Friday, February 26, 2010

High Priced Coffey: Patricianage at Work

Tom Robbins has a great expose in this week's Village Voice on the tawdry hiring practices of the one chief executive in NYC history that doesn't let politics or personal favor enter into his governing equation-just ask him. In fact, reading the piece is nauseating in the way it details the manner in which Bloomberg treats city government like some kind of personal fiefdom,hiring incompetent friends or children of friends like some Tammany ward boss.

Robbins focuses in on one Christopher Coffey; someone with no discernible talent, lacking in any education pedigree whatsoever: "A few days before he announced that things are so bad that he needs to lay off thousands of city workers and close 20 firehouses, Michael Bloomberg put the son of a good friend on the city payroll. Christopher Coffey, 30, was hired in early January at the unit now known as NYC Media. The office has the essential mission of putting together city television and radio shows. Coffey was installed at a desk on an upper floor at the Municipal Building, where he was given the lofty title of Director of External Affairs and a salary of $114,000 a year."

That's what friends are for, right? But that's not really the kind of politics Mike Bloomberg has been selling, and selling and...well, you get the picture: "Being able to hire friends and family is one of the great perks of being the boss, especially when it is someone who might otherwise have a hard time landing a job. This rule apparently holds true even for New York's richest citizen, the mayor who pledged to always deliver progress, not politics."

But young Mr. Coffey was eminently qualified-picked after an exhaustive national search: "Coffey's fans say he is a hard worker, and this may be true, despite grumblings by co-workers that he does more boasting about his connections than rolling up his sleeves. But it also doesn't hurt that his mother is a leading figure in the upper reaches of New York society who is close to Bloomberg and first deputy mayor Patti Harris."

Progress over politics, heh? But about that resume: " But what's interesting about Chris Coffey's employment history is that he has found his way to a new six-figure job on the taxpayer's dime at a time of intense fiscal crisis without having a college degree—and despite an incident a couple of years ago that would have derailed the careers of those less well-connected."

Robbins refers to a drunken episode where Coffey was found drunk inside a running auto owned by the city-but what's a youthful indiscretion among good friends? And when it comes to friends of the billionaire, well, the normal rules and procedures get suspended: "Coffey sailed right into the job. Under agency personnel procedures, vacancies are supposed to be posted for at least 10 days. The rules specify that a minimum of four candidates must be interviewed and evaluated before anyone is hired. These guidelines are considered so basic that they're printed twice in the city's "Internal Personnel Action Request" rules—both times in boldface. But in Coffey's case, he was hired on the very first day that the vacancy notice for his job was posted. That's because he was also the only one considered, officials acknowledged."

That's the essence of Bloomberg world-upper class hacks with little or no expertise. We're back in the Gilded Age for God's sake-and bless Dan Janison for coming up with the right description of this back to the future tawdriness-"patrcianage." The hiring of the rich and socially connected; along with the conveying of city property to the billionaire friends of the mayor.

The irony here is that all of this putrescent policy making has a certain distinctive coloration to it: "But others noted that all of the new hires were white, while several minorities were either laid off or bumped aside. "There's just been a 'white-out,' " said one employee. As required, NYC Media posts its Equal Opportunity report right on its website. Not that it does much good. Officials didn't even bother to list three of the jobs it filled—including Coffey's—on the report. Like other city employment documents, it declares in bold that "The City of New York Is an Equal Opportunity Employer." In the Bloomberg Era, some are just more equal than others."

Imagine if Rudy Giuliani was doing this, Rev. Al would be yelling himself horse-but we think he's too busy cashing those checks to have time for a little even handed rabble rousing. So Bloomberg plows on-and rumors have begun once again that he may try his hand at that presidential thing in 2012. We hope he does, and not just because it will keep him away from NYC for an extended period of time.

The hope here is that Mike will make that national foray and be fully exposed for being what he has always been-the rich man's replica of that small man of no real discernible talent who hid behind the curtain and scared the little girl from Kansas.