Senate Dems $hell Out $350K for Espada

By Jennifer Millman
|  Wednesday, Aug 19, 2009  |  Updated 5:32 PM EDT
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Senate Dems $hell Out $350K for Espada

NBCNewYork

Espada denies the money has anything to do with the Republican-backed coup he helped stage and then solve in favor of the Democrats.

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Not only did Democrats in the state Senate give Sen. Pedro Espada a lucrative post after he allowed them to regain majority control of the chamber, they approved $350,000 to hire his friends and give raises to staffers.
    
The latest news comes as Espada continues to fend off criticism about a six-figure post given to his son, who abdicated the job before payroll even processed his hire.

While Espada's own son no longer has a job with state government, the senator is using his new funds to employ the son of one of his loyal supporters.

State records show the Democratic conference approved hiring Jerry Love Jr., a former employee at Espada's Bronx health clinic, Soundview Health Care Network, for a Senate staff position. Love's mother, Sandra Love, was also employed at the clinic. She pleaded guilty in 2004 to steering state AIDS funding to Espada's campaign.

Jerry Love will be earning $40,100 in his new post as special assistant to the housing committee, which Espada chairs, reports the Times Union of Albany. Even after pleading guilty, his mother remains on the nonprofit's payroll and is currently a site manager for the clinic, according to the paper.  

Democrats lured Espada back in July, a month after a Republican-dominated coalition gave him a leadership post in exchange for supporting a coup that briefly seized the majority. Since the senator returned to his party, the Democratic leadership has granted him $500,000-plus in salary hikes and new staff, reports the Times Union.

Soundview general counsel Alexander Fear is also among the beneficiaries of Espada's expanded bankroll. Like ex-Soundview employee Jerry Love, Fear will serve under Espada's leadership. He'll be special counsel to the housing committee – a part-time post that pays $35,096 a year.  

Espada justified the new money rolling his way, saying he needs it to support his new responsibilities as majority leader and staff his new district office. The Bronx pol denies the money is payback for switching back to the Democrats during the Senate coup.

"Adequately staffing the district office has nothing to do with the coup," Espada told the Times Union in an e-mail. "It has to do with being responsive to and serving the constituents of my district."

The $514,371 in spending authorized for Espada's personnel only accounts for about half of the more than $1 million spent by Senate leaders on new hires and pay increases since the coup started June 8, reports the Times Union.     

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