Should almost 20-year-career city hall politician Maureen Walker run for mayor again?
Maureen Walker an 18-year fixture in Mount Vernon politics and city hall has announced that she will be making another run for mayor. In our first of a series of Point / Counterpoint features, we have included Comptroller Walker’s unedited press release detailing her reasons for running and an opposing commentary.
By Maureen Walker
I have decided to seek the democratic nomination for Mayor of Mount Vernon at the upcoming primary elections to be held on September 13, 2011. As the City Comptroller, I have made the resources of the Comptroller’s Office readily accessible to all residents and businesses. I have also brought efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness to my office resulting in an extended and unprecedented period of financial stability to the City of Mount Vernon. However, this financial stability has, unfortunately, not transcribed into the advancement of our city and its residents from a quality of life perspective. It appears that our city is the victim of partisan politics which has resulted in a leadership vacuum and a decline in our quality of life.
The City of Mount Vernon is now standing at the crossroads between crisis and hope, between economic decline and advancement opportunities, between past failures and future prosperity. We must make wise choices if we are to steer our city out of the dangerous riptide it has been led into. Restoring pride in our city, providing our residents with the services they deserve and continuing to place people above politics will be my primary objectives.
Mount Vernon needs bold, innovative and capable leadership. Leaders who are not influenced by special interest groups; leaders who are not afraid to make the tough decisions needed; leaders who will place the best interest of the city above politics. I represent that leadership. I am duly qualified and experienced and possess the independence, strength and know-how to chart our city into a brighter tomorrow. I am asking our residents to join me and together we can make our city government more professional, more efficient, more responsive and more accessible to our residents and businesses.
Maureen Walker, CPA, MBA, BSc (Hons.)
In her announcement last month that she was seeking the Democratic nomination in this year’s mayoral race, Comptroller Maureen Walker mentioned leadership, financial stability, effectiveness and efficiency among the virtues that qualify her for the elected position as this city’s Chief Executive Officer.
While these qualities may look good on paper, a simple examination of her performance as city Comptroller proves these claims to ring as hollow as her self-proclaimed status as Mount Vernon’s “financial watchdog”. Perhaps the most damning case against Walker is her inability to safeguard the taxpayers’ finances in the embarrassing cases of fraud and corruption that occurred during the previous mayoral administration.
It was Walker’s signature as Treasurer of the Urban Renewal Agency that appeared on the checks made payable to Micros Only in the Gerrie Post/Wayne Charles scandal that resulted in federal convictions of the former Planning Commissioner and her alleged boyfriend. Her signature also appeared on city checks made payable to A&D Carting, who bilked the city out of $1.25 million. This case resulted in the conviction of Albert “Allie Boy” Tranquillo III, a reputed Genovese crime family associate whose family owned A&D Carting, and James Castaldo, a former city DPW supervisor. Walker, who frequently refers to herself as the city’s Chief Financial Officer, had no controls in place to root out this corruption which had been years in the making.
The above cases, along with the HUD Section 8 fiasco that resulted in the city being stripped of its administration of the housing program, represent three embarrassing high-profile cases of fraud and corruption that happened under the watch of Walker and the previous mayoral administration. Yet, Walker through her allies on the City Council, continues her relentless attack on the Office of the Inspector General which, staffed and funded beginning in 2008, is the one city agency responsible for deterring fraud, waste and corruption. It was Inspector General Harry Stokes who worked with federal authorities during the prosecution and sentencing phases of these cases to recoup monies lost and reduce, the federal fine resulting from the HUD Section 8 debacle. Why does Walker fear the Inspector General so much?
While the Comptroller is paid a handsome $128,000 per year salary, she regularly takes time off from her work day to travel to New Rochelle to teach accounting courses at Iona College. Most semesters, she teaches two courses which require her to spend half days, three times a week, away from her taxpayer funded Comptroller position. That’s right, at the same time she is being paid to work as Comptroller, she is also earning another salary working for Iona College.
Homeowners may have noticed that the 2010 school tax bills were mailed out three weeks late. This was wholly due to the fact that the Comptroller’s staff - two Chief Accountant’s earning $132,000 and $128,000 respectively, two Senior Accountants earning $88,000 each and a First Deputy earning $91,000 – were all incapable of calculating the school taxes. They finally were forced to turn to the Assessor’s Office for the necessary expertise in order to get the tax bills out.
So let’s take a look at what we have. We have candidate for Mayor who is essentially a part-time Comptroller who works a second job during the workday while the taxpayers pay her city salary. We have a “Chief Financial Officer” who did nothing but sign the checks as millions of taxpayer dollars flew out the door and we have the head of a Finance Department that is unable to calculate school tax bills. Sadly, this “watchdog” has been caught sleeping far too often. If Walker is not capable of doing the job as Comptroller, what could Mount Vernon expect from her as Mayor?