Assemblyman and state senate candidate Adriano Espaillat denied suggestions of nepotism that were reported in The New York Post and were reiterated today by his opponent for the State Senate seat in Washington Heights, Mark Levine, a community activist.
On Sunday the Post suggested that the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Economic Development–an organization largely funded by state grants Espaillat secures–staffed important positions with members of Espaillat’s campaign and inner circle. The Post listed a number of people–including Espaillat’s sister-in-law, several consultants and a board member of his political club–among NMCED’s employees.
On a phone call with the Observer Monday evening, Espaillat said nothing unethical or illegal took place and said he had no involvement in the hiring decisions.
“I thought that article was perhaps motivated by an opponent who is desperate and wants to sink to the gutter,” Espaillat told the Observer. “I won’t go there. I’ve funded maybe over a hundred organizations in this community and I don’t get involved in the hiring or firing of any of them. I’m a legislator.”
The Post pointed that the organization’s executive director, Nury de Oleo, makes $53,000 a year and also serves on the board of Espaillat’s political club. Espaillat said she and others named in the report were hired because they were qualified.
“[De Oleo] is a person who has been very active in this community. She’s a lawyer. She works in the council’s office here and she was a businesswoman for over 15 years. I think she has great credentials and she’s also bilingual,” he said.
Espaillat also denied Levine’s accusation that individuals conducted campaign business on the organization’s time.
“Absolutely not. I’ve been in office for over 14 years. I expect to be the next senator here. I have a strong organization that doesn’t need to go out of bounds to get extra help.”
A group of roughly 40 of Espaillat’s supporters gathered at the corner of Sherman Avenue and 207th Street Monday afternoon to voice their support for the assemblyman and protest Levine’s press conference.
“I’m very proud of my record of accomplishments,” he said. “I have nothing to say to Mr. Levine.”