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Liu laughs off rumors of his plans for higher office

City Comptroller John Liu dismissed a question about running for mayor at the Jefferson Democratic Club’s first meeting in Bayside last week.

“I don’t think about it,” Liu said after being asked about aspirations to run for mayor at the club’s meeting at the Clearview Golf Course Clubhouse at 202-12 Willets Point Blvd. Jan. 13.

Liu mocked a Dec. 31 Wall Street Journal article that reported he would like to run for U.S. president if the U.S. Constitution allowed it. He was born in Taiwan and is barred from seeking the nation’s highest office.

“The reporter kept asking and asking if I wanted to run for mayor,” Liu said. “After the 10th time, I joked I’d run for president. After that, I see the headline: ‘Liu has presidential aspirations.’”

Liu, a former city councilman from Flushing, kicked off the Jefferson Democratic Club’s first meeting of the year. The Flushing resident has not said whether he is running for mayor nor disclosed any fund-raising activity. Only former Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, the comptroller before Liu, has officially declared a bid for the 2013 mayoral race.

There is speculation other candidates in the race could be U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).

While at the Jefferson Democratic Club’s meeting, Liu discussed a couple of highlights from his past year, including his office’s recent work that helped to uncover fraud in the CityTime payroll, a software system that was meant to keep track of city employees’ hours. Federal investigators in December charged CityTime consultants and their relatives with fraud and said they allegedly bilked the city of $80 million by steering contracts to businesses they controlled and used some of that money for themselves.

Bayside resident Joel Bondy, the former executive director of the city Office of Payroll Administration, resigned at the end of December from his position, for which he oversaw the CityTime project.

Liu also noted his office, in a 2010 audit, identified $120 million that was “inappropriately” retained by the city Economic Development Corp. in past years.

“This ranks up there as one of my favorites,” Liu said. “The EDC withheld money that should’ve gone into the city’s treasury, but they kept all that money. Well, they’re giving it back now.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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