Tax­pay­ers Spend­ing Mil­lions to Fund de Bla­sio’s ‘Spe­cial As­sis­tants’ as ‘Hiz­zoner’ Bashes Them

The Jewish Voice - - FRONT PAGE - By: Kate­lyn Car­alle

New York City Mayor Bill de Bla­sio over the past fis­cal year has in­creased spend­ing on his "spe­cial as­sis­tants" by $4.6 mil­lion, ex­pand­ing their ranks by 13 per­cent and hand­ing out raises to those al­ready on staff.

These em­ploy­ees, who are vaguely ti­tled as aides and whose salaries are tax­payer-funded, make up 40 per­cent of de Bla­sio's staff, the New York Post re­ported Sunday night.

His staff's col­lec­tive salaries were bumped by 25 per­cent, up to $23.3 mil­lion, from fis­cal year 2016, ac­cord­ing to pay­roll records.

Four mem­bers of his staff raked in more than $200,000 each, while those paid more than $100,000 each jumped to 84 in­di­vid­u­als, up about 30 per­cent.

De Bla­sio had four of his spe­cial as­sis­tants trans­ferred to the De­part­ment of Veter­ans Ser­vices, off-load­ing around $540,000 from the Mayor's Of­fice.

"When you want to give some­one a big raise, it's eas­ier if you say they're do­ing a dif­fer­ent job," a for­mer city of­fi­cial told the Post.

The source said that de Bla­sio has greater flex­i­bil­ity to in­crease salaries, funded by tax­payer money, for aides by as­sign­ing them the ti­tle "spe­cial as­sis­tant."

One City Hall spokesman said the use of this ti­tle gives the de Bla­sio ad­min­is­tra­tion "more flex­i­bil­ity in de­mand­ing var­ied types of work from se­nior of­fi­cials."

Chief of staff Kevin O'Brien is one of de Bla­sio's high­est paid spe­cial as­sis­tants; his an­nual salary in­creased from $175,000 to $220,652 since fis­cal year 2016.

The Post first revealed last year that de Bla­sio in­creased the num­ber of spe­cial as­sis­tants by 140 per­cent com­pared to his pre­de­ces­sor, for­mer Mayor Mike Bloomberg; de Bla­sio re­sponded by ig­nor­ing a Post re­porter at a news con­fer­ence and call­ing the pa­per a "right-wing rag."

"It just shows a com­plete dis­re­gard for the tax­pay­ers of the city and it also dis­plays his mis­man­age­ment—be­cause we're not even get­ting re­sults," likely Re­pub­li­can chal­lenger Ni­cole Mal­lio­takis said of de Bla­sio's staff salaries.

On Au­gust 9, the Wash­ing­ton Free Bea­con re­ported that de Bla­sio treated his staffers poorly and of­ten bul­lied them with harsh threats if they did not meet his de­mands, ac­cord­ing to newly revealed emails.

"What do I need to get you guys to fol­low a di­rect or­der? Do you need to ex­pe­ri­ence con­se­quences?" he threat­ened in one 2015 email, ac­cord­ing to the New York Post.

"I'm not rais­ing this again: fix it, or I will [have] no choice but to find a way to pe­nal­ize peo­ple. Not my pref­er­ence, but I won't have my in­struc­tions ig­nored," he added.

The emails show de Bla­sio blow­ing up at nearly a dozen staffers for "fail­ing to make sure pho­netic ver­sions of chal­leng­ing words were in­cluded in his speeches and talk­ing points," ac­cord­ing to the Post.

"This is lit­er­ally the 100th time I am re­mind­ing you all that pho­netic spellings re­quire one syl­la­ble to be capi-

""I'm not rais­ing this again: fix it, or I will [have] no choice but to find a way to pe­nal­ize peo­ple. Not my pref­er­ence, but I won't have my in­struc­tions ig­nored" – Bill de Bla­sio

tal­ized to in­di­cate em­pha­sis in pro­nun­ci­a­tion," de Bla­sio wrote in one fu­ri­ous mes­sage.

"I have no idea why you guys can't get it," he said. "All of the folks in comms, speech­writ­ing and my per­sonal staff who looked at these re­marks — it just takes ONE to catch it."

A City Hall source told the Post that de Bla­sio's emails re­flect how he acts in meetings and that he has been known to kick staff mem­bers out of meetings. The source went on to say that he is "con­de­scend­ing" and "ar­ro­gant" with a mi­cro­manag­ing lead­er­ship style, in which he ex­hibits "no con­fi­dence" in those work­ing for him.

