Held up as a poster boy for everything that’s wrong with local and state politics, New York State Sen. Pedro Espada took on Gustavo Rivera in the West Bronx in this week’s Democratic primary.
And surprising many, he lost.
But despite the results you will probably see his name in the press over the coming months because his problems are far from over. It’s been reported this week that the federal government froze stimulus money that would’ve been distributed to the Soundview Health Center in the Bronx, established and run by Espada. Citing concerns with how some of the money was spent, the Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is demanding that Espada repay $90,053.
Federal government officials have accused Espada of improperly using public money to pay off invoices for construction consultants in 2007 and 2008. According to HRSA officials, they haven’t received any of the $90,053 payment that they’ve asked for.
The HRSA awarded Soundview Health Center $1.05 million in stimulus money to construct a facility, but the health clinic had spent only $12,406 in 2009. The HRSA had distributed $102,460 to the establishment before the federal government stalled further distribution of funds.
The New York State Department of Health planned on contributing to the project as well, with $3.2 million, but ended their relationship with Espada after he lied on an application stating that the health center wasn’t in arrears on its taxes.
The office of New York State Attorney General, and current Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Cuomo filed a civil lawsuit that states that Espada’s family members and aides, along with the senator, misused $14 million of the Soundview Health Center’s money.
While Espada’s camp promised to speak on recent developments with the AmNews, they weren’t available as of press time.
This past July, the AmNews reported that Espada might be making his last stand as a major player in New York State politics. Federal prosecutors were planning to indict Espada on several charges, including mail fraud, regarding his personal and political use of money from the Soundview Health Center.
At the same time, the Democratic Party has openly expressed a desire to cut ties with him. In a letter from Democratic Party official Edgar Santana sent to State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Santana asked, on behalf of the party, that Dinowitz take away Espada’s party enrollment.
“For more than a decade, Senator Espada has cavalierly flouted campaign finance rules,” read the letter. “He operated in open defiance to affiliate with the Democrats…the result of opportunism and personal gain, not a commitment to Democratic ideals. This self-serving approach to party affiliation was on vivid display just one year ago, when Senator Espada bartered his allegiance to the Democratic Party for personal benefit. Such motives negate any effort to invoke constitutional immunities for legislative actions.”
In the summer of 2009, Espada and fellow State Sen. Hiram Monserrate from Queens were involved in a coup that saw the two switch allegiances to the Republican Party, putting Albany in a state of chaos. After a month-long circus, Espada switched back to the Democrats and became the first Hispanic Senate Majority Leader in New York State’s history Meanwhile, Monserrate was forced from his senate seat by his fellow senate members and failed to win a special election to return him to power. And Espada has been a force in the Democratic Senate Caucus despite hard feelings from his colleagues for what they saw as his lack of loyalty. But Espada never felt that there was any real need to question his Democratic Party loyalty.
“I’ve always been a Democrat,” said Espada after last year’s events. “I never left home. I had a leave of absence.”
During the same summer, Bronx residents gathered in the Fordham neighborhood to protest at one of Espada’s alleged political offices. The office building, located at 400 East Fordham Road on the corner of Webster Avenue, was unfinished and not open to the public.
There have been questions about Espada’s residence and whether he even lives in the Bronx district he represents District 33), Espada has an apartment in the Bronx, but owns a home in Mamaroneck, which he and his wife have lived in for years.
The Daily News recently reported that 90 percent of Espada’s campaign contributions have come from outside the district, with most coming from Manhattan, mostly from real estate interests. This plays into some of Bronx residents’ accusations of Espada being in bed with the real estate industry. While conceding the race last night Espada said this was not the end of his political career, and since this is Espada’s second political death, would anyone say he will not have another political life?