Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Poll: Voters Split on Hevesi's Future

1010 WINS RADIO AP STORY

So 56% of the voters want Hevesi out.......and expect Spitzer to take care of it..if Hevesi lingers on.......stay tuned.......andy

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- New York voters are divided over whether state Comptroller Alan Hevesi should resign in the face of a scandal over his using state employees as aides for his wife, a statewide poll reported Wednesday.The poll, from Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute, found that 45 percent of voters felt Hevesi should quit the post he first won in 2002. He was re-elected to a new four-year term last month. Forty-three percent of voters said he should stay in office.

The poll results come one day after Hevesi agreed to pay state a total of $206,293.79 to settle the New York attorney general's investigation into his use of state employees as drivers and to perform other duties for his wife.Among those who said Hevesi should resign, the poll found that 56 percent felt that if he didn't do so, he should be removed by Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer -- an action that would require the Republican-controlled state Senate to concur -- while 36 percent said Hevesi should be impeached by the state Legislature, a move that would start in the state Assembly, where Democrats hold the majority."Just about everybody in New York knows the 'Driving Mrs. Hevesi' story by now,'' said Maurice Carroll, director of the polling institute. "Even though politicians seem to agree that Comptroller Alan Hevesi has to go, he gets a split decision from the voters.''Quinnipiac's telephone poll of 1,144 registered voters was conducted Dec. 5-11 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.Hevesi, a Democrat, had paid the state $82,688.82 after doing his own calculation for using a state employee to drive his wife around and was subsequently ordered by the attorney general's office to hand over another $90,000.Under an agreement announced Tuesday with Attorney General Spitzer's office, Hevesi will pay another $33,604.97 within 10 days.

In October, the state Ethics Commission said Hevesi violated the law when he used a staffer to chauffeur his wife from 2003 to mid-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.The panel said Hevesi apparently had no intention of repaying the state for the three years of service until his Republican challenger, J. Christopher Callaghan, went public with a complaint earlier this year.Hevesi apologized for what he called the serious error of providing a "belated'' reimbursement, but insists he did not break the law.Spitzer, the Democratic governor-elect, had recused himself from the case, but ordered a top deputy to investigate how much Hevesi still owed the state. During the election campaign, Spitzer had withdrawn his endorsement of Hevesi.In justifying the use of the driver, Hevesi said his wife, Carol, has been ill for decades, undergoing numerous back surgeries, heart surgery and attempting suicide in the 1990s. Hevesi also cited threats he received while in public office.

Investigators said four state employees had spent time on assignment to the comptroller's wife. The job fell to Nicholas Acquafredda in June 2003 and by the spring of 2005 he was ``assigned to Mrs. Hevesi virtually full-time.''The report said Acquafredda drove Mrs. Hevesi to and from medical and other personal appointments, ran errands for her, ate lunch with her, transported her to the family's second home in Westchester County and helped her with rehabilitative knee exercises. It noted that Acquafredda was not a part of the comptroller's security detail.In a statement, Hevesi said he was "pleased'' the settlement brought the attorney general's investigation to a close, but disputed the investigators' findings.

Between salary and three public pensions, Hevesi earns more than $335,000 a year. An article in Monday's New York magazine reported that Hevesi has had to re-mortgage his house to raise money to pay back the state.Hevesi has noted that voters re-elected him even after hearing about his actions."The voters have weighed the facts and decided that they want me to serve,'' Hevesi said.Hevesi still faces a criminal probe by the Albany County district attorney's office. Gov. George Pataki also has appointed a special prosecutor to determine if he or his successor should seek Hevesi's removal by the Senate.

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