"Part of it stems from the fact that he used to be [a po­lit­i­cal] op­er­a­tive, and he thinks he can out­ma­neu­ver his aides," the source said.

De Bla­sio sent the afore­men­tioned "pho­netic spellings" email on Jan. 24, 2015, un­der the sub­ject line "Ke­hi­lath Jeshu­run," which is a mis­spelled ref­er­ence to Up­per East Side sy­n­a­gogue Con­gre­ga­tion Ke­hi­lath Jeshu­run.

"How can it be that none of you no­ticed the ab­sence with the word Jeshu­run. Work on qual­ity con­trol pls. Fix these re­marks now pls. Ex­am­ple: phoNET-ic," he fumed.

De Bla­sio's email was di­rectly sent to "spe­cial as­sis­tant" Elana Leopold, who is cur­rently on leave from his of­fice to work on his re-election cam­paign. It was cc'd to Avi Fink, now deputy chief of staff, and Amy Spi­tal­nick, who left last Oc­to­ber to be­come the press sec­re­tary for state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Scheni­der­man, ac­cord­ing to the Post.

"Guys, I'm fed up," De Bla­sio fumed in a fol­low-up email on Feb. 6, 2015, af­ter he blun­dered delivering re­marks in Span­ish.

"I have raised the prob­lem of in­con­sis­tency in pro­vid­ing pho­netic pro­nun­ci­a­tion and in pro­vid­ing clearly de­lin­eated Span­ish (with em­pha­sis on the proper syl­la­ble) many, many times," he wrote. "And yet be­tween all of you, you haven’t fix [sic] the prob­lem, which is bluntly un­pro­fes­sional."

A for­mer City Hall Staffer told the Post that de Bla­sio's email rants were "par for the type of emails he sent."

The Wash­ing­ton Free Bea­con also re­ported on Au­gust 15th, that de Bla­sio took off for a fam­ily va­ca­tion in Rhode Is­land just days af­ter he had con­vinced the city's Cam­paign Fi­nance Board to award him an ad­di­tional $1.6 mil­lion in pub­lic match­ing funds for what he called a tough re­elec­tion fight.

De Bla­sio was au­to­mat­i­cally en­ti­tled to $958,000 in match­ing funds as part of the city's cam­paign fi­nance pro­gram— though he was not ob­li­gated to take the money—but re­quested more, claim­ing that the Demo­cratic pri­mary on Sept. 12 will be a tough re­elec­tion race, ac­cord­ing to the New York Post.

The mayor is con­sid­ered a heavy fa­vorite in the race and it is rare for can­di­dates to va­ca­tion so close to an election they ex­pect to be a hard-fought bat­tle.

"It's un­for­tu­nate that the mayor made a strong case for ad­di­tional match­ing funds by say­ing he had a com­pet­i­tive race and then took off on va­ca­tion," Dick Dadey, direc­tor of the gov­ern­ment watch­dog Cit­i­zens Union, told the Post. "The ar­gu­ment that he needed it for a com­pet­i­tive election doesn't hold to­gether very well."

De Bla­sio qual­i­fied on Aug. 3 for tax­payer match­ing funds, which are capped at 25 per­cent when a can­di­date is fac­ing min­i­mal op­po­si­tion. How­ever, he con­vinced the Cam­paign Fi­nance Board (CFB) that his main Demo­cratic ri­val, Coun­cil­man Sal Al­banese, was a se­ri­ous threat.

The board agreed and added $1.6 mil­lion in tax­pay­ers match­ing funds on top of the $958,000 he would have al­ready re­ceived, giv­ing de Bla­sio $2.57 mil­lion.

"Pub­lic-funds pay­ment de­ter­mi­na­tions by the board are based on … ob­jec­tive cri­te­ria and noth­ing else," CFB spokesman Matthew Sol­lars said.

Al­banese be­lieves de Bla­sio is tak­ing ad­van­tage of tax­payer money and did not need the ex­tra funds, the Post re­ported. Records show the cur­rent mayor had $4.9 mil­lion is his cam­paign ac­count as of last week, while Al­banese had $5,397 with­out re­ceiv­ing match­ing money as of yet.

"He has more than enough money to get his mes­sage out," Al­banese said. "His [pub­lic funds] could have gone to­wards im­prov­ing city ser­vices."

