Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dozens of Queens GOP Workers Repay Patron by Raising Funds for Reelection by Robert Gearty, Benjamin Lesser and Greg B. Smith - NY Daily News

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At the board of Elections, politicians who put loyal party followers into patronage jobs often get something in return - campaign cash.

State Sen. Serphin Maltese - Durand for News

Take state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Queens), who faced a tough, and ultimately unsuccessful, bid for re-election this year.

Maltese, head of the Queens GOP, was instrumental in arranging dozens of board jobs for Queens Republicans, including his part-time counsel, Anthony Como, who until recently served for years as a city Board of Elections commissioner.

Many other party loyalists got board jobs with salaries ranging from $25,000 to $90,000.

In return, at least 19 board workers bundled together dozens of donations ranging from $50 to $400 to raise $10,020 for their benefactor.

The highest-paid donor, Queens Deputy Clerk Katherine James, raised the most - $4,755. She was listed as a member of Maltese's "Platinum Club" at his annual Hawaiian luau fund-raiser.

All told, 38 employees in the board's headquarters and its Queens office got their jobs through the Queens Republican Party, records show. Maltese even got Como and his fellow commissioners a pay raise, sponsoring a bill to hike their pay for the part-time appointments from $12,500 to $30,000 a year - more than the state Board of Elections commissioners make.

Anthony Como - Smith for News

A Daily News investigation found that in the last three election cycles, board employees made 183 donations to city candidates, mostly in small amounts.

City Controller William Thompson announced he'd review all the board's expenses following Sunday's News exposé.

"The information reported by the Daily News is extremely troubling," said Thompson's top aide, Deputy Controller John Graham. "It appears that a number of these expenditures are not justifiable."

He declined further comment pending the agency's review.

Besides troubling expenses, questions also swirl around political contributions by city board employees.

For example, Assemblyman Denny Farrell, head of the Manhattan Democratic party, raised $765 from 21 donations made mostly around Christmas 2007 by board workers. All were small contributions of $10 to $50.

City employees are barred from pressuring subordinates to make political donations.

One former board official, Jon Del Giorno, received dozens of donations from subordinates when he ran for City Council while still on the job. Just after Thanksgiving 1999, board workers began sending small checks to a committee formed by Del Giorno, then the board's administrative manager.

More donations poured in and by January 2001, Del Giorno had amassed 32 board employee contributions totaling $2,155. A month later it was clear why: Del Giorno was running for a Staten Island Council seat as a Democrat.

Photo caption: Katherine James

During the time he was collecting donations from board employees, Del Giorno was one of the top administrators at the board. Then in April 2001, the board began requiring all employees to go on leave if they ran for office.

On July 16, 2001, more than a year after he began raising funds and three months after he was supposed to begin his leave, Del Giorno took a brief leave from the board.

He lost the Sept. 25, 2001, primary and was soon back on the board.

After he quit, his mother, Sheila Del Giorno, got a job at the board, becoming the $87,452-a-year chief clerk of Staten Island in 2006.

The board likes to hire relatives. A review of records shows 18 employees either related to politicians or to other high-level board employees. Some are part-timers who pull in the overtime each election.

The sons of the late Queens Democratic boss Tom Manton and the late Staten Island Democratic Chairman John Lavelle work there. Disgraced U.S. Rep. Vito Fossella's mother is the $73,819-a-year voter registration coordinator, and his brother is a part-timer.

Some Board of Elections employees work it both ways. District Leader Maryrose Sattie, a $92,728-a-year deputy chief clerk in Brooklyn, has two relatives on the payroll - Thomas, a $66,702 associate staff analyst who got his job through the Brooklyn Democratic party, and Lisa, a $39,440 administrative assistant, a Staten Island Democrat.

Board administrator Pamela Perkins, wife of state Sen. Bill Perkins, is also a district leader. So is Anna Torres, a Bronx Democrat and wife of former Assemblyman Luis Diaz. Torres makes $85,153 as a deputy chief clerk.

The board also has no policy on regarding the hiring of relatives, said spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez-Rivera, former wife of Bronx Democratic Councilman Joel Rivera.