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DC 37 hearing tackles city gov't 'waste' of federal funds

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 11/28/2011, 4:23 p.m.

The largest public employee union in the city pointed to City Hall's fiscal mismanagement as the reason for the looming New York City deficit during a recent hearing.

DC 37 President Lillian Roberts was joined by city, state and federal officials-along with economists-for a hearing whose goal was to detail how the Michael Bloomberg administration has mismanaged funds received from the federal government.

Roberts didn't waste time in launching into Bloomberg. "We are concerned because for eight years we have sounded the alarm as the city continued to squander millions of taxpayers' money by contracting out the work of civil servants to unaccountable contractors and consultants," she said. "This practice wastes vast sums of money during a time in which the city has adopted a job-killing austerity budget that is taking money out of the economy right when the government should be promoting economic growth."

"The city claims it cannot afford to maintain our benefits and increase our wages. But it routinely includes automatic annual increases of 2.5 percent to 5 percent for contractors to cover inflation," Roberts said.

According to Roberts, contractors bill the city up to $475 an hour for computer consultants and said DC 37 members could do the same job for less than $100 including benefits. Roberts made a reference to the recent layoffs of 642 school support employees. Roberts said those employees' salaries ranged between $14,000 and $18,000. Roberts blamed the outsourcing of work for city job loss.

"This farming out of city work has occurred as the administration has cut 10,000 jobs since 2005," said Roberts. "This is particularly tragic because the civil service system and the public sector have historically been the path to the middle class for immigrants, minorities and women."

Roberts cited the CityTime debacle as an example of money better spent on New Yorkers. CityTime was a project designed to automate the payroll for the city employees. The job was contracted out to Science Applications International Corp., where the budget went from $63 million to $700 million in a 12-year span. Over 20 people from the corporation have been federally indicted for the theft of $80 million. According to Roberts, two others fled the country with an additional $483 million.

"Earlier this month, I wrote Mayor Bloomberg to request that the city recall our 642 members who were fired in October as the city succeeds in recovering the $600 million CityTime money, as well as any other money recovered from contract fraud," said Roberts.

New York City Council Members Letitia James and Darlene Mealy as well as U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Edolphus Towns were on hand to show support for the hearing, and they all spoke, but James Parrott, deputy director and chief economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute (and former member of the David Dinkins administration), let those in attendance know who exactly is benefiting during the alleged economic recovery.

"Two years into the recovery from the Great Recession of 2008-2009, 1.4 million, or one in every seven workers in New York, is unemployed, underemployed or has given up looking for work," said Parrott. "While there has been improvement in some economic indicators for New York State, job growth has been too weak to put a meaningful dent in the continuing unemployment crisis." According to Parrott, the number of underemployed has risen despite the so-called recovery.