In response to reports of his spokesperson’s controversial past, City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez has fired staffer David Segal — which seems to have only ignited further controversy.
And now the Councilman, who represents parts of upper Manhattan, is left to handle the fallout from the news without his top spokesman.
The drama for the Councilman unfolded Friday morning when the New York Post reported that Segal, when he was 19, had served time in federal prison for throwing a burning rag into an Army recruiting station in the Bronx in protest of the Iraq war. It’s a part of his history that he had disclosed to the City Council when he was hired, and legally, it would be a violation of state law if the Council considered a criminal conviction in making an employment decision (unless the conviction directly related to the position he was seeking).
Rodriguez seems to have reacted quickly to the article and fired Segal, The Politicker reported Friday morning. Though some might have been happy with that decision, at this point it appears it may be backfiring a bit, and the Voice chatted with one insider close to the situation who told us that it seems the firing was not a politically smart move.
Capital New York grabbed a comment from City Councilman Jumaane Williams, typically a very close ally of Rodriguez, who said that he would be happy to work with Segal, pointing out how difficult it is for people reentering society after incarceration to find a second chance. Williams, a critic of stop-and-frisk, was arrested by cops when they failed to recognize his City Hall credential at the West Indian Labor Day Parade. And Rodriguez, who was famously arrested at Occupy Wall Street, and Williams have been united on many issues and often come together for news conferences.
Capital pushed the story forward with a comment from a nonprofit group that helps former inmates, noting that the dismissal may violate state laws regarding discrimination. And in its latest story, the Post is pitting Rodriguez — who has been a bit wishy-washy in his comments about how much he actually knew of Segal’s past — against the office of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The Post quotes Rodriguez saying that he doesn’t do background checks, with a spokesperson for Quinn, who is likely running for mayor, firing back that Rodriguez, after all, signed off on the hire on an application form that included information of Segal’s past.
(It is a bit of an ironic situation, given that this kind of controversy is exactly when a media savvy spokesperson is most needed).
We spoke today to an insider close to City Council who pointed out that Rodriguez doesn’t exactly have a clean past himself. Before Segal was on his staff, the Councilman faced a handful of bad headlines tied to accusations that he inappropriately touched a staffer. Segal, who started in Rodriguez’s office in January of last year and was officially hired in March, in fact may have played a role in helping fix the Councilman’s image.
Around the time of Rodriguez’s ethics trial and after that, the boilerplate often used in articles to describe Rodriguez was that he had dealt with these accusations of “poking.” Now, he is often referred to as the Councilman who was arrested at Occupy Wall Street, of which he has become a vocal supporter (Read any of our stories on the Councilman for evidence).
It’s unclear how this news will impact Rodriguez and what the next move is for Segal, though there is a Stated Meeting on Monday where Rodriguez, Williams, and Quinn will likely all be together.
Segal today declined to comment beyond the comments he’s already made (“I’ve always had a strong commitment to social justice and, in 2005, I disagreed with the Iraq War and I continue to disagree with the Iraq War today,” he told Politicker. ‘I’ve found other ways that I think I can give back to society and advocate for working and middle class people, specifically when it comes to housing or jobs and education in the city…I apologize to anybody who is disappointed in me in light of all this and to anyone who disagrees with my past”). Rodriguez could not be reached for comment.