UPDATED 11:15 AM WITH COMMENT FROM WEPRIN
The race for Anthony Weiner’s congressional seat is getting ugly, with Republican Bob Turner rehashing the 2008 controversy over the City Council’s creative bookkeeping that allowed millions to go to fictional organizations that later went to projects in members’ districts. The issue is bound to haunt Speaker Christine Quinn in her expected bid for mayor.
Turner, a second-time candidate who has never held elected office, believes Democrat David Weprin shares some of the blame as finance chair of the Council at the time. “Does he really expect the public to believe he knew nothing about the Council’s finances?” In a press release, Turner accuses Weprin, now an Assemblyman, of blaming staff members for the bookkeeping.
In a phone interview Wednesday Weprin said the controversy involved “a very small amount of money in a very large process of 40 to 50 billion dollars. This money was in a holding pattern for members to be distributed later. It predated my being in the Council.” He said the Council finance staff was independent and did not report to him directly, and that the system was overhauled during his tenure to make the funding more transparent and members more accountable.
“My public record was scrutinized when I ran for comptroller and there has never been an implication or allegation that I ever abused my money,” he said. This is my opponent fishing and I resent the innuendo, trying to paint me with a broad brush.”
We ran the issue past Henry Stern of the good government group New York Civic. He’s also a former councilman.
“It’s certainly not clear that he knew about it,” said Stern, who was elected on the Liberal Party ballot. “I don’t think you can hold him accountable for that. It probably was done by staff.” Stern said the practice of designated fake organizations was likely intended to preserve funding for use later in the budget year so a member didn’t have to spend “the whole basket at once.” While deceptive, Stern said “no blood, no foul.”
Turner is also hitting Weprin as “a career politician” who has run for Council, city comptroller, Assembly and now Congress within the past 10 years.