Politics as usual! So-called ‘reformer’ gets job with Lopez’s protege

And from our Southern Brooklyn bureau…
Photo by Bess Adler

So much for reforming the Brooklyn Democratic organization!

Bay Ridge District Leader Kevin Peter Carroll — who ran as an anti-establishment reformer this fall — just got a political job with Councilman Steve Levin, the protege of county boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

The new post puts Carroll, 24, just two degrees of separation from Lopez, the embattled pol he lambasted during his election campaign — yet backed for another term as county boss in his first official act as district leader.

Levin (D–Brooklyn Heights) said his decision to name Carroll his new legislative director was not a patronage appointment or payback to Lopez’s new buddy.

“Politics was not a consideration in this decision,” said Levin, who is Lopez’s former chief of staff and a former staffer at the Lopez-founded Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen’s Council, the scandal-riddled non-profit that’s currently the target of at least two government investigations.

Other politicos weren’t too pleased that Kevin Peter Carroll had come in from the cold. Park Slope District Leader Chris Owens said Carroll was just being paid pack for helping Lopez’s agenda.

“It’s clear that [Carroll’s] political independence and ‘reform’ credentials have been compromised,” said Owens, who did not vote for Lopez for re-election.

Carroll began his career in public life as the founding member and president of Brooklyn Democrats for Change. When he ran for district leader, his website was filled with demands for reform.

“There is a crisis of confidence in the leadership of our party and we must organize so that the Democratic Party will stand again for those values that brought us to it,” he wrote. “Democratic public officials must behave as Democrats or be removed if they are only interested in special interests and their own re-elections.”

During a debate against incumbent Ralph Perfetto in our office, Carroll described himself as the “independent candidate” and lambasted Perfetto as Lopez’s horse in the race.

“I’m not happy with the direction county is going,” he said. “I believe in reforms and the county organization needs to be reformed.”

Yet after besting Perfetto with 62 percent of the vote, Carroll’s first act as district leader was to re-elect Lopez as chairman — a move that took reform-minded District Leaders Owens and Lincoln Restler by surprise.

For his part, Carroll stuck to the script.

“I’m very excited to be part of Steve’s staff. It’s a great opportunity,” he said, days after Lopez surprised everyone by showing up at a Christmas party hosted by the political club Carroll founded, according to the blog Bay Ridge Interpol.

His new boss and party pal notwithstanding, Carroll still feels he can still make good on his campaign promises while working for Levin.

“I ran as an independent reform candidate and I’m still fighting for reform in Albany and redistricting reform,” he said. “But no matter what I do, even if I join a non-profit that deals with saving puppies, there are some people out there who are going to find a problem with it.”

Carroll was quick to defend Lopez on his most controversial recent move: filing to collect his retirement pension though he remains in office, a practice known as “double dipping.”

“[Double dipping is] legal and a lot of Assemblymembers collect their pensions. Who am I to judge?” said Carroll, who also lambasted the investigations into Lopez’s non-profit.

“People have been talking about this investigation for months,” he said. “There’s got to be a point when you say, ‘If you got something, indict the man. If you got nothing, then stop talking about it.’ ”

Attempts to reach Lopez were unsuccessful. A reporter was kicked out of Lopez’s annual charity dinner on Saturday — despite being invited by Lopez to cover the Christmas Day event!

Carroll doesn’t believe that the favorable treatment he’s given to Lopez led to his new employ. After interning with Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D–Park Slope) and Assemblywoman Janele Hyer Spencer (D–Bay Ridge), he feels he’s well suited for the job.

He also worked for then-Councilman David Yassky’s 2009 bid for Comptroller, and knows the district Levin represents.

“I was impressed with [Carroll’s] knowledge of the district,” Levin said. “He’s worked on legislative issues before and understands New York City politics.”

No question about that.