A Sunday rally called for accountability for the Spano administration amidst reports of nepotism in government. This was immediately followed by another news story on the lobbying firm run by the mayor’s brothers who represent clients with business before the city.
Calls for change at weekend rally
Political candidates, elected officials, and Yonkers citizens gathered for the “Rally for Change” at Yonkers City Hall on Sunday, May 21st. These protestors voiced opposition to what they allege is corruption and nepotism in Yonkers’ city government.
A vocal protestor at the rally was City Council candidate for the first district, Shatika Parker. “We are here to make sure that City Hall is in the back in the hands of the city and the residents who live in this city,” she said.
Current City Council member and candidate for mayor, Corazon Pineda-Isaac, stood on the steps next to Parker and County Legislator Christopher Johnson. “This is an abuse of power and yet another example of how Mike Spano uses his position as mayor to enrich his friends and family at the expense of the people,” charged Pineda-Isaac.
Local political groups like the Working Families Party, NYCD16 Indivisible, and Community Voices Heard, also filled the crowd.
Potential Conflict of Interest
Just hours after the rally, The NY Post published another story of potentially illicit Spano-family dealings.
Empire Strategic Planning (ESP), “a full service, bi-partisan government affairs consulting firm,” was founded by Mayor Spano’s brother and former Republican State Senator, Nick Spano, in 2007. Another brother, John Spano, also holds an executive leadership position at ESP.
Throughout Mayor Spano’s tenure, the lobbying firm has represented at least 23 clients with business before the City of Yonkers–including its Industrial Development Agency (YIDA). Mayor Spano chairs the YIDA and appointed his sister-in-law as Executive Director. The current president and CEO of the YIDA, Jim Cavanaugh, was previously a lobbyist with ESP.
According to state lobbying records, clients of ESP pay the firm a total of around $65,000 per month for their services. These Clients of the Spano’s firm include: Yonkers Police Benevolent Association, St. Joseph’s Medical Center, O’Connor Davies accounting, and others. Some clients, including Trinity Associates LLC and Waverly Saw Mill River Realty, received tax breaks from the YIDA. Cavanaugh, however, disputes conflict of interest accusations as “campaign fodder.”
More calls for investigation
Calls for an investigation into corruption at Yonkers City Hall began after an April 26th article in Journal News/Lohud highlighting at least 14 members of Mayor Spano’s family employed by the city. The following day, the city’s original Inspector General and former Board of Ethics member, Phil Zisman, wrote an opinion piece outlining the responsibilities of the Inspector General and ethics board. His calls for an investigation were echoed by participants in Sunday’s rally, NYCD16 Indivisible. That group sent a letter to Westchester District Attorney, Mimi Rocah who then forwarded the request to the Yonkers IG, board of ethics, and NY Comptroller.
After this recent news article, Republican mayoral candidate Anthony Merante also expressed his continued concerns about public corruption. “It’s wrong for elected officials to enrich themselves or others and anyway profiteer from their public service,” he stated.
Notable watchdog group, Reinvent Albany, also suggests further investigation into malfeasance in Yonkers.
“There’s a lot of smoke coming from Yonkers […] The question state investigators should answer is whether there is a corruption fire.”John Kaehny – Executive Director of Reinvent Albany