Johnson taps ex-Gottfried aide as his chief of staff

Corey Johnson, far left, was sworn in on Dec. 27 as the new District Three city councilmember, as two of his top aides, Louis Cholden-Brown, center, and R.J. Jordan, looked on. Until this past week, it was thought Jordan — who managed Johnson's campaign — would be his chief of staff. Photo by Sam Spokony
Corey Johnson, far left, was sworn in on Dec. 27 as the new District Three city councilmember, as two of his top aides, Louis Cholden-Brown, center, and R.J. Jordan, looked on. Until this past week, it was thought Jordan — who managed Johnson’s campaign — would be his chief of staff. Photo by Sam Spokony

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON |  Originally published  Sat., Jan. 4  |  In a surprising turn of events, two days after taking office as the new city councilmember for the Third District, Corey Johnson named Jeffrey LeFrancois as his chief of staff. It had previously been widely thought that R.J. Jordan already had the job nailed down — or, at least, so it seemed.

LeFrancois was Assemblymember Richard Gottfried’s deputy chief of staff for five years, also serving as his community liaison and L.G.B.T. liaison. LeFrancois recently left his job with Gottfried and was traveling in South America, before returning to the city just two weeks ago.

Political observers got the news when, slightly after noon last Friday, Gottfried tweeted out: “Congrats to @jlef423 Jeffrey LeFrancois, my former Deputy COS — Councilmember @CoreyinNYC’s new COS. Great news for all of us!”

However, it had been assumed that Jordan, Johnson’s campaign manager and close friend, would be his number one after Johnson took office. It was Jordan’s expectation, as well, as he reportedly posted so on Facebook and was recently signing his e-mails with a “chief of staff” address.

When he was the councilmember elect, Johnson, in fact, had publicly stated that he intended to name Jordan his head staffer.

Just last week, The Villager’s front-page photo was of Johnson being sworn into office on Dec. 27 with Jordan and another top aide, Louis Cholden-Brown, by his side as the smiling, newly minted representative raised his hand and took the oath of office.

At least one thing is clear: The well-liked Jordan was a tremendous campaign manager.

On Sept. 1, he posted on his Facebook page: “I’ve logged just over 3000 hours to help make Corey Johnson our next City Councilmember. There are 8 days to go till I cast my vote. This has all hit me very deeply. I really believe that we will do a lot of good for our neighborhoods.”

However, apart from running Johnson’s successful Democratic primary race — a bitter contest against Yetta Kurland — Jordan lacks political experience. He previously worked in catering.

On the other hand, LeFrancois is a seasoned political aide, well known in the community for his work for Gottfried.

According to Johnson, Jordan has decided to pursue acting, which he previously studied at N.Y.U. And acting runs in his family. His grandfather, in fact, was Bobby Jordan, one of the Dead End Kids of Hollywood fame in the 1930s. (Pointing to his new direction, on Jordan’s Facebook page, his main photo shows Bobby Jordan wearing a fedora and mugging for the camera with the other Dead End Kids.)

In a phone interview with The Villager last Friday, Johnson had nothing but positive things to say about Jordan.

“I wouldn’t have been elected without him, and I hold him in high regard,” he said. “I respect him and people in the community respect him. I consider R.J. to be the best campaign manager on a local level in the entire city. He decided he wanted to pursue things he was pursuing before the campaign.”

Jeffrey LeFrancois at a pre-election rally a few years ago.

Jeffrey LeFrancois at a pre-election rally a few years ago.

As for LeFrancois, Johnson, who served as chairperson of Community Board 4 for the previous two and a half years, said he knows him well through their frequent interactions on community board issues.

Nevertheless, Johnson readily admitted that, until very recently, he had been planning to name Jordan as his chief of staff.

“Yes, and that was the plan,” he said. “[But] R.J. told me he wanted to pursue other opportunities. There’s nothing negative about this. … But I’m thrilled about Jeffrey — he’s a rock star in the community. … R.J.’s fantastic, Jeffrey’s fantastic — and R.J. decided to pursue other opportunities.”

