Who Are They? Where Are They Hiding?

Patronage appointments are apparently everywhere but few name names. Who are these 'ghosts' who haunt the Town and County in positions of patronage? (Photo courtesy progressivestates.org)

Do you ever wonder who are the 'ghosts' that occupy the positions of "patronage" in the Town governments and in the government of Rockland County?   We hear about them all of the time - they are said to be everywhere - but some of them must be 'phantoms' as seldom does anyone name these chimeras and tell us where exactly we should look to find them. 

Take for example a column by Michael Bongiorno in the May 30, 2012 issue of 'Our Town' entitled 'Carlucci Stands Up To The Big Three' in which he writes:

Carlucci never used county government as a vehicle for political patronage to guarantee that friends, relatives and political supporters all had good-paying government jobs paid for by Rockland's taxpayers. How about cutting the bloated legislative staff and county departments populated by patronage appointees?

Wow, this is heady stuff!   These creatures should be easy to find as the county is 'populated' and 'bloated' by them.  

Or take this statement from an article in Patch from May 31, 2012 in which we read of nameless unknowns that have populated the public payroll:

Officials of the CSEA, which represents most of the unionized county employees, claimed political patronage jobs escaped the proposed cuts. “It’s bad enough that people are being laid off through no fault of their own, but it adds insult to injury to see that county department heads are sparing political appointees and other friends while making almost all of their cuts in the unionized workforce,” said CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo. “Once again, the little guy suffers while the higher ups are spared.”

Here we have a crop of 'phantom friends' apparently known only to department heads. The CSEA says it has asked for a list of appointed positions but the request has always been denied. Why? Are these 'appointed' people not employed by those who pay taxes? Are the appointed positions 'phantom' also?

Even, County Legislator, Ed Day's website proclaims the existence of patronage and unecessary government jobs and hints at a 'Deputy Probation position' and the 'Tourism' department.

Political Patronage is defined as the practice or custom observed by a political official of filling government positions with employees of his or her own choosing. This is the essence of the patronage system - also known as the spoils system - "to the victor go the spoils" - appointing persons to government positions on the basis of political support rather than on merit, as measured by objective criteria.

Guy Gervasi of New City in an Opinion Piece of January 11, 2012 entitled ' named two individuals as receivers of patronage who apparently had something to give in return other than just their 'friendship'.  Mr Gervasi wrote:

Dear Town Board and Town Attorney:

You should be ashamed of yourselves for blatantly dismissing one patronage person, Marsha Coppersmith, because she is no longer of use to you since she doesn't control the Independence Party line any more; and then with another patronage appointment by hiring an outside lawyer, who just happens to be the head of the Bronx Republican party, and was the lawyer defending the recent head of the Independence Party, even though he has no experience in tax certiorari cases in representing towns.

The person to whom Mr Gervasi refers is Jay Savino who is indeed Head of the Bronx Republican party and a person who, according to Councilwoman Hausner, is as others and he comes to this position with "". Savino was granted a 'retainer' fee of $87,000 per annum which presumably means even if he does nothing he still gets his check.  His 'retention' by the Town has raised a by New City resident, Tom Nimick, who has taken his concerns to the Committee on Open Government in Albany.

Savino defended Debra Ortutay when she was  for perjury and fraud. Ortutay is the recent head of the Independence party as pointed out by Mr. Gervasi and she had earlier  from that position. Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore was named for the case against Ortutay who ultimately was found guilty and received a jail sentence.

Guess what - DiFiore is now accused in an email leaked from the Westchester County Department of Social Services (DSS) that she used her connections to get welfare payments for her housekeeper. The email, released in violation of privacy laws, was written by Dhyalma Vazquez, a longtime DSS worker, who is also - wait for it - Head of the Yonkers Independence Party!  DiFiore maintains the allegations are part of a politically motivated attack by the Independence Party - a sort of political pay-back if you will.

Oh, what a tangled web is seen to be woven when one unpacks Councilwoman Hausner's Savino "baggage". Sadly, it was brought from Westchester into Clarkstown with Supervisor Gromack's blessing!

But what is the evidence that the job Savino was given is a 'patronage position'? The answer was provided by County Legislator and Minority Leader, Frank Sparaco, in the Rockland County Times where he reportedly described the job as a 'no-show' job given as political patronage pay off. However, this was his view when the job was held by the former Chair of the Independence Party, Marsha Coopersmith. Sparaco, who is Debra Ourtutay's son-in-law, has not commented on Savino's appointment to this 'political patronage pay off' position presumably since the job has now gone to his close friend.

Given the above, we can safely assume that Mr Gervasi has definitely uncovered two of the 'patronage' elite since neither Coopersmith nor Savino has raised any objection to being identified as 'patronage appointees' and legislator Sparaco has confirmed that Savino's position is indeed a patronage job. Add to this the fact that Mr Gromack, who appointed Savino - and who is apparently not suffering from any of Mr Gervasi's recommended feelings of shame - has not disputed Gervasi's characterizations. All of which raises questions about those who control the other party lines?  Are they too members of this elite 'patronage' club? After all citizens' groups have accused the Town of Clarkstown of providing patronage jobs to other politicians such as Ed Lettre, the public works administrator, who is executive director of the Rockland County Conservative Party. In 2005 Mr Lettre's total compensation paid for by the taxpayers was $117,000. In 2012 it will be $178,300. That is a 52% increase in 7 years. 

And so, Mr. Bongiorno and Mr. Riccaldo, I have a question for both of you. Since you started me thinking about who these people of patronage are and where they are hiding within our local government, would you let the rest of us into the secret of who it is you know that 'populates' and 'bloats' governments in the Towns and in the County?  I have been able to identify a few of them but we would all like to have a complete list and hold the politicians who appointed them accountable at the next election.

If you know speak now or forever hold your peace!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mary Koshak June 07, 2012 at 01:25 PM
It's not what you know, it's who you know is so very true. Time for a big change.
Maureen June 07, 2012 at 08:42 PM
No one is going to say. They complain about patronage but don't hang it out to dry. Mr Day, you have a statement on your website about patronage. You have a reputation for standing up and sticking your neck out. Name the names! Who appointed them? Or is it just spineless talk about invisible people.


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