State Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) paid a Manhattan−based public relations firm $15,000 from his campaign funds shortly after his arrest on suspicion of allegedly slashing his girlfriend’s face with a broken glass last month, according to the state Elections Board.
“Elected officials, many of us select PR and political consultants during political campaigns and off campaigns to help us in delivering public info to the public,” Monserrate said. “We retain them as professionals. This is a 100 percent legitimate expense.”
He confirmed that Dolce Goldin, which has “done a wide array of work on my behalf,” helped direct him during a recent court appearance on the suspected assault. Davidson Goldin, former NY1 anchor and co−founder of Dolce−Goldin, was among Monserrate’s entourage as he left the courtroom Jan. 16.
Monserrate and his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, have claimed her injuries on Dec. 18 were an accident.
“We identify your potential areas of vulnerability and prepare responses so you’re never caught off guard,” the company states in a description of its services on its Web site. “If a crisis is unavoidable, we tap into our network of contacts and respond rapidly to control the dialogue and prevent problems from spreading.”
Monserrate, who ran unopposed for the Senate seat, had a balance of $137,790 as of Jan. 15, according to the Elections Board.
Spending campaign funds on image control after the election has passed is not illegal based on state election law, but one city nonprofit questioned the statute’s vagueness.
“While Sen. Monserrate’s expenditure on a reputation management company might raise a red flag, it’s not a violation,” said DeNora Getachew, director of public policy for Citizens Union, a New York−based nonprofit dedicated to government reform. But she said Citizens Union wants to see the law reformed. “Just because other candidates and elected officials make these kinds of expenditures, it doesn’t mean this is an appropriate use of these campaign funds.”
In the meantime, rival women’s groups squared off Saturday in Albany over Monserrate’s role in the state Senate.
The New York Chapter of the National Organization for Women reiterated its call for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans) to remove Monserrate from his chairmanship on the Consumer Protection Committee, while a group called Women in Defense of Women held a counter−protest outside.
“We feel that it sends a bad message to elevate someone who has been arrested for violence against women and a hate crime,” said NOW Chapter President Marcia Pappas, noting her organization is lobbying to get domestic violence designated as a hate crime. “Until it’s resolved, they should not give him further power in our Legislature.”
Women in Defense of Women emphasized Monserrate’s history of supporting domestic violence groups and favoring women’s rights.
“Ms. Pappas joins a long list of people who have misconstrued the facts of this case,” said Martha Flores Vazquez, executive director of the domestic violence nonprofit Community Prevention Alternatives. “Since Day One, the senator’s girlfriend has stated her injuries were as a result of an accident.”
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@tim
©2009 Community News Group
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