Comptroller Selection Presents Opportunity for Real Reform

January 18, 2007

In recent weeks, Alan Hevesi resigned from the position of state comptroller after pleading guilty to felony charges in connection to the misuse of a state worker as a personal aide to his wife. When there is a vacancy in a statewide elected office like comptroller, the state constitution gives the legislature the power to fill the position for the remainder of the term; in this case four years.

There are few times when the legislature exercises this duty and I welcome it as an opportunity for improvement. My colleagues in the Assembly Minority Conference and I have long advocated an agenda of transparency in government and reform of the legislative process. I am pleased that the governor and legislative leaders agreed to create a bi-partisan ad-hoc panel of unelected individuals who are experts in the field of government finance. This is especially important because the comptroller is tasked with overseeing a staff of 2,400 public servants that are responsible for auditing state government as well as authorities and local municipalities to ensure there is no impropriety in the use of public funds. The comptroller is also responsible for managing the state’s $145 billion pension fund.

As soon as next week, the panel can begin to hold hearings and interview those interested in becoming our next state comptroller. By using this panel, some partisanship and political favoritism will be removed from the vetting process. Once members of the panel make their selections, they will present five candidates to the state legislature to choose from in a special joint session where both houses will vote as one body for our next state comptroller.

The next comptroller should be chosen for his/her qualifications, not partisan loyalties. I believe it is important to choose well-qualified candidates who have a strong understanding of government finance and the ability to effectively manage the state’s retirement fund. I am optimistic that this panel will present us with candidates who have a high level of professionalism, and are fully capable of monitoring New York’s multifaceted finances, as well as returning accountability and, most importantly, trust back to this public office.