DiNapoli Makes Another Appointment

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has been busy this week, announcing several members of his new staff. He just released a statement with another appointment. Stephen Hamilton will be his new Inspector General, replacing George King who had been in that role since 2007.

According to the release, Hamilton served as Special Counsel for the Office of State Comptroller’s Investigations Unit of the Legal Services Division. He was also counsel for Law Enforcement and Compliance at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Associate Counsel for the New York State Ethics Commission.

His salary will be $150,000.

DiNapoli’s ‘New Beginning’

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli sent out a holiday greeting to supporters today, thanking them for their support in what turned out to be a very close election against his GOP opponent, newcomer Harry Wilson.

In the message, DiNapoli discusses how a new year “holds great promise for a new beginning.”

He’s already taking that to heart as he prepares to start his first four-year term, adopting a get-tough approach with his former legislative colleagues by changing his stance on pensions for lawmakers found guilty of felony offenses and also shaking up his senior staff.

DiNapoli and Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo weren’t exactly allies during the campaign, although Cumo did clear the comptroller of wrongdoing in his pay-to-play pension fund probe in the weeks heading into the general election.

He did not, however, campaign with DiNapoli, preferring to help pull his successor, AG-elect Eric Schneiderman, across the finish line. And Cuomo has made it clear he would like to change the sole trusteeship of the pension fund to a board-run system – something DiNapoli opposes.

All that should make for an interesting year, particularly since the comptroller’s office is charged with auditing executive agencies.

Here’s the text of DiNapoli’s message:

Dear Friends,

The holiday season is a special time and I wanted to wish you and your family joy, health and happiness as you celebrate over these coming days.

I am especially grateful for all the loyalty and goodwill that you have shown me this past year and I know that with your continued support, we can make 2011 the starting point for a new and better future for New York’s families.

The new year holds great promise for a new beginning. You can rest assured that I will be working extraordinarily hard in the coming months to deal with the important issues that confront our State.

For now, I wish all of you and your families the best during this holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year.

Your friend,
Tom DiNapoli

‘Aunt Sandy Claus’

Sandra Lee is very, VERY into Christmas.

Not only does she have seven trees at the white-on-white Mt. Kisco home she shares with Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo – each dectorated with a different theme – but she also signed her most recent “Semi-Homemade” blog post “Aunt Sandy Claus.”

(H/T Politics on the Hudson).

Ms. Claus/Lee revealed she recently did a little Christmas shopping to pick up a gift for “my life’s love, Andrew.” She did not, however, drop any hints about what she might have purchased the governor-elect, who is about to inherit a whopping piece of coal in his stocking – the multibillion-dollar budget deficit.

Lee informed her fans that she’ll be back in the studio to film the 15th season of her Food Network show, so at least we know where to find her in the future (on the TV dial, anyway).

The state’s first girlfriend likes to drop little asides in her blog about her live-in love. Her Dec. 14 post, for example, mentions the “200-plus person party” she hosted for “my sweethearts (sic) birthday.”

(Unlike last year’s Cuomo birthday/fundraiser bash, this was a private affair that featured a cake shaped like the Empire State).

Lee kept a relatively low profile throughout the campaign, leaving the family stumping to his three daughters, although she did attend Cuomo’s official campaign announcement and the Democratic convention in Rye where he was officially nominated.

She will be attending the inauguration. But there’s still no word on whether Lee will be joining Cuomo at the post-inauguration receiving line at the executive mansion on Jan. 1. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Perhaps there will be tablescapes…and cookies.

McMillan Milks His 15 Minutes

Jimmy McMillan obviously has no intention of going quietly off the public stage following his failed gubernatorial bid.

He’s been a pitchman, troubadour, tenant advocate (in a manner of speaking), and now plans to add “presidential candidate” to his resume.

During an interview on the Libertarian on-line talk show “Revolution Radio,” McMillan called President Obama “an Internet hog,” and said he plans to challenge the president in 2012, running as a Republican (of all things).

“I know he knows that I am out there,” McMillan said of the president. “But what he hasn’t heard yet is that Jimmy McMillan is running for President of the United States of America.”

“Well Barack Obama, you might as well turn your Internet up. Go to the website, President. I want you to look at all the hits Sarah Palin got. I ate her up.Look at all the hits John McCain got. I chewed him up. Look at all the hits Hillary Clinton had, I swallowed her, chewed her up and spit her out. Jimmy McMillan is well-known.”

(H/T to David Freedlander).

Paterson Commutes Sentence In Racially-Charged LI Case

Gov. David Paterson announced today he has commuted to time served the prison sentence of John White, a black Long Island resident who was convicted in 2006 of shooting and killing Daniel Cicciaro, Jr., a white teenager involved in an altercation with White’s son, Aaron.

The commutation is conditioned upon White not engaging in subsequent violation of law.

“Our society strives to be just, but the pursuit of justice is a difficult and arduous endeavor,” Paterson said.

“While the incident and Mr. White’s trial engendered much controversy and comment, and varying assessments of justice were perceived, its most common feature was heartbreak.”

“My decision today may be an affront to some and a joy to others, but my objective is only to seek to ameliorate the profound suffering that occurred as a result of this tragic event.”

“On August 9, 2006, a young life was lost, beliefs were challenged, lives were ruined and a community became distraught. No one intended this, yet everyone suffered,” the governor continued.

“I am deeply saddened by the events of that day and am committed to working to heal the pain that it has caused to the affected families and community. The action I am taking today is one of understanding, forgiveness and hope, which I believe are the essential components of justice.”

