As an Agent of Their Embarrassment Gets Promoted, Senators Ask ‘What’s Going On’

ALBANY—John Flateau would be a reasonable fall guy given the current state of things in State Senate’s Democratic conference, whose hiring practices are now a punchline.

But Flateau, who unilaterally signed off on the hiring of Pedro G. Espada, will be transitioned full-time onto the Senate payroll. He is currently an hourly employee who works on salary for CUNY.

“He was transitioning into a full-time role where he was going to be running an entire department, and he hired someone to work in that department,” Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats, said. “After the Senate leadership crisis, his role expanded and he’s serving both leaders but particularly Senator Sampson in his capacity as conference leader.”

Senator Bill Perkins told me he doesn’t see a resignation in the cards, but “I ask the question: what’s going on?”

“Obviously they have to do better in terms of being sensitive in these types of conflicts and situations, and that will result in a credibility problem for us,” Perkins said. “These are leadership matters that may have gone beyond staff–John signed off on it–but these are matters that leadership needs to be held accountable for it.”

“We can do better,” Perkins continued. “We have an awesome responsibility and opportunity and we need to face that and live up to that, and that particular decision fell short. We cannot continue in that pattern.”

One Democratic senator called what was happening with the younger Espada and others “complete bullshit.” Another senator, speaking anonymously, said it was “unfortunate” and that John Sampson, the conference leader, “should have said no.”

“At his difficult time, we need all hands on deck,” State Senator Jeff Klein, the deputy majority leader, told me.

Floodgates seem to be opening, here. Earlier this week, Senator Liz Krueger told me that the hiring practices and pay scales in the State Senate need to be reviewed. Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. is calling on an investigation of all family members on government payroll–never mind that his son, like him, is an elected official–and told me picking on Espada is racially motivated.The Post quoted Senator Neil Breslin, an Albany Democrat, saying “this makes me more embarrassed and makes the Senate look even worse than it has already — and that’s hard to imagine.”

Shafran said that a three-member panel will now make sure central staff hires are “fully and thoroughly vetted.”

“I think what you have in place is really a process that’s better than what preceded it,” he said.

As an Agent of Their Embarrassment Gets Promoted, Senators Ask ‘What’s Going On’