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Asylum seeker services provider DocGo under audit as Comptroller Brad Lander reevaluates Mayor Eric Adams' emergency powers

Comptroller Lander rethinking Mayor Adams' blanket authority to award contracts
Comptroller Lander rethinking Mayor Adams' blanket authority to award contracts 02:59

NEW YORK -- It's a sticky wicket question for a sticky wicket problem. 

Should Mayor Eric Adams have the absolute authority to award contracts to house asylum seekers under his emergency powers or should there be a prior review? 

Comptroller Brad Lander says there have been enough questions raised about some of the companies that it's time for some checks and balances. 

"We are saying to the city, we have to spend the money wisely," said Lander. 

It seems like a no-brainer for Lander.

Amid questions raised about a no-bid $432 million asylum seeker services contract to a company called DocGo, a contract awarded over his objections, now might be the time to curtail the mayor's ability to hire companies without his green light. 

Lander gave Adams blanket approval because of the asylum seeker emergency, but now he's having second thoughts. 

"We're considering whether to narrow or to revoke that blanket prior approval," said Lander. 

Lander also said he would take an unusual, but necessary step of doing a real-time audit of every expense submitted by DocGo for reimbursement.

"So that New Yorkers can have confidence that every single invoice is being scrutinized, that we are really paying careful attention to what we're being billed for and what we're paying for," said Lander. 

Questions have been raised about DocGo's bills for obtaining hotel rooms for asylum seekers and the people hired by the company to provide security.

Last week, the company's chief executive Anthony Capone quit after admitting his resume falsely claimed a graduate degree in artificial intelligence. 

A spokesperson for Adams warned of dire consequences if Lander revokes the mayor's emergency power to award contracts. 

"Asylum seekers will have to sleep on the street while they wait for the comptroller to approve the city contracts," said Adams spokesperson Charles Kretchmer Lutvak.

The issue comes as a new poll shows the asylum seeker crisis could have widespread political implications in swing congressional districts upstate and on Long Island.

New Yorkers said support for work permits for asylum seekers will affect who they vote for in the poll commissioned by Tusk Philanthropies. 

For example, 72% of voters in the four Long Island districts currently held by Republicans backed work permits for asylum seekers. What's more, if the Democratic candidate supports the plan and the Republican opposes it, 51% of the voters would back the Democrat. 

Lander said asylum seekers getting work permits and moving out of shelters "will be saving the city $136,000 a year on average." 

President Biden's arrival in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly could be an opportune time for Adams to discuss the work permit issue with the commander in chief, but a City Hall spokesperson refused to say if the two plan to meet.

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