WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A flap over welfare payments to a live-in employee had a suburban prosecutor playing defense on Tuesday night.
It’s an alleged dirty deal involving Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, an accusation she is calling a political smear attempt.
DiFiore suggested that she only did what anyone would have, despite a change in a city tabloid which accuses the Democrat of throwing her weight around to help a live-in housekeeper and nanny get welfare benefits.
Even Republicans like John Murtagh of Yonkers said that the story feels like a cheap shot.
“It appears to be a year-old investigation,” Murtagh told CBS 2’s Lou Young on Tuesday. “Maybe she placed a call to have somebody look at a file, but there’s no indication at all that anything was done wrong.”
The housekeeper worked on the books at the DA’s home and was initially turned down for benefits, but she successfully re-applied with her boss’ help. The article quotes an investigator at County Social Services who complained that this was a political favor for DiFiore’s maid and is completely unacceptable.
It turns out that the investigator — Dhyalma Vazquez — is a political player herself with the county Independence Party, and she has allegedly long been at odds with DiFiore.
“I’ve done nothing wrong in any respect,” DiFiore said in a statement. “The person quoted in this illegally leaked e-mail has a well-known political agenda that she has been carrying on against me for at least a decade, and this appears to be more of the same.”
All of this controversy is occurring as DiFiore steps to a larger stage; she has been appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to head state ethics investigations.
“The real story here is the leak,” Westchester Republican Michael Edelman said. “Whatever investigation is going on in social services should not and cannot be leaked without violating the privacy act.”
“What you have to do is step back and say, ‘Who has an interest in damaging Janet DiFiore’s reputation?'” Murtagh said.
The housekeeper is a Jamaican immigrant and she no longer works for the DA. She happens to be disabled, suffering from multiple sclerosis. According to CBS 2, she receives Medicaid, food stamps and cash payments — benefits that were approved after the DA decided to step in and help her with her application.
Westchester County is currently conducting an internal investigation into the source of the e-mail leak.
Do you believe that Janet DiFiore did anything wrong in helping her live-in housekeeper, or does this appear to be a political smear campaign? Offer your thoughts and comments in the section below…