Avella trades barbs with Liu over fines, pension returns

By Alex Robinson

Let the mudslinging commence.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) ramped up attacks this week against his primary challenger, former city Comptroller John Liu.

Avella called for the city to place a lien on all political campaign accounts associated with Liu until he repays more than $500,000 in fines from his 2009 campaign for comptroller. The city slapped Liu with the fines for putting up campaign posters on city property and he is still fighting them in court.

“Democrat John Liu was the loudest opponent against unfair sanitation fines that hit homeowners during the 2006 blizzard, and now do-nothing Republican darling Tony Avella wants him to single him out to distract from his long record of failure,” Liu’s spokesman, Austin Shafran said. “This case is ongoing — just like Avella’s embarrassing grandstanding.”

Avella’s campaign also lashed out at John Liu’s record as comptroller last week, claiming information the challenger sent around on one of his pamphlets was misleading.

The senator’s campaign took issue with a handout that said Liu had helped protect and grow retirees’ pension funds during his stint as comptroller.

“Disgraced politician John Liu’s political campaign is downright lying about their candidate’s atrocious record as city comptroller,” Avella campaign spokesman Jason Elan said. “Liu may claim to protect retirees, but voters won’t fall for this slick attempt to deceive them when he oversaw our city’s pension fund.”

Avella claimed the former comptroller cost the city pension system $2 billion in lost earnings from shoddy investments.

Liu’s campaign responded to Avella’s attack by saying the former comptroller saved taxpayers $5 billion through a number of means, including audits conducted of city agencies, scrutiny of city contracts and the refinancing of $20 billion of outstanding bond debt.

The Liu camp also pointed to a 13.4 percent average rate of return the city’s pension fund recorded over the last five years. The rate of return was 12.1 percent for fiscal year 2013, according to the comptroller’s office, well above the assumed rate of 7 percent.

Shafran said Avella is “entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

He added, “Resorting to lies shows just how desperate Sen. Avella is to distract from his record as one of the most ineffective senators in Albany. Democrat John Liu increased the city’s pension asset portfolio to $150 billion — the highest ever recorded.”

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.