Longtime Governor’s Office chief Katie Hochul played a key role in her disastrous decision to appoint Brian Benjamin as her vice governor and apparently missed big red flags, The Post has learned.
Jeff Lewis was in charge of the inspection of Benjamin, then a US senator from Harlem, before Hochul made him his number 2 last year, sources said on Wednesday.
But the review was “hasty,” a source said, with Lewis failing to uncover the alleged lies he included in some of the official forms he filled out – lies that were detailed in a federal bribery indictment uncovered on Tuesday.
“Seeing the news yesterday, I was really disappointed because it caught our attention,” said one source.
A source close to Hochul revealed that “there were some flags” regarding Benjamin’s inspection forms and “some questions about going back and making sure they were addressed”, including forcing the US police to conduct a second check.
The issue was even discussed in official emails circulated to Hochul’s senior staff, but was dropped a few days later, the source said.
Both Louis and attorney Jeffrey Pearlman, the governor’s special adviser, then gave the green light to Hochul to elect Benjamin, the source said.
It is alleged that the process of vetting Governor Katie Hochul of former Lieutenant Brian Benjamin was “rushed” by Chief of Staff Jeff Lewis. James Messerschmitt
Former Gov. David Patterson, a former Harlem state senator, told The Post that he had heard unspecified “chatter” about Benjamin around the time he was appointed vice governor, but did not think it would disqualify him from his job. .
Patterson also said Hochul spoke very well about Benjamin during a fundraising event in Manhattan on Monday night.
“It gave me the impression that Hochul didn’t know what was coming,” he said.
A Manhattan federal court indictment on Tuesday accused Benjamin of five crimes in an alleged $ 50,000 state subsidy trading scheme for roughly the same amount in illegal campaign dues.
Former Gov. David Patterson says Gov. Katie Hochul was unaware of Brian Benjamin’s alleged schemes. Lev Radin / Pacific Press / Shutterstock
Hochul announced Benjamin’s resignation late Tuesday afternoon, and his lawyers told him he would fight the charges in court.
Lewis’ first job was as a summer intern for Hochul in 2009, when she was an employee of Erie County, and she hired him to handle her election correspondence in Congress in 2012.
He resumed work for her after she was elected vice-governor in 2014 and saw his annual salary jump from $ 122,000 to $ 200,000 last year when she succeeded scandalous Governor Andrew Cuomo after his resignation over sexual harassment, according to Seerough scandal.
Former Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin has been accused of directing a $ 50,000 state subsidy to campaign contributions. Stephen Young
As chief of staff to Hochul, Lewis held one-on-one meetings with staff at the Cuomo Executive Chamber to determine who will join her administration, The Post reported last year.
Last month, he was transferred to work as a senior adviser in her campaign and the US Democratic Party, according to his LinkedIn account.
One source said the move was apparently the result of his hiring decisions. Other sources close to Hochul speculate that his inspection of Benjamin may also have played a role.
At an event in Queens on Wednesday, Hochul discussed Benjamin’s appointment and what is known about him.
Governor Katie Hochul promises to find a better candidate for her second commander. Robert Mechea
These were issues that were not addressed in the forms he filled out for us, but in terms of our knowledge of them, we were told that each of them had been resolved, that there had been restitution paid in the past, and they were something that had happened before, “she said. “So, these are just a few examples in the process, but we will do a much better verification process.”
Pearlman also worked for Hochul in 2015 and 2016, before being appointed director of the state budget service.
His annual salary as an employee of the Executive Chamber is $ 204,000, according to SeeThroughNY.
Neither Louis, Pearlman, nor Hochul’s office immediately returned requests for comment.
An anonymous source familiar with Lewis’s thinking defended him and denied that he had been transferred to the campaign as a punishment for bad inspection practices: “It’s too convenient,” the man said, adding that Lewis’s idea was to target the campaign. .
“The campaign will only prepare more and more.”
“Nothing has appeared that is not in the public domain,” said the Benjamin inspection source, claiming that Lewis was unaware of any summonses received from the failed campaign of Benjamin’s inspectors, claiming that they may not have emerged in the process altogether.
The source also acknowledged that the inspection period was “hasty” since the two-week transition period between the disgraced former governor. The resignation of Andrew Cuomo and the assumption of power by Governor Katie Hochul.