Yonkers mayor taps in-house counsel for watchdog role

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YONKERS  —  In a surprise shakeup at City Hall, Mayor Mike Spano is replacing his 2012 pick for inspector general with one of the city’s in-house attorneys.

Spano announced his nomination Monday of Yonkers Deputy Corporation Counsel Brendan McGrath to replace Kitley Covill as inspector general, the city’s top internal watchdog, tasked with rooting out waste, fraud and abuse by public officials.

Covill said Monday she’d hoped to continue in the position longer and was surprised by the mayor’s decision.

“I don’t know why,” she said of Spano’s move to replace her. “It was a very short conversation I had with the mayor. There’s a preference for Yonkers residents.”

In announcing his nomination of Covill in spring 2012, Spano had touted the Katonah resident as a City Hall outsider who would bring a fresh perspective to Yonkers  —  a city then reeling from high-profile corruption scandals.

Covill replaced then-outgoing Inspector General Dan Schorr, who left for a consulting job in 2012.

Spano’s new nominee, McGrath, is a long-time Yonkers resident who previously served as Deputy Westchester County Clerk as well as counsel to both the Westchester County Attorney’s Office and state Assembly.

McGrath, a Democrat, lost a 2005 bid for the county Legislature seat held by Republican Gordon Burrows of Yonkers.

“It’s important that this position be filled by someone like Brendan who is highly qualified and from Yonkers,” Spano said in a statement Monday in which he thanked Covill for her service.

“Brendan brings a career of dedicated service on behalf of Yonkers at the state, county and city levels of government,” Spano continued. “(He) will be a great asset in protecting the best interests of our city as inspector general.”

McGrath lives in Yonkers with his wife and two children, and is a member of numerous civic and community organizations, the mayor’s office said.

In a statement, McGrath said the mayor “understands that this office will work independently and impartially to ensure fiscal responsibility and transparency in the city of Yonkers  —  while also working to enforce the legal and ethical standards that the public servants of the city … are duty-bound to uphold.”

McGrath’s nomination requires confirmation by the City Council in the coming weeks.

The inspector general’s annual salary is $161,132.

Covill’s tenure included probes of the city’s administration of two troubled, economic-development loan programs. She first made headlines in summer 2012 by publicly rebuking the school board for approving a contract extension for the superintendent without adequate notice, prompting the board to rescind the agreement and pass a two-year extension.

In March, Covill briefly bumped heads with the mayor after her investigation of the Department of Public Works found personnel problems including absenteeism, timecard inaccuracies and nepotism. Spano said at the time that it was unfair to “indict” the entire department based on the conduct of a few wayward employees whom, he noted, had already been disciplined or fired.

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4 Comments

  1. Laughable. If you don’t have an independent and voter named ombudsman with no tie to the administration, you have worse than nothing.

  2. Cant Trust Repubs on

    Spano is still not a true Democrat. Too many of his relatives to protect. Esp in DPW and other depts doing little work with a freebie car and other perks.

  3. Cant Trust Repubs on

    What company and by who is supplying and installing the new. LED street lights? Check that LoHud.