NYC Comptroller Threatens to Revoke Mayor's Authority to Sign $432 Million Migrant-Housing Contract

Medical company DocGO faces growing scrutiny for how it helps manage more than 110,000 illegal migrants who came to the city.
NYC Comptroller Threatens to Revoke Mayor's Authority to Sign $432 Million Migrant-Housing Contract
Dozens of recently arrived illegal immigrants camp outside of New York's Roosevelt Hotel, which has been made into a reception center, as they try to secure temporary housing in New York City on Aug. 1, 2023. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Bill Pan

New York City's top finance official is threatening to revoke the emergency authority Mayor Eric Adams used to enter into a $432 million, no-bid contract with a troubled medical company to help handle the swelling population of illegal immigrants.

City Comptroller Brad Lander, who reviews all city contracts, said on Monday that he will be conducting a "real-time" audit into the criticized $432 million emergency contract awarded last spring to DocGo, whose top executive abruptly resigned due to a recent controversy.

Formerly known as Rapid Reliable Testing NY LLC, DocGo had previously contracted with the city to deliver mobile COVID-19 testing during the pandemic. The company has since shifted to offering mobile primary care services, and is now tasked to house illegal immigrants and provide them with services including food, medicine, transportation, security, and case management.

According to DocGo, the company manages a total of 37 housing sites across the state, including 15 hotels and nine shelters in New York City.

Audits by Mr. Lander's office typically follow the completion of a contract. For DocGo, however, the comptroller said scrutiny will start as soon as the bills come in, citing "serious concerns" about whether the company is suited for the work. It's the first audit of that type he has launched since taking the post last year.

"Emergency procurement is one important ability that city agencies have," Mr. Lander said at a press conference. "But it cannot be a blank check to enter into a no-bid, $432 million contract with a medical services firm that doesn't have experience providing shelter and services to asylum-seekers, without the adequate due diligence and integrity that is required."

"There are just too many outstanding questions and concerns about DocGo," he added. "Are we getting what we paying for?"

In addition, the comptroller's office said it is reviewing whether there is a need to revoke the blanket approval given to the Adams administration to fast-track migrant housing contracts without a prior review.

"There remains a clear and demonstrated need for flexibility and urgency as City agencies respond to the continued arrival of thousands of people here each month. However, after 18 months, this is no longer an unexpected situation that merits the broad suspension of due diligence processes," Mr. Lander wrote in a Sept. 15 letter to the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

On Sept. 6, Mr. Lander rejected the $432 million contract with DocGo, saying that there was "little evidence" to suggest that the company had the experience necessary for all the tasks.

"It is a medical services company, not a logistics company, social services provider, or legal service provider," Mr. Lander explained in his rejection denouncement. "Numerous reports of staff mistreating or misleading asylum-seekers, failing to properly respond to reported assault incidents, and inadequate service provision further exacerbate these concerns."

This rejection would have blocked the Housing Department from paying DocGo under the current contract until either the company addresses those concerns or the department resubmits a deal with a lower price tag. But Mr. Adams quickly overruled Mr. Lander using his emergency powers.

"We can't change the rules in the middle of the game," the mayor said at a Sept. 6 press conference, accusing the treasurer of wanting to "just get in the conversation."

DocGo CEO Resigns

Anthony Capone, DocGo's former chief executive, resigned on Sept. 15 amid allegations that he lied about his college credentials.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company said Mr. Capone resigned due to "personal reasons."

Mr. Capone's departure came after a report from the New York newspaper Times Union, which questioned information on DocGo's website about his educational background. Mr. A biography on the website stated that Mr. Capone had received a graduate degree in artificial intelligence from Clarkson University. But a spokesperson for Clarkson University told the Union that there was no record of him attending or completing a graduate program at the institution.

In a statement to the Union, Mr. Capone acknowledged that the information in his biography was an "inaccuracy."

"I must clarify immediately: I do not have a master's degree from Clarkson University, nor from any other institution. This inaccuracy should have been corrected, and I deeply apologize for this error. I do, however, have an undergraduate computer science degree with a focus in artificial intelligence from an accredited university," he said in his statement.

The SEC filing also stated that Mr. Capone earned his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York College at Potsdam. The Potsdam school would not confirm whether he had earned an undergraduate degree there.