Cuomo Makes a Hire

ALBANY—Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has hired Alexis Grenell to serve as his deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, payroll records show. She started last week.

In the position, Grenell will be responsible for keeping up contact with groups and elected officials around the state. Cuomo staffers do this regularly, and amid incessant speculation about when he’ll openly begin running for governor in 2010 (Fred Dicker reported this morning that Cuomo told Rudy Giuliani he intended to run) he has been looking to bulk up his governmental operation.

This one of the first hires Cuomo has made in months; a spokesman for the Office of Attorney General said the position Grenell is taking has been vacant since January. Her hiring, the spokesman said, “has nothing to do with any ‘gearing up’ but is rather based entirely on the pressing needs of the attorney general’s office.”

“The intergovernmental affairs deputy director position has been vacant for 10 months and the position is a vital one for the office, in areas like the attorney general’s pension fund reform initiative and government consolidation initiative, to name just two,” said John Milgrim, the Cuomo spokesman.

Grenell served as a press secretary and communications director for State Senator Jeff Klein and then worked on Richard Aborn’s campaign for Manhattan district attorney. She is a Bronx native and University of Chicago graduate. She will report to Lee Llambelis. Grenell’s position pays $85,000 annually.

I asked Milgrim about the appropriateness of the hire, given the state’s mid-year deficit and a hiring freeze implemented in 2008. While the freeze does not apply to non-executive agencies like the Office of Attorney General (or for “critical” posts in places like the governor’s office, where David Paterson has added to the payroll) he said the office has tried to abide by it as much as possible.

“The governor’s hiring freeze for executive agencies allows for the hiring of individuals based on essential need,” Milgrim said in a statement. “Thus, the executive agencies and the governor’s office have continued to hire and promote in certain circumstances. And this is appropriate where such hirings are needed in order for the government to properly function. The attorney general’s office has been abiding by these principles and has severely reduced staff through attrition. Indeed, we have already reduced our budget significantly. After almost a year of virtually no hiring, we have begun filling a very small number of critical positions that are essential to the proper functioning of our office.”

Cuomo Makes a Hire