As New York City officials prepared yesterday to wrap up an investigation into a controversial syndicate selection, the target of the probe, Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman, declined to say if she will allow the results to be made public.
The comptroller has previously said she was anxious to have the matter resolved with a full airing of the results of the investigation. In recent days, the city's Conflict of Interest Board has asked Holtzman as to whether she will agree to publicize the finding.
So far Holtzman has not responded to that request and her office has not said if she will give her permission to release the results.
"There have been some discussions," said Laura Denman, a spokeswoman for the board. "But we haven't had any answer yet." She refused to elaborate on the timing of the board's request to Holtzman's office - just five days before Holtzman faces voters in the city's Democratic primary.
In May the city's Department of Investigation began an investigation into Holtzman's recommendation of Fleet Securities as a co-manager in the city bond syndicate. The firm had previously served as a selling group member in the syndicate. The selection was made after Holtzman's failed U.S. Senate campaign received a $450,000 loan from the firm's banking affiliate.
Holtzman, who was scheduled last night to debate her primary opponents, is under intense pressure to authorize the release of the investigation's findings.
The Department of Investigation said yesterday that it would send its findings to the Conflict of Interest Board late today.
So far, the DOI has agreed to disclose the report and the board has "tentatively" agreed to do so, fullfilling two of the three conditions needed to publicize finding of a DOI investigation, according to board officials.
But according to city charter rules, Holtzman must also agree to release the report, and so far Holtzman has yet to say whether she'll do so.
Press officials working for Holtzman have for the past two days refused to say if Holtzman will allow the report to be publicized, despite earlier statements by the comptroller that she favored full disclosure of the matter.
Both of Holtzman's opponents, state Assemblyman Alan Hevesi and former city Deputy Mayor Herman Badillo, have called on city officials release the DOI'S findings. Hevesi and Badillo were expected to demand that Holtzman waive the report's confidentiality during last night's scheduled debate at the City University of New York Graduate Center in Manhattan.
In several recent television and radio interviews, Holtzman and her press aides have said they want to provide full disclosure of the DOI investigation. In a recent radio interview, Holtzman she would make public her testimony to city investigators. "Of course I would make it public," Holtzman said.
But on Wednesday, Maerwydd McFarland, Holtzman's press secretary, said she "doesn't know" if Holtzman will agree to release the DOI'S report to the public. "I can't answer that [question] right now," McFarland said in a telephone interview.
At the time, McFarland said Holtzman is unaware that she has the authority to release the report, and that officials in the city's DOI have told her they cannot make public parts of their investigation, including testimony Holtzman gave to city investigators.
When asked if Holtzman would agree to release the DOI report if now given the opportunity, McFarland said: "I actually don't know. It's all news to me I don't want to speculate."
Press officials representing Holtzman, including McFarland, did not return repeated telephone calls yesterday on the issue. In a New York Post story yesterday, McFarland said, "We're not going to comment" on making the report public.
The selection of city bond underwriters is a joint decision by finance officials representing Holtzman and Mayor David N. Dinkins. Holtzman has said that the selection of Fleet was based on the firm's merits as an underwriter of city bonds.
Holtzman said she was not involved in the selection of Fleet, and that she only selects the senior managers in the city's bond syndicate. She has said that the finance officials in the comptroller's office who recommended Fleet were unaware of the bank loan. Officials representing Dinkins say the mayor knows of all the city syndicate selections.
After the DOI launched its investigation, the city demoted Fleet back to its selling group. However, city officials confirm that Fleet continues to do significant bond underwriting business with the city, and was rewarded with bonds during a recent issue based on the quality and quantity of its orders.
City charter conflict of interest rules prohibit public officials from using their office for private gain. For charter violations, the board can fine public officials up to $10,000. It can also refer the case to federal or state prosecutors.
Daniel F. Kolb, a senior partner at the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell, Holtzman's lawyer on the Fleet matter, confirmed in a July 27 Bond Buyer article that DOI'S investigation goes beyond conflict of interest charges and includes other possible violations.
Kolb, who did not return telephone calls yesterday, said at the time that the department was also investigating whether Holtzman received favorable terms on the $450,000 loan to her campaign.
The loan carried a 7% interest rate and was made without Holtzman pledging her assets as collateral. Instead, Holtzman pledged as collateral a September campaign fund-raiser that produced only about $200,000, Kolb said. He said that the DOI was investigating if there was enough Wall Street interest in the event to support the loan.