Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. in full flow (File photo by J. Fergusson)
Since becoming majority leader, Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr. has been on a hiring bonanza, according to a recent wgrc.com article. (Thanks to the BxNN reader who sent us a link to the article.) He now has 24 staffers working for him, up from 13 last year. The cost to the State: an additional $700,000 a year in salaries.
Espada isn't the only politician to have bought in new people in the last six months or so. As a group, Republican senators have created 87 new positions at an estimated annual cost of $3.7 million.
According to the article, the new hiring is especially controversial because it comes at a time when state agencies are on a hiring freeze. But it's above board, at least legally: To end last summer's legislative stalemate in Albany (caused by Espada and former senator Hiram Monserrate) the Republicans demanded and received more money for offices and staffing. Some Democrats also benefited, Espada among them. His name sticks out because his office's $700k increase in salaries trumps that of every other senator.
We called Espada's office for comment, and in an e-mail sent through a spokesman he defended his decision to hire more aides:
These resources are commensurate with the wide and far reaching range of responsibilities and constituent services such as job creation and economic development, affordable housing, education, senior citizen and health care services that I have been elected to provide not only to residents and businesses in my district but to residents throughout the state.
Espada also pointed out that, on top of being a senator and the majority leader, he's also the Senate’s vice president for urban policy and planning, vice chairman of the Senate Rules Standing Committee, and chairman of the Senate Housing Committee.
We're waiting on specifics regarding who Espada hired and what jobs they do. If we hear back, we'll let you know. One of them is Steve Pigeon, an advisor to Tom Golisano, the billionaire who helped orchestrate the coup - and subsequent stalemate - from which Espada negotiated his majority leader title. Pigeon is Espada's counsel and earns $150,000 a year.