In an editorial today, Mr. Conners’ outrageous idea, the Times-Union pointedly says that the County Comptroller should not be given subpoena power. They are correct. Very.
Much of the TU’s reasoning is based on Conners’ release of personal information earlier this year, which included Social Security Numbers. After that debacle, I wrote, Conners Knew His Staff Abused IT System Privileges Long Before Social Security Number Release. This was not a one-time accident. It was indicative of carelessness, at best, and perhaps worse. In any case, a pattern of repeated administrative failures is an argument for reduced latitude, not more.
Conners is charming and glib, but he doesn’t do his homework and he’s dangerously careless. Worst of all, especially given the size of his staff, he doesn’t do many audits and the ones he does usually fail to meet any kind of professional standard. Rather than mastering program and operational rules and standards of good practice and systematically measuring actual performance against those rules and standards, he relies on people with gripes and on fishing expeditions. Giving him subpoena power would just reinforce that behavior.
There’s a timely case in point: The Times-Union also had a story today on Project Strive, a local social welfare agency, headed by the Town of Guilderland’s Democratic Chairman. Strive’s entire budget comes from Albany County and it’s been troubled for several years.
Perhaps Strive should be investigated closely; perhaps not. But what’s relevant here is that Conners promised and began an audit in 2010. Before he began the audit, he promised a legislative committee in an open meeting that his audit would generate savings that they could use in the County budget. What kind of professional auditor pre-judges the results of an audit to the point that he promises concrete financial savings? By the way, has anyone seen the audit?
The Albany County Comptroller does not need more legal authority. Less would be more appropriate.