusted, or one of our contractors trusted, and that trust was misplaced,” he told reporters. “And we just have no tolerance for this whatsoever.”
Well, actually, the city was pretty darn tolerant until this June, according to the arrest complaint filed yesterday in federal court. That’s when an insider at the city’s Office of Payroll Administration told city investigators that something wasn’t right. At that point, Gonzalez and the unions had been saying for over a year that the program was a morass of fraud. This makes the mayor a little slow to the starting gate, especially for someone who’s eager to tell the rest of us how to do run the world.