Asked when he made the decision to tap LeFrancois to be his chief of staff, Johnson said it was only a week ago.

Wendi Paster, Assemblymember Gottfried’s longtime chief of staff, had high praise for her former colleague LeFrancois.

“He’ll be terrific for Corey,” Paster said, “because he knows the district and the community very well. He knows city government very well. And he’s going to be a great asset for Corey and the community. Everyone who knows Jeffrey engages very well with him — he’s very smart, he’s personable.”

Asked if Gottfried had lobbied for LeFrancois to be Johnson’s chief of staff, Paster responded, “That is absolutely untrue. I have no knowledge of why R.J. is pursuing other things, but I think he would have been an excellent chief of staff to Corey. I think very highly of R.J., and so does Dick. Dick had absolutely no hand [in this], and would never interfere with an elected official hiring. There were no phone calls or conversations [about LeFrancois] between Corey and Dick, ever — ever,” she stressed.

However, Paster admitted that until the recent surprising news, “As far as I knew, R.J. was going to be Corey’s chief of staff.”

She noted that Jordan, to prepare for the job he expected he would have, was making a real effort to learn everything he could about it.

“He was talking to a lot of other chief of staffs of local legislators and councilmembers,” she said.

According to a source, Jordan posted on Facebook about three weeks ago that he would be Johnson’s chief of staff.

Similarly, Johnson reportedly announced at a meeting of the Village Independent Democrats club in November, after his win in the general election against Richard Stewart, that Jordan would be his chief of staff.

For his part, in response to a phone message and an e-mail from The Villager asking why the sudden change of plans, Jordan e-mailed a succinct statement:

“I am proud of my work on Corey’s campaign for City Council. I have decided to go back to school and pursue other opportunities. I believe Corey will be an outstanding councilmember and I wish him the best.”

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21 Responses to Johnson taps ex-Gottfried aide as his chief of staff

  1. From what your headline states, I expected a very different article. It is clear from your own article, that Corey Johnson did not "tap" Jeffrey LeFrancois until after RJ Jordan decided to leave the position. It really makes me question your reporting Mr. Anderson! Nancy Shamban

  2. Already such a shit show from Corey Johnson and he's hardly a week into office! Sad.

  3. WestVillageResident

    The elected officials in this district were so terrified of Yetta Kurland getting elected because her commitment was not to them, but to her community, that they were willing to put anyone in place to defeat her. It is obvious that Mr. Johnson is already showing his true colors.

  4. Maybe now Jordan can admit he helped Corey Johnson physically attack and beat up an elderly Chelsea resident who was passing out literature critical of Johnson during the campaign. The Villager refused to report this incident. Lincoln Anderson is a known apologist for Quinn and her cronies, and will likely delete this comment. Lincoln, You can't handle the truth!

  5. As I see from the above comments, the Yetta clan is feasting on garbage as usual.
    Jeffrey is a fantastic choice. Corey won this election in a landslide because the other candidate couldn't cut it.
    The loser is actually calling voters to ask (multiple choice) why oh why they didn't vote for them. How desparate. I could see it if it were a close election, but come on folks.

    Congratulations to a great team. I truly liked and admire RJ and I'm sure he'll do well in any field he pursues.

  6. As a proud Yetta supporter, WestSideVoter, I can say, we don't feast on garbage, we expose it, thus the constant knee jerk reactions of your clan.

  7. To WestSide Voter, I can raise questions about Johnson, who is ill-prepared for this position even though I am not – and was not – a supporter of Yetta Kurland, and I am not in contact with anyone from Kurland's camp. I just think Johnson is full of crap. And also, it's time for Dick Gottfried to retire. He sold out long time ago and his staff reflects that.

  8. Although it is a little muddled in the article, and as Nancy pointed out, Corey didn't go to Jeffery until RJ decided not to take on the role of chief of staff.

