Endorsement: DiNapoli serves New Yorkers well as comptroller

The Editorial Board

The Post-Star

Nov 2, 2018

The state Comptroller’s Office landed on the front page in the mid-2000s, when Alan Hevesi got in trouble for using state resources and employees to drive around and help out his wife, who was sick. Otherwise, the comptroller’s office has usually stayed in the background of state politics, surfacing now and then with a critical local audit or analysis of the state budget.

Thomas DiNapoli, who now has more than a decade of experience as comptroller, has been skillful at keeping in the background while running an efficient and effective office. He hasn’t pushed himself forward the way some of our attorneys general (Andrew Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer, for example) have as they maneuvered to run for governor. Instead, he has focused on doing the important work of his office — overseeing the state pension fund and auditing municipal finances, including the state’s.

One board member started the conversation by describing incumbent Democratic Comptroller Tom DiNapoli as “brilliant.” “He knows his stuff, and he’s a consummate politician,” he said. Others agreed that DiNapoli impressed both with personal charm and an easy and expert grasp of the complexities of his job. Board members were also impressed by Green Party candidate Mark Dunlea, although they did not regard state pension fund divestment from fossil fuel companies as the priority that Dunlea does. The board never heard back from the Republican candidate, Jonathan Trichter. Trichter has argued he will be a check on the Cuomo administration, but DiNapoli has not been shy about criticizing state financial operations under Cuomo. The board felt DiNapoli deserves another term and voted for him 5-0, with two members absent.

Unfortunately, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made DiNapoli’s job more difficult by attacking him when his office released a critical audit of a state program and by removing some of his authority to review state contracts.

In 2011, in his first year in office, Cuomo persuaded the Legislature to approve a measure that removed SUNY and CUNY contracts from Comptroller’s Office review. That measure contributed to the corruption scandals that have turned out to be a hallmark of the Cuomo administration, because SUNY contracts were an integral element in those scandals.

Cuomo is a forceful politician, expert at twisting arms and getting his way. DiNapoli deserves credit for standing up to him over the years and calling out wastefulness and lack of proper oversight where he has spotted it.

The comptroller, like the attorney general, serves a critical role as a check on the authority of the governor, and that is particularly important when New York has a governor like Cuomo, with a penchant for arrogating power. One measure of DiNapoli’s success is the large amount of verbal abuse he has suffered over the years from Cuomo.

Mark Dunlea, the Green Party candidate for state comptroller, has an impressive resume. He served as the director of the New York Hunger Action Network and was a co-founder of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Dunlea advocates for divesting the state pension fund from fossil fuel companies. DiNapoli argues his first obligation is to safeguard the fund’s financial health. He also argues that he can influence companies like Exxon as a shareholder, but would lose that influence through divestment.

We do not regard fossil fuel companies as a clear-cut candidate for divestment, the way tobacco companies are (New York has already divested from tobacco companies), and we don’t see this as an issue that would decide our vote.

DiNapoli has been a good manager of the state’s money and a good financial watchdog, and has earned another term in office.

There is another candidate for comptroller — the Republican candidate, Jonathan Trichter, an investment banker and public finance analyst. He has run a subdued campaign, perhaps for lack of money. You would think a relatively unknown candidate like Trichter would have looked for any opportunity for free publicity, but despite several attempts by The Post-Star to reach him, we did not hear back.

DiNapoli took office in 2007, after Alan Hevesi was forced out by stories about his misuse of state resources. Since then, DiNapoli has been re-elected twice. His steady performance of his duties has earned him another term. Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rob Forcey, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran and citizen representatives Carol Merchant, Eric Mondschein and Barbara Sealy.