The WFB also re­ported that in July, DeBla­sio or­dered the po­lice to clear out home­less peo­ple from two sub­way sta­tions ahead of his four-stop press event so that the sta­tions "looked nice," ac­cord­ing to a new re­port.

Law en­force­ment sources told the New York Post that the po­lice had un­til 11 a.m. on Sunday to eject those who were "hang­ing out" at the Fourth Av­enue/Ninth Street and Jay Street/ MetroTech F train sta­tions.

An­other source put it this way: de Bla­sio's of­fice let the po­lice know ahead of time about his sched­ule "with the ex­pec­ta­tion that the sub­way sta­tions would be free and clear of home­less peo­ple."

De Bla­sio's trip from his Park Slope gym to his new cam­paign of­fice in Brook­lyn was part of a pub­lic­ity stunt to call out New York Gov. An­drew Cuomo (D.) re­gard­ing funding for the city's trans­porta­tion sys­tem, the Post re­ported.

Once aboard, Hiz­zoner — who was joined by a pack of jour­nal­ists — launched into a di­a­tribe against Cuomo and MTA Chair­man Joe Lhota, who blamed de Bla­sio for re­fus­ing to spend the city’s $4 bil­lion-plus bud­get sur­plus to fix the sub­ways.

"Here’s the truth: They’re not even spend­ing their cap­i­tal bud­get," the mayor said. "There’s a huge amount of money sit­ting there, in­clud­ing the money the city gave. We gave them $2.5 bil­lion a cou­ple of years ago. Al­most 90 per­cent of that money is just sit­ting there."

De Bla­sio vowed not to al­lo­cate any more funds, say­ing the state "has used the MTA as a piggy bank" by tak­ing "al­most half a bil­lion dol­lars in money out of the MTA to use for the state bud­get.

"The gover­nor and Chair­man Lhota sim­ply need to get in front of ev­ery­one [and] say, ‘We’re fully re­spon­si­ble, we have to fix the prob­lem.’ They have the re­sources."

Staten Is­land As­sem­bly­woman Ni­cole Mal­lio­takis (R.), the pre­sump­tive chal­lenger to de Bla­sio's re­elec­tion bid this year, ripped her po­ten­tial op­po­nent as a hyp­ocrite, given his pro­gres­sive views on in­come in­equal­ity.

"For some­one who claims to care about the most poor New York­ers, to have some­one clear his path when he's about to board the sub­way … tells you all you need to know about Mayor de Bla­sio," she said.

A City Hall spokesman de­nied the al­le­ga­tions and said the Post‘s sources were mak­ing false claims.

De Bla­sio also found him­self in an un­com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion last week when a 63-year-old Queen res­i­dent be­gan be­rat­ing him over his treat­ment of New York po­lice of­fi­cers. One CBS re­porter com­pared him to the "Cow­ardly Lion" in The Wizard Of Oz when he fled the con­fronta­tion.

New York City Mayor Bill de Bla­sio over the past fis­cal year has in­creased spend­ing on his "spe­cial as­sis­tants" by $4.6 mil­lion, ex­pand­ing their ranks by 13 per­cent and hand­ing out raises to those al­ready on staff. These em­ploy­ees, who are vaguely ti­tled as aides and whose salaries are tax­payer-funded, make up 40 per­cent of de Bla­sio's staff.

NYC Coun­cil Mem­ber Mark Levine, Rabbi Josh Rosen­feld, Rabbi Avro­hom Mar­morstein, Avi Fink, Mayor Bill de Bla­sio, and Michael Lan­dau at Yom HaShoah cer­e­mony

"It just shows a com­plete dis­re­gard for the tax­pay­ers of the city and it also dis­plays his mis­man­age­ment—be­cause we're not even get­ting re­sults," likely Re­pub­li­can chal­lenger Ni­cole Mal­lio­takis said of de Bla­sio's staff salaries.

De Bla­sio sent the "pho­netic spellings" email on Jan. 24, 2015, un­der the sub­ject line "Ke­hi­lath Jeshu­run," which is a mis­spelled ref­er­ence to Up­per East Side sy­n­a­gogue Con­gre­ga­tion Ke­hi­lath Jeshu­run. "How can it be that none of you no­ticed the ab­sence with the word Jeshu­run. Work on qual­ity con­trol pls. Fix these re­marks now pls. Ex­am­ple: pho-NET-ic," he fumed.

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