    Talk about being sore losers – the people of district 3 OVERWHELMINGLY elected Corey as their councilman because he is the right choice, because he will work day and night for the people of this district, because he DOESN'T LIE to the voters, because he doesn't invent fiction to try and get himself elected. Corey always has been, and will be a dedicated public servant.

    Despite the intimation in the article that Corey somehow jettisoned RJ on the eve of taking office, I know for a fact that this was entirely RJ's decision. Kurland supporters can make any noise they want, it doesn't make their stories true. You would have thought they learned this lesson during the campaign, but I guess they like their fantasy world.

  9. The Jakes and other Corey supporters show the paternalism and dishonesty that plagued Corey and his campaign. They attack Kurland and her supporters, twisting everything. Their lies are Kurland lying, Corey's problems are Kurland supporters fault. You can only blame others for so long for your shortcomings before people stop believing you.

  10. Kurland couldn't get elected to dog catcher because she turned off every voter she came in contact with. The evidence is in the vote count. She got slammed down. It was embarrassing. Are you saying the numbers were invented? She didn't get one…not a single meaning full endorsement. Talk about lies? Kurland is the queen of lies, deception and fabrication. I can tell you first hand I was astounded at how she tried to sell a pile to me personally not realizing that I knew better. I actually allowed her to spin a web to see how far she'd go. On election night she had to be reprimanded several times for not following election rules. Otherwise why is she now asking "oooh please tell me why you didn't vote for me?" whine whine sniff sniff…Answer: "WE don't trust you; you don't follow the rules; you mud sling instead of sticking to issues"
    The voters have spoken. Thank God that a capable person,who refused to go into the gutter to get a vote is our new representative. Face it…you LOST BIG TIME. Lick your wounds, go to charm school & do some soul searching.

  11. There's no need to re-fight the election. Corey beat Yetta by almost a 2 to 1 margin. it wasn't close. And it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with the subject of this article. As was stated above, The Villager seems to want to create a situation with RJ leaving when none exists, and Yetta's supporters want to jump on it as some sort of proof that Corey is evil.

    RJ decided he didn't want to be Chief of Staff, so he left. Nothing more to it. Some people like campaigning, some people like governing, some people like both. They require different skill sets. It's not like RJ is becoming Chief to some other Council member. He's left the political arena entirely. Maybe he couldn't take the complete bullshit that surrounds this, as evidenced by The Villager article and the comments by Kurland supporters. And who could blame him?

  12. LDK
    Well said. Spot on. You're absolutely right about it being RJ's decision and nothing more dishy than that.

    Time to do something else with the day besides getting soiled with cranky sore losers.

  13. Love Lowell

  14. Barbara Rogers

    I loved Yetta and voted for her, but I now stand behind our Councilman Corey and support his efforts. Our Yetta had recently posted in the Huffington Post on December 31, 2013

    "What if we could focus our concerns on the system itself rather than being intolerant of those we elect to represent us? In other words, what would it look like if we chose in 2014 to set our newly elected officials up for success?"

    I encourage all us Yetta supports to change the tone and work within the system for the change we wish to see. I believe it was our negativity that helped to lose the race, and Yetta has set the example for all of us proud women who live in the district, working towards all the progressive goals we wish to achieve. After all, it's not about winning or losing elections, it's the greater good of a bigger fight for the betterment of our lovely city.

  15. here, here!!!!

  16. Corey Johnson is a Tom Duane/Christine Quinn clone. He will follow in their foot steps by using our community for their personal gains. We just can't seem to elect someone who wants to better our community.

  17. Shirly Osborne

    Mike5044, for the record, was a paid advisor for the "Anybody but Quinn" group, which also supported Mr. Johnson's opponent in the City Council race. He has a staff of 5 that actively post online comments to try and derail any publicly elected official who is not in line with his radical agenda and who would not provide kickbacks to his PAC. It's time to come clean Mike.

  18. Taken verbatim, what Mike5 posted, Corey is going to use his office for Tom and Chris's personal gain.

    If he can't write in clear English, why should we believe a word he says?

  19. Its not a good start for him, I him his next weeks in office will be better.

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