By Kismet Barksdale
December 17, 2010
Many of the City’s top labor leaders turned out for an impromptu City Hall press conference on the same day that news reports surfaced of federal criminal charges against subcontractors working on the City’s computerized payroll system, called CityTime. The CityTime program – at a cost to taxpayers of over $700 million and counting – was originally supposed to cost $63 million and be finished by 2004. For over five years, unions – beginning with Local 375 of DC 37 – have complained that it was a money pit as well as a system for tracking workers that undermined personal privacy. But union complaints and four City Council hearings didn’t change Mayor Bloomberg’s mind about keeping the project on course – until today.
Just hours after the labor press conference reacting to U.S. District Attorney Preet Bharara’s announcement of criminal charges against six CityTime contractors and relatives for stealing $80 million, the Mayor and Comptroller issued press releases announcing that OPA Executive Director Joel Bondy, who has championed the program for years, has been suspended indefinitely without pay from his position. CityTime is overseen by the Office of Payroll Administration, which is under the joint authority of the Mayor and the Comptroller. Last summer, in the wake of continuing spiraling costs for CityTime, the two officials agreed to cut subsidies to the project and demand an accelerated schedule for completion. Their actions followed a Daily News expose which revealed the huge fees – payments of over $400,000 each for dozens of consultants – being garnered by subcontractors.
The charged parties, including Mark Mazer, Dmitry Aronshtein, Victor Natanzon, and Scott Berger – wasted no time retaining longtime mob lawyer Gerald Shargel, who was named by Judge Leo Glasser in 1991 as being “house counsel” to the Gambino crime family.
At today’s press conference, City Councilwoman Leticia James, who led the charge by lawmakers for greater accountability from CityTime as Chair of the Contracts Committee, called for Bondy to be jailed. Municipal Labor Committee Chair Harry Nespoli demanded more accountability from contractors and more involvement from unionized workers. Behrouz Fathi, President of Local 375 which led labor’s charge against the program, called CityTime “a waste of $800 million in money to farm out a job that should have gone to public workers.” Also on hand speaking out against contractor ripoffs were DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, and Steven Cassidy of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.