Governor Andrew Cuomo used the annual dinner for a non-profit group aimed at increasing the role of Hispanics in the public policy making process to announce that Democratic Bronx Assemblyman Peter Rivera is his pick to replace Colleen Gardner (a David Patterson holdover) as the commissioner of the state Department of Labor.
Rivera happens to be Puerto Rican, so the governor couldn’t have picked a more politically savvy venue to make his announcement (courting the Hispanic vote could go a long way — like all the way to a 2016 presidential run, if you catch our drift).
The dinner the governor attended was the annual gala for Somos El Futuro, which found itself smack-dab in the middle of a public pissing match between the governor and two teachers unions last week. More on that here.
Rivera has served in the Assembly for nearly 20 years. During his time in the Assembly, he served as the chairman of the Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. He also currently sits on the New York State Assembly Committee on Rules and the Judiciary Committee, as well as the committees on Agriculture, and Consumer Affairs and Protection.
Rivera, however, also comes with a little baggage — as former Voice scribe Tom Robbins noted in January 2011, one of Rivera’s buddies got popped for federal corruption charges for allegedly lying to a grand jury during a probe into an agency he led, and to which Rivera, as a powerful assemblyman, steered millions in taxpayer coin.
David Griffiths, a former law partner of Rivera’s who also served as
his campaign treasurer, headed the non-profit group Neighborhood
Enhancement for Training Services (NETS), which was the target of a federal corruption investigation starting in 2008.
By Robbins’ estimate, Rivera steered $1.2 million in taxpayer money to
NETS. The New York Post, at the time of Griffith’s arrest, put the dollar amount closer to $2.2
Much of the money was supposed to go towards renovating
an old synagogue NETS wanted for its headquarters. The renovations never
Rivera later claimed he hadn’t visited the bogus
building project “in several years,” despite a contractor initially hired to do
the renovations telling the Post that he “thought it was Peter’s
[Rivera’s] thing.” Get all the details here and here.
Rivera’s appointment still needs to be approved by the Legislature. He’s
expected to hold on to his Assembly seat until the current session ends