Mayor Bill de Blasio has threatened to lay off or furlough frontline workers because of the budget crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic—but in the last several weeks he’s made nearly $2 million in hirings or promotions of at least 10 people including several communications jobs and a records director position.
“The unfettered spending and deception from the de Blasio administration never stops, even during a financial crisis,” fumed Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens).
“While Office of Management and Budget Director Melanie Hertzog claims that the city is in a hiring freeze, we see nothing but high-paying hirings and promotions as the mayor talks about potentially laying off or furloughing essential workers. This is a disgrace,” he said.
Hertzog clarified during a City Council budget hearing last week that there is an exception for hirings related to COVID-19, health or safety.
On Monday the mayor announced a new position– senior advisor for small business COVID-19 recovery. The $227,786-a-year post will go to Gregg Bishop, the city’s current commissioner for Small Business Services. Jonnel Doris, who’d been making $204,106 as director of the city’s Office of Minority & Women Owned Business Enterprises, will take over SBS where he’ll also make $227,786.
Additional hires include City Hall’s $160,000-a-year chief content officer Ashley Ross-Teel who started on March 16, $115,000-a-year rapid response director Mitch Schwartz who began on April 6, and former Hillary Clinton staffer Peter Kauffmann who’s been raking in $17,000 a month as a senior COVID-19 advisor since April 8. Kauffmann’s appointment is temporary.
The mayor also created a new job for his longtime chief-of-staff Emma Wolfe on March 22 when he appointed her deputy mayor for administration to oversee the city’s coronavirus response. Her promotion came with a salary hike from $243,853 to $252,000.
Ex-ThriveNYC spokesman Joshua Goodman apparently did such a good job defending the embattled mental health project that he won a $45,000 pay bump and promotion to assistant commissioner for public affairs at the Sanitation Department earlier this month. He now makes $175,000 a year.
The Dept. of Citywide Administration also promoted three people— Carmen Rivetti to chief of staff, Nick Benson to communications director and Janae Ferreira to director of city records. Rivetti’s pay increased from $183,000 to $205,000. Benson’s went from $129,000 to $140,000 and Ferreira’s from $97,000 to $140,000.
City Hall Spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said all of the moves not related to the coronavirus were executed before the pandemic hit.
“Many of these public servants were hired to do essential work well before the crisis began and much of their work has shifted to focus on COVID-19,” Goldstein said.
“They work 24/7 to ensure New Yorkers are kept informed and served during these difficult times. Layoffs remain a last resort,” she added.
Still Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) said they could have been put on hold.
“Many of these hirings or promotions are unnecessary given the circumstances. In fact they are fiscally irresponsible and a waste of taxpayer money,” Ulrich said.
De Blasio predicts a $6.6 billion budget gap next year– though experts say the figure could be double.
Andrew Rein, president of the independent Citizens Budget Commission, said the mayor should take a close look at payroll.
“You have to scrutinize every single hire, new position, you have to look at it within the context that we have to seriously shrink city government right now because we don’t have the revenues to support all the things that we used to do,” Rein said.
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