The New York State Senate coup that cost taxpayers millions of dollars and stymied the legislative body for five weeks this summer was sparked by Democratic leaders' refusal to give Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. money for two mysterious new charities, a published report said today.
Espada and Sen. Hiram Monserrate of Queens left the Democratic fold on June 8, touching off an ugly power struggle. Somehow, Espada came out on top, with the title of Senate Majority Leader.
According to the New York Post, the coup had its roots in March, when Espada registered two sham charities with the state just a week before the Senate and the Assembly were expected to allocate $170 million in discretionary pet-project spending among members. Then-Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) decided to turn off the spigot, denying the payouts. Espada found retribution in the coup, the Post said.
Funneling public money to charities is standard operating procedure for Espada, the Post reports.
He has long used his taxpayer-funded, $15 million health-care charity to line the pockets of himself, his family and his pals. The Bronx senator earns a $460,000 salary from the charity, as well as undisclosed extra cash he makes from private companies he has set up to do cleaning and other services for it, the newspaper said.
The report comes just days after cries of nepotism -- and a state investigation -- forced Espada's son to resign a new $120,000-a-year Senate job.
The elder Espada said his son told him he didn't want to be a "distraction" and would hold a Thursday press conference announcing the decision.
“He applied for the job with great enthusiasm and the best of intentions, and I am certain that his qualifications and experience in city and state government won him the position," Espada said in a statement.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office said it had opened a probe into whether the move had violated nepotism rules.
"We have been reviewing the matter of the hiring of Pedro G. Espada. Yesterday, conversations took place between senior members of this Office and members of the Senate and its staff, including Senator Espada, regarding the legality of the hiring and the relevant provisions of the Public Officers Law," Cuomo said.
Espada Jr. has been called the "teflon pol" because no charges of corruption ever seem to stick.