Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has hired a new senior director to help oversee the City Council’s member services division, a spokesman for Ms. Mark-Viverito confirmed to the Observer.
Karina Claudio-Betancourt has been hired as the second-ranked director of the division, serving under Joey Pressley, a former council aide to Ms. Mark-Viverito, who was elevated to the post after speaker’s race. Ms. Claudio-Betancourt will focus on outreach to the LGBT community and earn $95,000 a year.
Ms. Claudio-Betancourt previously served as a lead organizer at the prominent immigrant rights group Make the Road New York, a top supporter of Ms. Mark-Viverito’s speaker bid last year. Ms. Mark-Viverito also hired another member of the group, Ivan Luevanos, to serve as an immigration and labor liaison for the speaker’s office.
The member services division–also known as “community outreach”–has a broad range of responsibilities, including helping council members set up district events, printing newsletters and providing data-driven community outreach for various projects and initiatives.
The division has at times been criticized for being too politicized. Some saw it as a de facto campaign arm for former Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s mayoral bid last year. As she revved up her campaign, critics accused Ms. Quinn of using the division to promote herself at the expense of other council members–a charge that she denied.
Traditionally, council sources said, speakers have stocked the division with close political allies. And some remain critical of its role.
“It’s the same old political chop shop that all speakers always had,” charged one council source. “Some used it much more extensively when they ran for higher office.”
The previous directors of the member services division departed after Ms. Mark-Viverito was elected speaker.