NY Criminal Justice Boss to Lead Homeland Security

The commissioner of New York's Division of Criminal Justice Services will also take responsibility for homeland security issues, Gov. David Paterson said Monday.

Denise O'Donnell will replace current Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Michael Balboni, whose resignation becomes official Feb. 2. She will remain New York's criminal justice commissioner.

O'Donnell will oversee all homeland security and criminal justice agencies including criminal justice, the Office of Homeland Security, the Division of State Police, the Department of Corrections, the Division of Parole, and the State Emergency Management Office, among others.

“I accept this appointment knowing full well of the challenges that lie ahead,” O'Donnell said in a written statement. “In the throes of the severe economic crisis facing our state, we simply cannot conduct business as usual. Yet we cannot, and will not, back away from our obligation to fulfill that most fundamental role of government, the protection of the citizenry.”

Her salary will be $165,000. The appointment announced Monday doesn't require Senate confirmation.

O'Donnell previously worked as a litigation partner at the law firm Hodgson Russ LLP.

As a first assistant U.S. attorney in western New York, she worked on a national investigation that developed crucial evidence against Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted of orchestrating the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed her U.S. Attorney in Buffalo, making her the first woman to hold the position of top federal prosecutor in upstate New York.

Balboni is going to work in the private sector as a partner with Navigators Global, a government relations and communications consulting firm.

The Republican served two Democratic governors. He's a former state assemblyman and senator from Nassau County who wrote the state's 2001 anti-terrorism law. As a senator, he was considered state government's authority on anti-terrorism and frequently worked with federal officials, including the CIA and FBI in Washington.

He turned to the field following the Sept. 11 attacks, calling it his defining moment in government. His sister had an appointment that day in the World Trade Center, but it was canceled.

Balboni didn't immediately return a call for comment.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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