Former New York Comptroller Alan Hevesi walks to a court appearance in Albany, N.Y. Friday, Feb. 9, 2007. Hevesi was was fined $5,000, and sentenced to a term of probation for the unlawful use of a state vehicle and driver by using state employees as drivers and personal assistants for his wife. He had pleaded guilty to a federal charge of defrauding the government. The 66-year-old Queens Democrat appeared nearly two months after he resigned amid the scandal that broke during his successful re-election campaign. ( (AP Photo/Tim Roske)
His head was bowed as he left the courthouse. Alan Hevesi, once a rising star in the Democratic Party, had pleaded guilty to corruption charges. His disgrace seemed too much for him to bear.
The former state comptroller admitted that he had rewarded pension investment business to companies that offered financial benefits to Hevesi and close associates.
The list of charges against Hevesi should make state government employees and retirees mad as hell. Prosecutors say, as the trustee of the state pension fund, he betrayed their trust.
Among other things he admitted that a California venture capitalist had paid for him and his family to take five trips to Israel. The businessman contributed $500,000 to Hevesi’s campaign fund. Hevesi authorized the pension fund to invest 250 million dollars in his benefactor’s company.
In his statement to the court, he seemed to recognize that state employees had every reason to be angry: “I deeply regret my conduct and I sincerely and deeply apologize to the people of the state of New York, to the court, to my family.”
Back when he was city comptroller, I remember how proud he was of his stewardship of the city pension fund. He told me he was making the fund lots of money through good investments.
Caught in the web of this investigation, Raymond Harding, the former head of the Liberal Party, pleaded guilty to accepting more than $800,000 in exchange for doing favors for Hevesi. One favor was to enable his son to get an Assembly seat. Harding was a political pal of former Mayor Giuliani, who put two of Harding’s sons on the city payroll.
Dick Dadey of Citizens Union told me that, out of this investigation, he hopes there will be an overhaul of pension fund procedures. He favors a board of trustees, instead of a single trustee, to make corruption less possible.
He hopes this case will “re-ignite debate about whether we need to change the system for investing pension money.”
It's time to do that.