“Considering the record as a whole, I believe there is a preponderance of evidence that the comptroller knowingly and intentionally violated New York’s public officers law,” former U.S. Attorney David Kelley said in his 24-page report to Pataki. Still, Kelley told Pataki he was not “in a position to advise you at this time to proceed with a recommendation for removal” by the state senate, according to the AP.
Hevesi, running for a second four-year term as the state’s chief financial officer and trustee of its $140 billion pension fund, has said voters should decide if he remains in office, not politicians.
A state Ethics Commission report recently said Hevesi violated the law when he used a staffer to chauffer his ailing wife from 2003 to 2006. Hevesi claimed the driver was needed to provide security for his wife, but the bipartisan commission said state police found no threat that justified the arrangement. Moreover, the same employee who was driving Carol Hevesi around did the same duty for Hevesi when he was New York City comptroller – duty that Hevesi would up reimbursing the city to the tune of about $6,000.
Over the weekend Pataki conceded that his successor may have to decide whether to try to take action on Hevesi, according to the New York Daily News – and that could leave the decision in the hands of Hevesi’s fellow Democrat Eliot Spitzer. Asked on Sunday what he would do, Spitzer responded, ” It would be presumptuous of me to answer that question ’til Tuesday evening. We’ll see how the election plays out.” It did not, however, dissuade Spitzer from withdrawing his endorsement of Hevesi. While Spitzer said he would not switch his endorsement to Callaghan, whom he described as unqualified for the job, he expressed support for a Senate trial in which lawmakers would vote on whether to remove the comptroller from office.
According to published reports, the panel said Hevesi apparently had no intention of repaying the state for the three years of service until after Hevesi’s Republican challenger, former Saratoga County Treasurer Christopher Callaghan, went public with a complaint. Hevesi then paid the state almost $83,000, but the commission said that was likely too little and on Friday Hevesi was ordered to pay an additional $90,000.
Kelley said he believed it was “premature” to recommend Hevesi’s removal because it was unclear what burden of proof the Senate would use in a trial. They might rely on the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal proceedings, or the less stringent “preponderance of evidence” standard used in civil trials, Kelley said, according to the report.
In any event, it would take a two-thirds majority vote by the 62-member chamber to remove Hevesi.