Tom Allon says he lost Lisberg because of Cuomo’s pension change, not his mayoral campaign

Tom Allon on NY1. (ny1.com)
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Tom Allon, who is publishing and selling ads for City & State and running for mayor at the same time, told me the departure of editor Adam Lisberg for a job at the M.T.A. "has more to do with the Governor than with my mayoral campaign."

I had asked him whether he thought his political aspirations had made things awkward for Lisberg, a respected veteran of local political journalism who was previously City Hall bureau chief at the Daily News.

Allon's mention of the governor was a reference to a new, less-generous pension tier for public employees that Cuomo successfully pushed through the legislature. That pension plan takes effect on April 1. Lisberg starts his new job at the authority, where he'll be a spokesman, on March 30th.

But Allon, who is making his first run for public office, also went on to say that Lisberg "did not report to me, as will his successor, but I can't ignore the fact that working at the same company as a mayoral candidate did not make Adam's job any easier."

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Allon is currently polling in the single digits among the Democratic candidates for mayor, but he has not gone unnoticed. In addition to writing opinion columns in the New York Post and Huffington Post, he's also been been particularly aggressive in criticizing his likely opponents.

"DID CHRISTINE QUINN BET YOUR LIFE TO BECOME MAYOR?" an ad by Allon said, which ran in a local paper distributed in Chelsea, where St. Vincent's Hospital recently shuttered. Later, Allon called on City Comptroller John Liu to resign from office after his campaign treasurer was indicted by federal authorities for allegedly using straw donors to hide the source of some donations. 

When I forwarded Allon's statement to Lisberg, he agreed with it, mostly.

He told me that he and Allon didn't talk about stories slated to appear in the paper, but did talk about business decisions affecting the company, and said that on some of those occasions, Allon's candidacy was particularly hard to forget.

"Knowing in the back of your mind that the guy you work with is also someone you theoretically cover, it's a challenge," Lisberg said. "I have told Tom as much. He knows that, that's no secret and I'm not going to say otherwise because that would be denying reality. That said, it is certainly not the reason why I'm leaving."

The chance to work on mass transit, an issue he said he has a particular affinity for, was too good to pass up.

I asked him if he was now in a position to give a more candid assessment of the race in which his boss is a candidate. 

His answer:

"For another seven working days I'm an independent and objective journalist. And then I'm going to go to work for an agency that needs the support and close cooperation of whoever is the mayor on January 1, 2014."

Allon's email to me about Lisberg's departure is below:

Adam Lisberg is an incredible talent who we were fortunate to have on our team for about a year. `First Read,' the 6:30 a.m. daily e-newsblast, which now has more than 17,000 readers, is one of his legacies and it has become a must read in the political community. We know that the Governor and the Mayor read it each day.

Adam's departure has more to do with the Governor than with my mayoral campaign. If pension reform had not passed as of April 1st, Adam may not have left here so swiftly. He did not report to me, as will his successor, but I can't ignore the fact that working at the same company as a mayoral candidate did not make Adam's job any easier. But, at the end of the day, waking up at 5 a.m. frequently to edit `First Read' was probably a bigger nuisance.