Skoufis hires Anagnostakis as investigations aide (updated)

Democratic Sen. James Skoufis has tapped maverick Republican Mike Anagnostakis as a part-time aide and hired a full-time investigations chief for his staff as he prepares to lead a Senate committee he has vowed to dedicate to more aggressive oversight of state government.

Anagnostakis, an Orange County legislator who initially campaigned for Senate last year but wound up supporting Skoufis in his successful run, will serve as senior advisor and help investigate financial matters, according to an announcement on Wednesday of staff members Skoufis has hired. Anagnostakis owned a securities brokerage before becoming a county legislator in 2010 and has shown a penchant for financial scrutiny while in office, helping debunk administration claims about the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation.

“I am deeply honored to join James Skoufis’ team,” Anagnostakis said in the press release. “James is an honest and hardworking elected official who shares the same bipartisan values that I hold dear. Together, we will always fight for what’s best for the people we serve – not political insiders or special interests.”

Skoufis has hired Michael Mazzariello, a longtime attorney and legal and political commentator, as chief of investigations. Mazzariello’s legal background includes stints as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn and chief prosecutor for the New York City Board of Education.

Skoufis, a three-term assemblyman and Woodbury resident elected in November to the Senate seat that retiring Republican Bill Larkin has now vacated, has been named chairman of the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee. He has pledged to turn that panel into a more active watchdog over state agencies and officials, noting its power to issue subpoenas to compel witness testimony.

Skoufis also has hired Carlos Valle, a former aide in his Assembly office, as chief of staff; Elijah Reichlin-Melnick as legislative director; Jess Gulotta as director of communications; and Sara DiBernardo as counsel. DiBernardo, who previously worked as a law clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York, will help with the investigations work.

(Update: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, implied in a radio interview on Wednesday that he could retaliate against investigations of his administration by legislative committees by blocking or slowing the grants that lawmakers distribute, which are vetted by state agencies. He reportedly said: “Look, you can always get into an investigations battle. They have oversight committees. I have every state contract, every member item contract, every grant that the Legislature does goes through my government, so I could investigate every one of those.”

Skoufis fired back on Twitter on Thursday: “I haven’t even officially stepped into the chairmanship yet (1/9) and threats are already flying. Legislative oversight, which is long overdue, will be professional, impartial, and won’t be influenced by comments like the one made yesterday.”)

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