In the month since she was selected as the new Speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn has made an effort to define herself as a unique leader of the legislative body - announcing a series of reforms aimed at making the council more open and democratic and joining Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a crack-down on unscrupulous lobbyists at City Hall.
Then, Speaker Quinn made her mark in an even more tangible way: she fired 61 people.
The Friday before the Presidents Day holiday weekend, Quinn undertook what aides called a "significant restructuring" of the council; nearly a quarter of the staff were handed letters informing them that they had been fired and were told to leave by the end of the day.
The massive layoffs affected every level from receptionists to lawyers to the fiscal experts who are responsible for negotiating the city's $50 billion budget with the mayor's office. Larian Angelo, the longtime finance director, was fired along with 17 of her staff members in the budget office.
Recently, the council announced some of the new people being hired. Key members of Quinn's new appointments include:
- Michael Keogh, who worked in the mayor's Office of State Legislative Affairs, as the new finance director.
- Elizabeth Fine, who worked for President Bill Clinton, as general counsel.
- Kevin Wardally, a former advisor to Gifford Miller, as a deputy chief of staff.
- Maura Keaney, who worked for the Bloomberg campaign, as another deputy chief of staff.
- Ululy Martinez, a former aide to Bronx Democratic Party boss Jose Rivera, as another deputy chief of staff.
- Rob Newman, who has worked at the council since 1999, as legislative director.
- Lucy Mayo, who worked for the organization Demos and State Senator Tom Duane, as policy director.
- And Maria Alvarado, who worked for Gifford Miller, as press secretary.
Observers choose to see Quinn's house cleaning in different ways.
Some said it was expected; when Gifford Miller became speaker in 2001 he did a similar thing and let about 60 staffers go.
Some said the layoffs were Quinn's way of making a clean break from some of the scandals (like the Allan Jennings sexual harassment suit) that plagued the previous council.
Others worried that Quinn was merely making room to hire party loyalists from the Democratic organizations in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx whose leaders who helped her win the position.
Still others - including several members of the council's Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus - expressed concerns about the ethnic diversity of those let go and those filling the open positions.
Whatever the reasons behind the move, Quinn also wants the staff to take their jobs - or at least their appearance while they are on the job - more seriously.
Last week, the speaker also announced a new dress code and put an end to "casual Fridays." "All employees are expected to be in appropriate business attire during business hours, regardless of the day," a council memo reportedly stated.
For more on the council's changes, see the City Hall news section of Gotham Gazette.
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