White was convicted by a jury trial of manslaughter in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree following a fateful incident on August 9, 2006 in Miller Place, N.Y.

The incident, as described by Paterson’s press release, was “characterized by fear, stress, panic, anger, confusion, misunderstanding and a clash of values and impulses – all in a period of less than three minutes.”

Newsday covered the story exhaustively. The paper quoted a member of the jury in 2007 saying he had felt “pressured” to convict White of manslaughter by fellow jurors anxious to be free to celebrate the rapidly approaching Chrismas holiday.

The New Yorker’s Calvin Trillin profiled the case in the March 3, 2008 issue of the magazine.

Cuomo Keeps Schwartz, Brings Back Francis

As expected, Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has decided to keep Larry Schwartz, the top aide to outgoing Gov. David Paterson, to assist with the transition.

Schwartz, the former chief operating officer to ex-Westchester County Executive Andy Spano, is Paterson’s third secretary, (following Bill Cunningham, who followed Charles O’Byrne). He will serve as a senior advisor to the governor, Cuomo announced this morning.

This is really a codification of a role Schwartz adopted some time ago. For months now, he has been seen as the behind-the-scenes liaison between the Cuomo and Paterson administrations.

In addition, he governor-elect has tapped Paul Francis, former budget director and director of State Operations for the Spitzer administration, to serve as director of Agency Redesign and Efficiency.

This is a newly created position, and one that will focus on a top priority of Cuomo’s: Reorganizing and right-sizing state government.

“Paul knows as much about how the private sector works as he does about how government works, and this is exactly the type of experience and perspective we need in order to take on the critical task of reorganizing and rightsizing State government for the first time since the 1920’s,” Cuomo said in a press release.

During the campaign, Cuomo pledged to initiate the first major state government reorganization in decades. Francis will direct this process, which, according to the release, will include “a broad and deep evaluation of over a thousand agencies, authorities, and commissions to find efficiencies and reduce costs.”

Francis has been quietly advising Cuomo for months now. After his stint with the Spitzer/Paterson administration, he joined Bloomberg LP in the company’s Financial Products group.

The press release, which includes the professional histories of both Schwartz and Francis, along with praise for the Francis appointment from state Business Council Executive Director Ken Adams, appears after the jump.

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Madison County, Big Lobbying Spender

In response to my post this morning about the close to $1 million Madison County has paid to retain former Sen. Al D’Amato’s lobbying firm, Park Strategies, since 2008, NYPIRG’s Bill Mahoney sought to put that number into perspective.

Mahoney put together a spreadsheet on the amount of money spent by counties, other local governments, and state agencies (such as SUNY schools and IDAs) spent since 2009, coming up with a total of at least $5.6 million.

At $327,000, Madison County ranks fourth on the list, behind the Association of Counties, NYCOM and UAlbany, but ahead of some quite sizable institutions like CUNY, SUNY and the University at Buffalo.

The next municipality on the list is the City of Yonkers, clocking in at $76,092 paid to Pat Lynch and Associates.

Local Govs and State Agencies That Lobbied in 2009

A No Labels Carol

The co-foiunders of “No Labels,” the bipartisan group that aims to organize voters at the center of the political spectrum, engaged in a time-honored holiday tradition: The re-writing of “A Christmas Carol.”

Their handiwork:

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the land, Americans were joining a new bipartisan band.

They were calling out the media and the politicians too, for putting parties first instead of me and you.

In 2011, wherever the partisans are found, there will be a new force seeking common ground.

Santa Claus may be just one of the fables. But you’ve made something real: You’ve created No Labels.

Double The Pain

A reader forwarded this memo sent late last week by Gov. David Paterson’s secretary, Larry Schwartz, to political appointees asking them to submit yet another letter of resignation in advance of Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo’s arrival on the second floor.

Apparently, there were mistakes in the suggested resignation language included in the first letter, which was sent out to some 2,500 people on Dec. 14. Also, people were instructed to tender their own pink slips to the wrong place (the Budget Division, rather than Schwartz’s own office).

So, Schwartz made some changes and then sent this one on Dec. 17, informing recipients that they had until close of business Dec. 21 (this past Tuesday) to comply.

Needless to say, Schwartz isn’t the most popular person at the Capitol these days. A number of appointees have privately expressed their dismay over this move, although Republicans who worked in the Pataki administration insist it’s a pretty standard thing to do.

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Gov Nixes Prevailing Wage Bill

Gov. David Paterson has rejected a bill that would mandate service workers at public utilities be paid a prevailing wage – a measure that pitted labor unions (pro) against business interests (anti).

CapCon’s Jimmy Vielkind, who caught Paterson’s WOR interview with John Gambling this morning (which I competely spaced on; apparently, my brain is already on vacation), reports:

Paterson said that by targeting “really, private companies that are assumed to have a significant public interest” would lead down a slippery slope.

“I’m vetoing that bill because we think that it sets a very bad precedent,” Paterson said. “First it will be Con Ed, then it will be some other private institution.”

“And we certainly want workers to be compensated but we think, particularly the business districts would have been severely harmed by the passage of this legislation. And right now, in the middle of a recession, it is very hard to start creating a new wage cycle.”

The bill was one of just three remaining pieces of legislation the governor has to deal with before his tenure ends at midnight on Dec. 31. All the bills were sponsored by outgoing Senator/AG-elect Eric Schneiderman.