DiNapoli pick a bad sign for state reform

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Did anyone notice the recent announcement by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli that he was appointing his old friend, former Manhattan Democratic state Assembly member Pete Grannis as the states first deputy comptroller?

To avoid significant media coverage or scrutiny, the announcement took place last Friday afternoon on New Years Eve. The Albany based press corps was nowhere to found during that time period.

Just what credentials will the new First Deputy state Comptroller Pete Grannis bring to the second most important post in comptroller DiNapoli’s office?

Grannis served in the state Assembly from 1974 until stepping down in January 2007 to become head of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. While in the Assembly, he served side by side with then Assemblymember Tom DiNapoli.

Grannis also served as chair of the state Assembly Insurance Committee.

Both DiNapoli and Grannis faithfully served a number of state Assembly speakers including most recently Speaker Sheldon Silver.

In return, they got to keep their respective committee chair positions and accompanying lulus, bushel full of member item pork barrel projects, passage of pet legislation along with ample funding for numerous taxpayer sponsored mailings to district residents. By coincidence, Grannis was one of 18 other candidates who offered their services when another old colleague — former state Assembly Member and state Comptroller Alan Hevisi had to resign from office due to his own scandals. Interesting how Hevisi, DiNapoli, Grannis, Silver and colleagues flock together.

Speaker Silver placed DiNapoli in office when filling Hevisi’s vacancy. This was accomplished by a vote of the 212 members of the state Legislature — 108 of which were Silver’s fellow Democratic Assembly members rather than the voters in a special election.

Silver will now have another alumni serving as number two in the comptrollers office. Will Grannis give up his lucrative future pensions as a former state Assembly member and Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner? Will he qualify and accept yet another potential third state pension for his role as first deputy comptroller?

There were many other options available to DiNapoli besides Grannis. Why did he not consider the current New York City Comptroller John Liu, former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson or former New York City Finance Committee Chairperson David Weprin who aspired to be New York City Comptroller?

What about any comptroller from the cities of Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers or any other city? What about a comptroller from one of the states 57 counties outside of New York City?

How about a finance officer or comptroller from any one of thousands of businesses or corporations based in New York? Any one from the above would have a better financial background and experience than Grannis.

DiNapoli talks the talk about reforming the Office of State Comptroller and bringing in expert independent staff.

With his selection of Grannis, he doesn’t walk the walk. It appears to be politics as usual. The only one smiling about DiNapoli’s appointment besides Grannis is Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Taxpayers, good government advocates and those serious about financial reform can only frown. They and the voters will have to wait until 2014 when DiNapoli stands for reelection to his first full four year term to seek a refund.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

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