City Comptroller Brad Lander said Monday that his office is considering ending a policy that has allowed the Adams’ administration to enter into emergency contracts with entities that provide shelter and other services to migrants without prior approval.
Lander enacted the policy in July 2022, permitting the administration to use the “emergency procurement method” for obtaining migrant services without each contract having to be reviewed by his office and the city Law Department — making it a far speedier process. However, he made it clear Monday that prior approval isn’t a “blank check” and doesn’t prevent his office from applying more scrutiny to selected vendors.
“We’re considering whether to narrow or revoke that blanket prior approval and go back to the situation that normally pertains, which is any agency can submit a request to us to utilize emergency procurement and we will consider granting prior approval for that specific contract and the Law Department will do the same,” Lander told reporters at a Manhattan press conference on Sept. 18.
“Again, we’re not announcing that we’re doing that today, but we’re taking a look at it,” he added.
Prior approval allows the city to circumvent processes that are normally in place when selecting contractors, such as competitive bidding, so it can quickly spend large sums of money in response to an emergency.
But normally, each city agency seeking prior approval would have to get the sign-off of both the comptroller’s office and the Law Department for each contract they want to use emergency procurement for. The blanket prior approval granted by both offices last year has allowed agencies to skip that step for contracts related to the migrant crisis.
The comptroller also unveiled a “live audit” looking at the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) “oversight” of the operations and invoices incurred by its contract with medical services company DocGo Inc. to administer migrant services. He informed HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. of the audit in a letter sent Friday Sept. 15.
An HPD spokesperson said the agency is cooperating with the audit request.
HPD entered into the contract with DocGo as the city continues scrambling to house tens of thousands of recently arrived migrants.
Both moves come after Lander’s office rejected the city’s $432 million no-bid contract with DocGo earlier this month over questions of how the company was selected and whether it had the proper experience to provide the services it was contracted for. Lander’s rejection of the contract also cited reports of the company “mistreating or misleading asylum seekers, failing to properly respond to reported assault incidents, and inadequate service provision.”
The scandal-ridden company’s CEO, Anthony Capone, abruptly resigned on Friday following reports that he falsely claimed to have a graduate degree from Clarkson University.
The city decided to move forward with the contract over Lander’s objections, a power afforded to it by the City Charter.
Lander said the issues his office identified with the DocGo contract, which is mostly for the company’s provision of migrant shelters and services at upstate hotels, “illustrates” that the prior approval may be “too broad.”
“What we were imagining a year ago was a shelter contract for a hotel in New York City of the kind that we have a lot of and it’s easy for our team to say, ‘yes, you can move forward quickly, to enter into that contract and count on us to file it in the system when it comes,’” Lander said. “If you do something far beyond what’s standard, that’s gonna take more review. And in this case, because of the blanket prior approval, it didn’t get it, they were able to move it through.”
The comptroller also noted that when his office granted the waiver last year, the migrant crisis was an “unexpected situation,” that required the suspension of standard practices around vetting contractors. But, 18 months later, that’s no longer the case.
Lander’s statements received a less than warm reception from City Hall. Mayoral spokesperson Charles Lutvak, in a statement to amNewYork Metro, said the comptroller is playing politics and that his decision would force migrants to sleep on the streets due to a slowdown in the approval of contracts.
“If the comptroller decides to put politics over the welfare of people seeking asylum and declare this crisis no longer an emergency, asylum seekers will have to sleep on the street while they wait for the comptroller to approve city contracts,” Lutvak said. “We will continue to hold our contractors to the highest standards for providing care and services.”