Why I defied the screening panel

By Deborah J. Glick

As we have seen clearly at the federal level, the vision of a unitary executive is a dangerous proposition. But regardless of the level of government or party affiliation of its branches, the retention of a strong legislative branch is an essential protection for the public, serving as a check and balance to the all-powerful chief executive. The New York State Constitution thus assigns the Legislature exclusive responsibility for filling a comptroller vacancy, since the comptroller is charged with overseeing the state entities controlled by the executive.

Still, the Legislature attempted to cooperate with the governor by agreeing to have a panel of three former comptrollers participate in candidate screening hearings, then present us with what we understood would be five candidates from which we’d choose the comptroller. Over the course of the two-day, 17-hour hearings which I had the privilege of participating in as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, legislators questioned every candidate. However, the panel did not ask a single question, which made me suspect that the panel had committed to a predetermined outcome. This feeling deepened when the former comptrollers put forth only three names for consideration and maintained that no state legislator was qualified for the job — a puzzling proposition given that two of these comptrollers were previously state legislators.

I strongly believed in the end that since the process used by the screening panel was not open and honest and that their actions broke our agreement, it was completely appropriate that, consistent with the state constitution, the Legislature selected the best comptroller without the executive’s involvement. While the recommended individuals had many qualifications, they each lacked an in-depth understanding of the workings of state government, which is crucial to doing the necessary oversight that is the comptroller’s principal task.

I have no question that by voting to select Assemblymember Tom DiNapoli, I have done what is right and best for my constituents — just as I have always done throughout my Assembly career. For years, I have worked closely with Tom and greatly respect his intelligence, integrity and fairness and believe that his progressive views mirror my own and those of my constituents. A member of the Ways and Means Committee and former chair of the local government and government operations committees, Tom is highly knowledgeable about the workings and finances of state and local government and agencies. Given his membership on the education and environment committees and his local school board, Tom has been committed to addressing these issues of great importance to my constituents. Finally, Tom’s good judgment makes me certain that he will assemble a highly-skilled team of financial experts to help guide the work of his office.

I was not elected to defer to anyone else’s judgment but to use my own to best serve my constituents. I believe I did just that when I voted to support Tom DiNapoli for comptroller.

Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick is assemblymember for the 66th District, which includes Tribeca, Hudson Square, Soho, the Village and parts of Battery Park City and the Financial District.