With just a month to go before the September primary, Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera has found herself plunged into an embarassing scandal.
Serious questions have arisen over employing her boyfriend on her assembly staff while he held a full time job elsewhere.
At the same time, her Facebook page under a middle name showed a provocative side of the Morris Park pol.
Calling herself Daniela, Rivera is seen decked out in what appears to be sultry lingerie or a loose hanging dress with a bright red lacey bra, posing with a female friend.
In other photos, the 47-year-old assemblywoman is seen smooching with what a NY Post headline called her 39-year-old “staffer boytoy” Tommy Torres.
But embarassing Facebook page aside, ethical issues are being raised over putting Torres on her Assembly payroll as a high-priced “community-relations consultant” while still working as a full-time gym teacher at a city school in Brooklyn.
On top of the $89,000 salary Torres earned from the city Department of Education, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s records show Torres earned $18,123 from August 30, 2010 to January 1, 2011, grossing $1,100 a week during his “full-time” four-month employment stint at Rivera’s district office.
That would conflict with his other full-time teaching job where he had “no break in service,” according to the Department of Education.
Rivera’s camp responded by saying Torres was a part-time employee hired because of his background in education.
“He was actively involved in representing me in educational and at community events,” Rivera said in a statement.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office backed Rivera, stating Torres worked 20 hours a week on off-hours, being paid $54 an hour.
“His time sheets show weekends, a few hours here and there,” said Michael Whyland, a Silver spokesman. Whyland said Rivera went through the proper channels, getting clearance from Assembly counsel. “It was fine for her to hire him.”
But conflicting records from the State Comptroller’s Office shows Torres was a full-time employee.
Morris Park Realtor Mark Gjonaj, who’s vying for her seat in the redistricted 80th Assembly District, has called for official investigations by both Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson and the state Assembly.
He emphasized Rivera’s personal life is “not my business”, but the “impropriety” of hiring Torres should be.
“Too many questions remain unanswered,” said Gjonaj, adding “Where are the time sheets?”
Though the news – and tabloid field day – could turn off potential Rivera voters, Gjonaj still has an uphill battle defeating an incumbent whose father is former Bronx Democratic Party chairman and Assemblyman Jose Rivera, and brother Joel Council Majority Leader.
Thanks to recent re-districting – some charge gerrymandering – the solid Morris Park community Rivera has represented since 2005 was chopped in half, dividing a close-knit community, cutting a number of her potential challengers out of the district, and moving her into a majority Hispanic district.
She has long been criticized as being an absentee legislator, rarely showing up at community meetings, and then only briefly, and with minimal-to-no constituent services.
Joe McManus, the 80th Assembly District’s state committee man, predicted the current headlines would have “a minimal effect on her campaign.”
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383