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On Hevesi

October 8, 2010

Alan Hevesi was driven from office because a state worker was used to transport his ailing wife on personal trips, including doctor’s visits.  

Given all that’s happened in New York over the last few years, doesn’t this offense now seem almost trivial? 

Couldn’t the matter have been resolved by stopping the practice and reimbursing the state for costs?  In recent years, state authorities have resolved similar cases involving lower level state workers in just that way. And typically the workers are allowed to continue in their jobs.   

But not Hevesi.  

Instead, the political establishment, led by Spitzer, came down hard on him. Spitzer wanted to send a message about the need to clean up Albany and he was very aggressive toward Hevesi, with whom he’d previously had warm relations.       

Of course, Hevesi didn’t handle the matter well. He was defiant at first and later seemed paralyzed about what to do. We remember thinking at the time that he should hold a news conference and confess: “I’ve always felt bad that the demands of the job kept me away from home where I should have been attending to my very ill wife. Having a staffer look in on her periodically was the wrong way to handle a difficult situation. I’m sorry. I should have used better judgment, but sometimes we have blinders on when it comes to family matters. This won’t happen again. I will make full restitution to the state, and I will redouble my efforts to be an aggressive fiscal watchdog for the people.” 

If Hevesi had done that, would there have been the same outcry? Would he have  been forced to resign? 

Keep in mind that this was 2006. Nobody knew that Hevesi was running a massive scam on the state retirement fund. There were rumors, of course, that he had some “go to people,” but so did other comptrollers and other pols. 

The interesting question is this: If “Chauffer-gate” didn’t bring down Hevesi, would the subsequent pay-to-play scandal have occurred?  

At a minimum, it would have had a different tenor. The Office of the Comptroller certainly would have tried to defend its conduct. It would have tried to claim that despite a flawed process, the investments that were selected performed well and that the taxpayers’ interests were served. 

Please don’t get us wrong here. We’re not defending the scam. Nor are we trying to undermine the excellent work of the Attorney General’s office. Without exaggeration, it can be said that Cuomo’s work has changed the pay-to-play culture in Albany. This is a tremendous achievement.  

What we are noting is that things might have been different if the original matter hadn’t occurred, or occurred differently. 

Hevesi’s ability to defend himself, his ability to hide what he was doing in the comptroller’s office, was undermined when he was driven from office. When he lost political power, the whole operation became an open book. Again, this is not to diminish the AG’s efforts. He and his people had to do a ton of work in uncovering what really happened. 

But the point is this: This particular scam was uncovered. What other scams are being perpetuated by people who might still be firmly entrenched in power?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark Keister permalink
    October 8, 2010 2:46 PM

    Quite a few I’d venture; if you really want to look, find the most vociferously pious player . . . you won’t have to raise their skirt very much, a little ankle and there you are! Scandalicious, fattening to a few and expensive to all.
    Just make sure of who is looking with you.

  2. Mark permalink
    October 9, 2010 3:37 PM

    “Alan Hevesi was driven from office because a state worker was used to transport his ailing wife on personal trips, including doctor’s visits.

    “Given all that’s happened in New York over the last few years, doesn’t this offense now seem almost trivial? ”

    No. Mr. Hevesi has plenty of money (offshore, of course) and could have easily afforded to hire a private driver and/or nurse to transport his wife to her requisite medical visits.

    “Please don’t get us wrong here. We’re not defending the scam.”

    Yes, with your first two paragraphs above, you most certainly are defending Mr. Hevesi’s criminal actions.

    Let’s write that again: Mr. Hevesi’s criminal actions.

    News flash: Thousands, if not tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Mr. Hevesi’s fellow New Yorkers have ailing relatives. In one two-year stretch, I saw my lone sibling diagnosed with breast cancer, one parent make four separate hospital visits, and another parent have a minor stroke (from which that parent fully recovered). During that time period, I assisted my sibling’s spouse and family, my parents, and held my job. I never missed a day of work. I never failed to pay a bill. I never neglected to cover a financial responsibility dealing with the care of my family members.

    Make no mistake: I – and the countless others like me – are not heroes. We deserve no special mention. We simply had or have responsibilities. We tend or tended to those responsibilities. Period.

    I have no sympathy whatsoever for Mr. Hevesi – a man who chose to believe that he:

    A. Was above having to do these things in the same manner as I and countless other New Yorkers with far less money; and,

    B. Could use state taxpayers’ dollars to fund his personal and familial responsibilities.

    Alan Hevesi belongs in jail. The crimes Mr. Hevesi committed are far worse than some strung out junkie holding up a gas station or convenience store for $75. Mr. Hevesi had method – the method to pay – and opportunity – the full and complete rational deployment of himself and his ample logic to tend to his personal responsibilities. That Mr. Hevesi’s motive – to pack away his own money offshore and falsely use the tax dollars of his fellow state residents to cover his financial needs – now speaks veritable volumes about his personal greed and arrogance should really serve as a reminder to us all about what happens when those elected to represent our interests focus, instead, solely on using us and our tax dollars to represent only themselves and their own monetary desires.

