You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t celebrate the “retirement” of our scandal-scarred Democratic Party Boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez. I thought about getting him a gold watch, but, unfortunately, Lopez’s short-lived retirement as an Assemblyman from Bushwick will last only one day.
By deciding to resign from his post on the last day of 2010, just hours before being sworn into a new two-year term, Lopez will pad his $92,000 salary with an $88,000 pension. You read that right: Boss Vito will receive a pension while continuing to work the very same job that he’s had for 26 years.
The editorial board of The Brooklyn Paper and now Mayor Bloomberg have rightly criticized the Assemblyman for perpetrating “the ultimate Albany scam.” The “double-dipping” scandal is yet another reminder that Boss Vito has no reservation about stealing our tax dollars. Let’s review the evidence:
• Lopez’s pet nonprofit organization, Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen’s Council, is under investigation for fraud by municipal and federal authorities. The bloated taxpayer-funded salaries of the two most senior staff members at RBSCC totaled approximately $1 million in 2010.
• The executive director and Lopez’s campaign treasurer, Christiana Fisher, received more than $650,000 in annual compensation for just 17.5 hours of work per week. If Fisher were working full-time, she would be earning $1.5 million annually, an obscene salary for an executive at a neighborhood nonprofit organization.
• Vito’s longtime girlfriend, Angela Battaglia, who serves as the housing director at RBSCC, made nearly $350,000 and earned an additional $54,000 as a city Planning Commissioner. Therefore, Lopez and Battaglia’s taxpayer-funded combined household earnings will approach an astounding $600,000 in 2011, more than 16 times the median household income of Lopez’s Bushwick constituents. Throw in the $400 sushi habit and Brooklyn has its very own Pedro Espada!
In a state increasingly defined by public corruption, Brooklyn should be the exception rather than the worst example. As a newly elected district leader, I am working with my colleagues to build a coalition committed to transparency, accountability, and bring honest leadership to our local politics.
Brooklyn deserves no less.
Lincoln Restler is a district leader in the 50th Assembly District representing Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.