Is another top City Hall aide on her way out?
Laura Santucci took a leave of absence from her post as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s chief of staff to head New York City’s bid for the 2016 Democratic National Convention—and now that Philadelphia has been chosen to play host to the DNC, Ms. Santucci’s future is unclear, with sources telling the Observer she may not return to City Hall.
“Right now, she is still in charge of our bid and will lead our wind-down operation, which begins today. The mayor feels she did a tremendous job and would of course welcome her back to City Hall,” said Marti Adams, Mr. de Blasio’s spokeswoman, this afternoon.
That’s a dramatically different tune from the one Ms. Adams struck last month and in November, when she denied Ms. Santucci intended to step down in response to inquiries from the Observer about Ms. Santucci’s plans after the DNC bid.
“As we indicated in our November announcement, Laura is on a temporary leave to help New York City win the convention, and she will return to her position as Chief of Staff at the end of the selection process,” Ms. Adams said on January 20.
Ms. Santucci’s future with the administration, for a variety of reasons, was unclear months before the DNC decided not to come to town—and the City of Brotherly Love’s victory has only intensified speculation that Ms. Santucci is not planning on staying with Mr. de Blasio long-term.
“She once had a high-level role at the DNC—New York City government is a step down for her and I’m not sure she wanted to compete with Emma Wolfe and all for inner circle influence,” a Democratic source told the Observer last year. “Too many cooks in the senior adviser kitchen.”
Ms. Santucci, who worked on President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and in the White House, never drew the press attention of other top de Blasio aides like Emma Wolfe, Mr. de Blasio’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Peter Ragone, Mr. de Blasio’s senior adviser or even Rachel Noerdlinger, the former chief of staff to Mr. de Blasio’s wife.
Ms. Noerdlinger departed City Hall last November after months of controversy surrounding the criminal history of her boyfriend, son and her own failures to pay taxes and parking tickets. Mr. Ragone announced last week he would be leaving City Hall to go back to his home in California.
Some political observers raised their eyebrows when Ms. Santucci took a leave of absence from her high-ranking position to head Mr. de Blasio’s bid to bring the DNC to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Chiefs of staff to elected officials, typically crucial in the management of day-to-day operations, rarely take temporary leaves of absences from governmental posts to perform unrelated duties, unless they’re campaigning for their boss’ re-elections.
To close City Hall observers, it was never apparent how essential Ms. Santucci really was or what role she played in shaping the administration’s ambitious liberal agenda. Rumors swirled about her departure long before Mr. de Blasio clashed with the NYPD and thousands of protesters clogged city streets around the Barclays Center.
Ms. Santucci’s departure would elevate Amanda Howe, now serving as Mr. de Blasio’s acting chief of staff. Sources close to City Hall say Ms. Howe would not be a permanent replacement.