Can't Anyone Here Learn to Drive?

In Hevesi's wake, new charges of free car rides for a government spouse at the taxpayer's expense—this time, the wife of former comptroller Carl McCall

The ethics panel refuses to discuss pending investigations, but one agency source said the charges—if sent their way—would be dead on arrival. "Even if we got a sworn statement from the driver we couldn't pursue it," the source said. While a new law lets the panel go after former state employees, the source said, it does not cover those, like McCall, who worked for the state before the law was revised.

What makes the McCall allegations even more curious, however, is that after Burke's allegations were received, McCall, who now heads a private financial firm, was named by incoming governor (and fellow Democrat) Eliot Spitzer to a special panel of three former state and city comptrollers to recommend candidates to replace Hevesi.

Drive, they said: Ex-comptrollers Carl McCall, left, and Alan Hevesi
photo: Richard B. Levine
Drive, they said: Ex-comptrollers Carl McCall, left, and Alan Hevesi

When the Hevesi inquiry began, Spitzer was still serving as attorney general and he quickly recused himself from the matter, citing his prior endorsement of the former comptroller for re-election. In his absence, the inquiry was overseen by Spitzer's former top deputy, Michele Hirshman.

A spokesman for Spitzer said that the governor was never told of the McCall allegations. "The governor was fully recused from the investigation and he would not have been told anything about it," said Paul Larrabee.

Hevesi, who repaid $200,000 pursuant to an agreement with the attorney general's office, pleaded guilty on December 22 to a Class E felony for defrauding the government, stating that he had never intended to repay the government for the free trips for his wife. Last week the ex-comptroller was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

According to law enforcement officials, the publicity around the Hevesi case prompted "an avalanche"—as one put it—of allegations concerning similar abuses involving state-paid drivers by other state officials. "Whatever McCall did or didn't do may turn out to be one more of those that no one ever gets to," the official said.

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