Embattled Senate Majority Leaver Pedro Espada, Jr. is trying to hit Attorney General Andrew Cuomo where it hurts: his relationship with his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo. But Cuomo isn't blinking.
In an interview with Telemundo Wednesday, Espada said "Mr. Cuomo objects to the fact that I employ my family. I remind him that he is who he is today because his father helped him. His father gave him his first real job. His father gave him the famous last name that now he counts on to become Governor."
Espada is defending against Cuomo's charges that he packed the board of his non profit Soundview Health Clinics with relatives and friends who looked the other way while he and family members helped himself to $14 million in outrageous perks, including vacations in Miami, a $2,500-a month housing stipend and tens of thousands of dollars in pricey dinners with friends and supporters.
Cuomo brushed off Espada's attacks at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. "In my business, a lot of comments are personal." Cuomo said. "So it's like water off a duck's back."
Federal and State officials raided the offices of Espada's non profit Wednesday morning, searching for additional evidence to support possible mail fraud, theft and conspiracy charges.
Meanwhile, some of Espada's Senate colleagues are starting to turn on him. Fellow Democrat Craig Johnson said Espada's position as majority leader simply cannot be allowed to become a distraction to the Senate's work. "Senator Espada has a decision to make: Will he put this body and this state ahead of his personal ambition?” Johnson asked.
Espada has said he will continue to serve as Majority Leader and when asked Wednesday if he will leave Soundview where he serves as President and CEO, Espada said "Never."
Espada also disputed Cuomo's charges about an alleged 9 million dollar severance agreement. Espada said that severance payment is not something he has pocketed, as he says Cuomo implied, but rather, a death benefit that his family would receive if he died. Either way, Cuomo called the agreement "egregious" and "excessive."