New York City deputy mayor John Dyson has joined a committee designed to place distance between Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the thorny process of selecting city bond underwriters.
Underwriters selections are made jointly by the mayor's office and the city comptroller's office. Dyson, the city's deputy mayor for finance and economic development, will now supplement the mayor's end of the selection process by joining a "special selection committee" for choosing underwriters.
Dyson, a wealthy businessman, investor, and former state official in the administrations of Gov. Hugh Carey and Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, joins city budget director Abraham Lackman, finance commissioner Mark Shaw, and corporation counsel Paul Crotty on the committee.
The committee, which will recommend firms to Giuliani for slots on the city's bond syndicate, is designed to buffer Giuliani from criticisms that city underwriter selections are based on politics rather than merit.
Not everyone is as impressed as Giuliani with the committee or Dyson's appointment. Officials from city Comptroller Alan Hevesi's office said the committee could slow down the selection process, and the city may miss financing opportunities. They would like to have underwriters chosen by the first week in July.
In addition, Gene Russianoff, a staff attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group, said Dyson's appointment shows direct City Hall involvement in the process.
Municipal bond underwriters have traditionally made large campaign contributions to state and local officials who make underwriter selections. Recent federal guidelines have imposed restrictions on campaign contributions from municipal executives.
But Giuliani Administration officials say more is needed. In addition to creating the selection committee, Giuliani yesterday released a set of guidelines the panel will follow when recommending bond underwriters.
While Giuliani will have final authority over selections coming from City Hall, the mayor "shall not be involved in the actual selection of particular underwriters" except when the committee determines that the mayor's input "is necessary to further the interests of the city," the guidelines said.
City Hall aides also must refer all inquiries regarding bond underwriter selections to the selection committee and not "take any action with regard to the inquiry," the guidelines said.
Giuliani announced Dyson's appointment yesterday, almost a week after the city mailed request for proposal documents to firms looking to underwrite city general obligation debt and Municipal Water Finance Authority bonds. Potential underwriters must return the RFPs to City Hall by June 20.
The city is also interviewing firms to serve as its financial adviser. City sources said that officials yesterday interviewed several potential financial advisers, including Public Resources Advisory Group; O'Brien Partners Inc.; Public Financial Management; WR Lazard, Laidlaw & Mead Inc.; and Evensen Dodge Inc.
Dyson's selection comes even as some Giuliani Administration officials expressed concern that the appointment might pose some ethical concerns. One high ranking City Hall source said last week that the mayor might not include Dyson in the committee because as deputy mayor he is viewed as too political.