Will any elected city official push back against Mayor de Blasio’s latest nonprofit boondoggle, the purchase of a campaign donor’s failing school bus company?
Monday evening, eight members of the city’s Panel for Education Priorities voted to OK a five-year, $890 million contract with a newly created city-owned nonprofit, NYCSBUS, that has zero experience with the work in question, transporting special-needs schoolchildren. Five members abstained — an unusually high number for the PEP.
The NYCSBUS board (controlled by Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza) the next night voted to buy out Reliant Transportation, which had been providing the special-needs transport — and whose owner gave $100,000 to one of de Blasio’s political schemes a few years back.
Reliant actually paid the city $2 million in the sale, because the firm’s $18 million in admitted liabilities exceed its $16 million in assets. How likely is it that the seller got the better of the deal — and why not just let some other school-bus company buy it out?
Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokesperson for city Comptroller Scott Stringer, says Stringer “will scrutinize this contract when we receive it to ensure accountability, fiscal responsibility and the safe transportation of our children to and from school.” But she had no comment on the shadiness of de Blasio’s deal bailing out a major donor’s company.
Yet the City Charter only lets Stringer block contracts if he says he suspects possible corruption in the contracting process or that the vendor is crooked. Otherwise, the mayor can order the contract registered. And the comptroller seems unwilling to state the obvious.
We’re told behind the scenes that City Hall moved to create NYCSBUS and buy out Reliant when the company told officials it planned to abandon its 900 routes and strand thousands of special-needs kids. It seems Team de Blasio didn’t think it could hire another company in time.
But then why wouldn’t the mayor (who once vowed to offer the “most transparent government”) just say so? Instead, he’s said this move is all about transporting the kids more efficiently. (Then again, he still thinks his money-burning ferry system is a winner, too.)
His minions insist taxpayers won’t be on the hook for Reliant’s $142 million pension liability, though City Hall plans to hire the company’s entire workforce. But the union is threatening a strike if its members aren’t held harmless by the switchover.
This rancid deal calls out for serious investigation: City Council hearings, a state investigation and a hard look by any prosecutor with jurisdiction.