A Precedent for the Mayor
September 2nd, 2011
As Mayor Michael Bloomberg reportedly dodges venues where he might face questions abut his handling of the resignation of former Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, Bloomberg might be wondering how he might have done things differently. Well, given the mayor’s reluctance to doubt himself, maybe not.
But if he does have second thoughts, he might want to consider his own handling of a previous problematic resignation.
In 2008, the city’s then commissioner for the aging Edwin Mendez-Santiago, abruptly resigned. His departure came amid a heated debated over plans to revamp the city’s services for the elderly, and some wondered if that explained his sudden resignation.
But it soon emerged that, like Goldsmith, Santiago-Mendez had left under a cloud. About a week later, Mendez-Santiago’s former secretary filed suit against him, charging the former commissioner with sexual harassment and discrimination.
While the mayor and his staff did not address this explicitly in announcing Mendez-Santiago’s departure, they also did not say anything that was out and out deceptive. Mayoral spokesman Stu Loeser told reporters only that Mendez-Santiago was leaving for personal reasons.
In his release, Bloomberg thanked Mendez-Santiago for his services, said he had served the city’s older resident well and gave no explanation for the departure.
Later he showed a bit of the legendary Bloomberg loyalty, but still did not seem to stray from the truth: Mendez-Santiago “left for totally personal reasons, and it had nothing to do with any policy whatsoever of the Department for the Aging,” Bloomberg said days later when he announced Mendez-Santiago’s successor. “Never even came up. He did a good job. I’m sorry he chose for personal reasons to resign.”
Now contrast that with the comments on Goldsmith, who it now turns out resigned after he was arrested in the District of Columbia on a domestic violence complaint.
The first paragraph of the resignation announcement said Goldsmith was “leaving to pursue private-sector opportunities in infrastructure finance.”
While Mendez-Santiago was not quoted in the release announcing that he was going, Goldsmith rattled on a bit in his, full of plans for the future. “The change will provide me, at age 64, with more flexibility for me and my family and a secure foundation for our future. In addition, I intend to continue my academic work and the school year is about to start,” Goldsmith said.
The release also regaled readers with what City Hall said were Goldsmith’s considerable accomplishments in his scant14 months on the job. It did not mentioned the December 2010 blizzard that many initially thought had been the deputy mayor’s downfall.
Certainly, Goldsmith was a much higher profile member of the administration than Mendez-Santiago and so people might have been more reluctant to accept the vague explanation accorded the aging commissioner’s resignation. And while Goldsmith and his wife deny any wrongdoing, the city settled the sexual harassment suit against Mendez-Santiago, paying the secretary $225,000.
But with even allies such as City Council Speaker Christine Quinn demanding the mayor come clean, Bloomberg may now wish he had done what he did two and a half years ago.
Susan Lerner of Common Cause put it this way: “I don’t think you need to necessarily say what happened,” she told the Times. However, she added, “It’s never, to us, a good idea to misrepresent to the public, even with the motives of trying to prevent a trial by the media.”By Gail Robinson on September 2, 2011, 12:52 pm
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