Speaker Quinn Pads Campaign Staff with Council Staffers
By Elizabeth Dwoskin
Thursday, Aug. 20 2009
In Mid-July, Jan Messerschmidt, the manager of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's re-election campaign, sent out a letter to supporters. In just over a month, Messerschmidt bragged, the campaign's "more than 90 volunteers" had logged thousands of door-to-door man hours, garnering enough signatures to put Quinn on the ballot in District 3, which spans from Soho to Hell's Kitchen.
It turns out that many in Quinn's touted group of dedicated volunteers have a strong personal interest in her being reelected -- indeed, their jobs may rely on it. According to documents the Voice has obtained, thirty-one of the "more than 90" volunteers are current staff members on the City Council,.
This is campaign season, after all. And with campaigns come the time-honored ritual of the counsel staffer stumping for the boss... (more after the jump)
The Board of Elections strictly prohibits council employees from working on political campaigns during business hours. They can volunteer in their spare time.
According to the campaign's Board of Election filings, the list of staffers includes press secretaries Anthony Hogrebe and Andrew Doba. It also includes some of the most highly-paid staff members on the council, people like legislative counsel James Caras or longtime City Council staffer Wayne Kawadler, who each earn salaries of more than $150,000. Kawadler was Quinn's campaign manager during her 2005 council run. (When Quinn became speaker, she dismissed 22 percent of the council's staff, in a move Gotham Gazette referred to as "Quinn-ing the council.")
From the documents, it look like the staffers kept pretty busy this summer. Even during the busy weekdays running up to the budget agreement -- which was June 15 -- twenty-four presumably overworked staffers found the time to volunteer for Quinn. Some of them don't even live in her district -- which is permitted by the Board of Elections if you are just going around petitioning for signatures. On a single workday, June 10, one young aide who lives in Brooklyn, Danielle Castaldi-Micca, managed to bop all around the district (we hope it was after work or on her lunch break), obtaining 55 signatures for the speaker. She went from 12th Street to 21st Street, and from Bleecker Street to Greenwich Avenue. That's a lot of walking.
Reached by phone yesterday, a spokesman for the Quinn campaign confirmed that the number of council staffers who petitioned "seemed accurate," but vehemently denied that any of the volunteers campaigned for Quinn on city time.
Anthony Hogrebe, the current city council spokesman, also confirmed yesterday that he had volunteered for the Quinn campaign over the summer, during his own time. "I like the speaker," he told the Voice. Was that sort of the thing expected around the office this summer? Hogrebe said no.