    You should be ashamed of yourselves for defending Mr. Hevesi.

    • October 11, 2010 4:22 PM

      Mark,

      No, we’re not defending Hevesi at all.

      We’re doing what we always do, which is to reflect on the why of things.

      Alan Hevesi had his driver take his wife to doctor and hairdresser appointments. He paid restitution of $200,000 for this heinous crime and was forced from office. Joe Bruno was revealed to have used state aircraft for personal business and political trips at a much greater cost to taxpayers, but nothing happened. Why?

      Spitzer saw hookers on the side. He didn’t do it in the office or in any way that involved state expense. He was driven from office in shame. Countless other pols have engaged in arguably more egregious sexual indiscretions and continued in office. Why them and not him?

      Pedro Espada faces a gazillion count lawsuits from the Attorney General because he and his family are said to have benefitted personally from grants steered to his non-profit organization. Dozens of other lawmakers have friends and family associated with organizations that receive so-called member item funding. Why Espada and not the others?

      The larger point, which you missed completely, is that when a pol loses institutional support, his ability to defend himself vanishes. And, conversely, when a pol has institutional support…

      Sincerely,

      NT2

  3. Mark permalink
    October 11, 2010 11:52 PM

    “Alan Hevesi had his driver take his wife to doctor and hairdresser appointments. He paid restitution of $200,000 for this heinous crime and was forced from office. Joe Bruno was revealed to have used state aircraft for personal business and political trips at a much greater cost to taxpayers, but nothing happened. Why?”

    Papa Joe was charged, tried, and convicted. Then the Scalia Court threw out the underlying law on which Papa Joe was convicted. The feds have not nixed Papa Joe’s case. Last I knew, they planned on trying Papa Joe all over again – Scalia Court or no Scalia Court. You know of something different, type it out. I’m all eyes.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing Papa Joe swinging by his testicles from the flagpole at that embarrassment of a baseball field on the HVCC campus. But I’ve been known to have a soft spot for the criminal class. Guess I’m not a “real Amerikin'” (sic).

    Also, I don’t give a damn if a politician commits adultery – with or without the paid talent. Look, Ike slept around during World War II, FDR had rumored liaisons with ladies other than Eleanor, JFK screwed everything that moved, and Tommy Jefferson fathered a child with one of his slaves. They were all fine leaders, some of the best in our nation’s history. Well, in JFK’s case, less than three years probably did not offer enough time to make the aforementioned statement, but following the Cuban Missile Crisis, the space program, and in light of his horrid death (yes, I’m aware of Vietnam), I’ll grudgingly give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Let’s extend it a bit further. Abe Lincoln battled clinical depression for the balance of his life. And over in England, Winston Churchill was a noted boozer. Not a mere nip. Try a quart a day. Wooden Leg Hall of Famer. Still, Honest Abe and Churchill were superb leaders – with human faults, illnesses, and/or weaknesses.

    I could give a rat’s backside if a pol violate’s his/her marital vows. I didn’t marry the chump. I’m not the Deity of the chump’s choosing. Or yours. Or the public’s at-large. The only time such activities become an issue is when those happenings involve the use of public dollars and/or staffers. Then that pol has violated the public trust. Then that pol has to go. ASAP. And don’t let the door hit that thieving chump on the posterior.

    Toss Pete Espada in the pokey. And put Charlie Rangel in the cell next door. Both are serial violators of political ethics and, most likely, the laws of the land. Well, Pete’s already been convicted. Bounce both their butts and send me the bill.

    The point you miss is not institutional support; the point you miss is your consideration of institutional support in the first place. Whether the rest of the boys and girls in the Albany or D.C. Band also back a pol’s criminal activities means nothing. Those very criminal activities and/or ethical violations are all the matter. Maybe if we stopped trying to “frame the damn conversation” and crank out some excuse that “conforms to the narrative”, we’d get off of our collective asses and hold these chumps accountable – whether they’re our fellow party members, backed with mucho dinero, belong to the same synagogue, or just pals and buddies.

    See something. Say something.

    It’s really not that hard. Oh, the “gang” or the “in crowd” may be upset at you for a spell and you may lose your Magic Blind Conformist Decoder Ring, but you’ll regain your self-respect and the respect of your fellow workers, pols, non-pols, and pretty much the balance of the state of New York.

    That about spell it out for you, kids? Or do I need to get a shovel?

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