Local political blogger and Democratic Party activist Jeremy Blaber spent last summer going door to door throughout the city pounding in lawn signs and drumming up support for mayoral candidate Shayne Gallo.
Four months after Gallo’s landslide victory, Blaber is back on the streets and back to work for now-Mayor Gallo, handing out parking tickets. Blaber, who is paid $14,653 per year as a part-time parking enforcement officer, is one of half a dozen former Gallo campaign staffers who have made the transition to city jobs under the new administration.
The appointments, which began immediately after Gallo took office and have continued since, include Gallo’s campaign manager, former school board member and president and family law attorney Dan Gartenstein. Gartenstein was appointed to Gallo’s former post, assistant corporation counsel, a part-time job with a salary of $45,138.
Gartenstein’s boss, Corporation Counsel Andrew Zweben, is a politically connected attorney who served a previous stint as the city’s top attorney before moving on to represent the Town ofUlsterand the Kingston Housing Authority. Zweben, who makes $75,000 in his current post, also served as Gallo’s top legal advisor during the campaign.
Jennifer Fuentes, a former Ward 5 alderwoman with a background as a labor and community organizer, helped Gallo win support from the Working Families Party, support Gallo has credited with giving him the margin of victory in the down-to-the-wire squeaker that was last September’s primary race. Earlier this month, Gallo appointed Fuentes to a $55,000-per-year job heading up the city’s Community Development Office. Joining Fuentes in that office is former Kingston alderman and county lawmaker Michael Madsen. Madsen, a former self-employed contractor, oversees the administration of the city’s federally funded housing rehabilitation program and serves as the city’s zoning code enforcement officer. Madsen will be paid $35,000 per year.
Carly Williams, a Gallo campaign supporter with long experience in private -sector administration, was appointed city clerk at $45,000 per year.
Gallo’s confidential secretary, Ellen DiFalco, is a former clerk of the Ulster County Legislature and wife of Kingston Independence Party Committee Chairman Joe DiFalco. Both DiFalcos, who until recently served on the city’s Republican Committee, were strong backers of Gallo’s campaign. DiFalco makes $30,000 per year in her new post.
Not all of Gallo’s appointments come from the ranks of campaign supporters. Grant writer and former Hudson River Sloop Clearwater executive director Gregg Swanzey had no connection to Gallo or the campaign before he was hired to head up the city’s Economic Development Office for $50,000 per year. Nor has the culling of appointees from the previous administration been wholesale. A number of Sottile appointees, including heads of the police and public works departments, the city assessor and a number of lower-ranking appointees, remain on the job.
Started with Andrew Jackson
Rewarding campaign loyalists with government posts is a venerable tradition which spans all levels of government, from village halls to the White House. And Gallo, who ran on a campaign of accountability and transparency in government, said the appointment of trusted campaign aides to key posts in city government is necessary to make that promise a reality.
Slideshow image: Mayor Gallo speaks at a press event earlier this year. (Photo by Dan Barton)