Saturday, February 17, 2007

DiNapoli speaks In first interview as state comptroller, he addresses governor's critiques as 'old news,' defends his capability

Newsday John Riley

As I have said many times that Spitzer will make a great governor.......DiNapoli will also make a wonderful is good to see...two people you respect and admire....get the opportunities they so richly deserve.........andy

Newly selected state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli Friday called complaints from Gov. Eliot Spitzer and others that he is unqualified because of his lack of financial experience a "diversion" in his first interview since he was chosen for the job last week."You don't elect someone to sit there and read the stock quotes every day and make stock decisions," said an exasperated DiNapoli during a 40-minute telephone interview. "That would be a very irresponsible approach."The former Long Island assemblyman was chosen by a 151-56 vote of state legislators to fill the vacancy left by Alan Hevesi's resignation. Afterward, Spitzer mocked him as a man who doesn't "know a swap from a derivative" and called him "thoroughly and totally unqualified."Spitzer felt lawmakers reneged on a deal to choose one of three non-legislators recommended by a screening panel and has singled out Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and other DiNapoli supporters as enemies of reform.DiNapoli, as he has since his selection, refused to snipe back at Spitzer. "That's his call," DiNapoli said. "We're in a charged political environment and I think particularly as comptroller my duty is to keep a cool head and not get involved in the hyperbole that sometimes goes with political discourse."DiNapoli suggested that in the wake of his first face-to-face meeting with the governor on Tuesday, Spitzer's attacks on him might be "old news." The view was seconded by Spitzer aide Darren Dopp."They had a nice session," Dopp said. "It's in the interests of the state for them to work together and it's what the people want. So that's what the governor will do."Since his selection, DiNapoli told Newsday, he's been juggling a long list of phone messages from old acquaintances and luminaries such as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mayor Michael Bloomberg with efforts to mingle informally with some of his new office's 2,400 workers in the cafeteria, and with official briefings on such matters as the $140 billion pension fund he now oversees.He also got a death threat, and his only break during the past 10 days - "it's been ten years," he jokes - was spending his 53rd birthday last weekend with relatives (he's a bachelor) at the Broadway play "Wicked," which tells an unexpected backstory about the good witch and the bad witch of "Wizard of Oz" fame."It's about how reality is often very different from what is projected," DiNapoli said. "The theme of the show is very applicable to the way the last week has gone."A 20-year Assembly veteran from Great Neck Village who has served on environmental, governmental operations and fiscal committees, he said the idea that a comptroller should be an investment whiz is a distortion that would have ruled out virtually every previous officeholder.The pension fund has long been professionally managed, DiNapoli said, and other functions, such as reviewing all state contracts and guiding agency audits, are equally important. "It's actually a diversion and an attempt to try to redefine the office in a way it was never meant to be," he said.DiNapoli said his priorities include pushing for more money to audit school districts, and preparing revenue estimates. He also supports filling future comptroller vacancies through election and has promised to make state financial data more available to the public. "My priority is doing the job, doing it right, doing it well," he said.

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