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Bill De Blasio padded City Hall with 264 ‘special assistants’

Wednesday, October 5, 2016 6:49
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Via NY Post: Mayor Bill de Blasio padded the city payroll with 264 “special assistants” during the past fiscal year — a more than 140 percent increase over his predecessor, The Post has learned.

The bloated band of vaguely titled aides — accountable only to Hizzoner — accounted for 40 percent of the entire Mayor’s Office staff and cost taxpayers $18.7 million, payroll records show.

City Hall insiders said de Blasio was using the special-assistant gigs in part to take care of political operatives as they bide their time waiting for the next campaign — a kind of publicly funded farm system akin to the ones used by Major League Baseball teams.

“It’s usually given to one of our political guys as a way to bring them on board in the administration without any problems — whether or not they have the job requirements,” a de Blasio administration source admitted. “Many have worked on [the mayor’s campaign], and this job allows them to go back and forth, if needed, on the re-election campaign or campaigns of allies.”

The hires contributed to a surge in payouts at City Hall, where the cost of de Blasio’s office was up more than 21 percent since fiscal year 2013, the last one over which former Mayor Michael Bloomberg had complete control.

The cost of the entire city payroll grew less than 13 percent over the same period, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Empire Center for Public Policy.

According to the records:

  • Sixty-five of de Blasio’s special assistants took home more than $100,000 each during the fiscal year that ended June 30.
  • Their total salary was up 165 percent over the $7 million Bloomberg spent on his 109 special assistants in fiscal year 2013.
  • The total cost of staffing the Mayor’s Office reached $46 million to pay 656 employees during fiscal 2016, compared with $38 million for 569 workers in 2013.

A former City Hall operative under Bloomberg said he was “shocked” by the number of special assistants working for de Blasio.

Because the job of special assistant is not a civil service post, there are no formal requirements — or any cap on how many de Blasio can unilaterally appoint, according to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which oversees testing for spots that are open to the general public. The fact that the jobs aren’t covered by civil service rules also gives the mayor the latitude to dole out salaries and raises beyond the established ranges for comparable positions.

Last month, The Post revealed that de Blasio had slashed the pay of more than a dozen aides held over from the Bloomberg administration, while showering his own appointees with more than $2 million in raises.

Monica Klein

Monica Klein

At least 16 of the people de Blasio has hired as special assistants worked on his 2013 mayoral bid, one of whom, Monica Klein, is among two special assistants now on leave to work for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

One special assistant, Elana Leopold, saw her annual salary skyrocket from $60,000 in 2014 to $85,749 in 2016 before resigning this year to become the finance director for de Blasio’s 2017 re-election bid.

Elana Leopold

Elana Leopold

Leopold interned for the mayor when he was public advocate and also for the Clinton Global Initiative, which last month held its final meeting amid controversy over pay-to-play allegations involving its parent organization, the Clinton Foundation, and Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

The payroll records also show de Blasio reassigned his longtime election lawyer, Henry Berger, from a $187,583-a-year post as assistant corporation counsel to a job as special assistant at the same rate of pay.

Dick Dadey, head of the government watchdog Citizens Union, said de Blasio “needs to account” for the number of his special assistants and their payroll. He explained that while de Blasio “has the authority to do this,” the records show “he’s taking advantage of it more than Mayor Bloomberg.”

“It sounds like he has a larger stable of political appointees as special assistants, who are available to go through the revolving door of public service and political campaign service,” Dadey said. “Politics is what makes government function, but there comes a point where there may be too much politics in the governing of the city.”

Last year’s highest-paid special assistant, Victor Calise, serves as commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, while No. 2, Loree Sutton, is commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services, which de Blasio created this year.

One of his special assistants, former campaign “high-dollar finance director” Hayley Prim, resigned to join Hilltop Public Solutions, a p.r. firm implicated this year in election-finance violations allegedly spearheaded by the mayor.

Another former campaign worker, Kwamina “Kicy” Motley — whose vulgar Twitter rants against the NYPD and NAACP were exposed by The Post — left in 2015, according to her LinkedIn page.

A City Hall spokesman insisted de Blasio’s addition of $11.6 million in special assistants was an effort to cut overtime bills by shifting “job slots.” Asked how much in OT was saved, the press secretary answered $105,000, derived by reclassifying 15 percent of the mayor’s staff as managers.

“Same jobs and same work product as before, but on a different line in the budget,” boasted the spokesman, Eric Phillips, who is also classified as a special assistant. “It was a smart move that saved taxpayers money.”

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