Espada's Son, Under Fire,Passes on Patronage Plum
Written August 13, 2009.
Is it possible that we have reached the high water mark in abuse of the public trust?
The question arises because the possibility of an outside investigation appears to have played a role in the departure of Pedro G. Espada, who just a week ago was appointed to a very rewarding, newly created job working for Senate Democrats.
Yesterday we reported the appointment of young Espada to a $120,000 a year position. Some suspicious minds believed that the new job was related in some way to the return of G’s father, Pedro Espada, Jr. to the Democratic fold after his month-long sojourn among Senate Republicans. The Espadas deny any such linkage, which could be defined as criminal conduct under the Public Officers Law.
“Facing increased scrutiny, the son of Senator Pedro Espada, Jr., agreed to resign from his job with Senate Democrats on Wednesday – hours after aides to Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo said they were investigating whether the son’s appointment last week violated state law, a legislative aide said.
“The son, Pedro G. Espada, 35, joined the State Senate’s Democratic staff on Aug. 6, as deputy director of intergovernmental relations, a $120,000-a-year job that did not previously exist.” The story appears on pA23, and is illustrated by a vivid photograph of Senator Espada.
The situation exploded yesterday, as word spread of the potential involvement of the State Attorney General. Senator Espada had said publicly that he wanted to hire his son as his own chief of staff, but since such a hire could be illegal under the Public Officers Law, the Senate staff job was a reasonable solution to the legal problem.
NADA ESPADA, THE POST CROWS
Page One of today’s Post carried the triumphant headline, NADA ESPADA: Pol’s Son Quits ‘No Show” Job After Post Probe
. Pages 6 and 7 contain extensive coverage under the headline PEDRO-KIN ‘NO SHOW’ NO-NO: Senator’s Son Quits State Job as Post Finds Him AWOL. The story was written by Brendan Scott in Albany and Douglas Montero and Sally Goldenberg in NY. The coverage includes pictures of Senator Espada at the Soundview Health Center in the Bronx, where he is CEO at a mid six-figure salary,
The senator’s son was photographed holding his head at his desk in his state office, there are shots of the two buildings where the Espadas work, and a photo of a home in Fairfield, Connecticut, where Pedro G. allegedly lives with his wife and three children. It may be a summer residence, because Pedro G. insists that he lives in Westchester, not Connecticut. Disclosing the schools where his children are enrolled should answer that question.
The Daily News treated the matter more briefly than the Post and the Times. . A p8 one-column account by Glenn Blain and Kenneth Lovett was headed ESPADA’S KID MAKES QUICK ALBANY EXIT
We quote from the News story: “Sen. Espada told the Daily News his son...didn’t want to be a distraction for his father or the new Senate Democratic majority. ‘We don’t want to get off to this kind of start and certainly my son does not want it for himself,’ the elder Espada said.” …..”My son never sought this. He had a better-paying job but he wanted to come back into public service.” The story closes with this quote: “Pedro G. Espada was hired on the merits,’ said Selvena Brooks, a spokeswoman for Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn).”
Newsday’s coverage, by James T. Madore, ran on pA6 under the headline SENATOR'S SON QUITS DEM POST
. It contains some morsels not found in the other dailies. First, the G. in Pedro G. stands for Gautier. Second is this quote: “After speaking with a top Cuomo aide and reading state law, the senator said his son’s resignation was ‘appropriate’.” Third is the fact that “word of Cuomo’s involvement came hours after former Rep. Rick Lazio, a candidate for governor next year, called on him to launch a probe.” That does not mean that Cuomo was responding to Lazio, it does mean the job for Pedro G. was likely to become a continuing irritation.
Although he is not widely known, Pedro G. is no newcomer to politics. He was elected to the Assembly in 1996, but served only ten months. He won a City Council seat in 1997, which he held for a four-year term until he was defeated for renomination in the Democratic primary by Jose M. Serrano, now a state senator. Jose M. is the son of Congressman Jose E. Serrano of the Bronx..
The Espada and Diaz clans had been rivals for years in Democratic primaries. . The elder Diaz, a reverend, is now a state senator, and his son, Ruben Jr. is borough president. The elder Espada is now, as we know, Senate majority leader, when he is not busy with his private-sector jobas president and CEO of the Soundview Health Center, where his son was director of environmental care for eight years, and was lately receiving a salary higher than the $120,000 he would have been paid from the Senate. The father was quoted as saying that the son would be taking a pay cut, but wanted to re-enter public service
Senator Espada is listed as having founded Soundview in 1978, thirty-one years ago, when he would have been 24 years old. The Senator graduated from Fordham University and has several professional certifications. The son took courses at Fordham but did not graduate.
The significance of the Espada episode may be that it was the straw that broke the camel’s back as to what behavior is tolerated. There was the substantial publicity the appointment attracted, the obvious nepotism involved in the appointment of the namesake, the attempted circumvention of the Public Officers Law, the superfluity of the newly-created, high salaried position, the fact that the appointee’s previous job was in an agency of which his father is CEO, the son’s lack of a college degree or any professional qualification, his failure to appear for the first four days of work (Aug. 6 et seq.), and the question of his actual residency (New York or Fairfield, Connecticut).
The conjunction of all these issues in a single case, combined with the fear of an impending investigation which might impair the ability of others to put their buds on the payroll, caused the withdrawal of the appointment. It is now possible that agencies with subpoena power and the ability to seek indictments will become more involved with the way the legislature spends its funds..
There should be minimum standards of education and experience, at the very least for jobs with six-figure salaries. There is so much to clean up here. In the end we may be fortunate that the Espadas’ greed just might lead to a reform of the system of hiring legislative staff. But knowing the characters involved, and the deeply political culture of the legislature, it may be that reform will have to come from without, if it comes at all..
If Andrew Cuomo is able to clean up the mess that has been exposed here, it would indicate to the public his ability to take on even greater tasks. His foot is now in the door, and he deserves credit for the retreat in this case. But will the Espada case turn out to be El Alamein, or a bump in the road on the passage to plunder.
If Andrew Cuomo is able to clean up the mess that has been exposed here, it would indicate to the public his ability to take on even greater tasks. His foot is now in the door, and he deserves credit for the retreat in this case. But will the Espada case turn out to be El Alamein, or a bump in the road on the path to plunder.
If Andrew Cuomo is able to clean up the mess that has been exposed here, it would indicate to the public his ability to take on even greater tasks. His foot is now in the door, and he deserves credit for the retreat in this case. But will the Espada case turn out to be El Alamein
, or a bump in the road on the path to plunder.