Pension Fixers Go Right on Pushing

What scandal? Thompson's pals keep their edge.

Like Psilos, Avista didn't need any introduction to the comptroller's office or city pension trustees: It won a $100 million investment in an earlier fund from the city pension systems in 2006.

A spokeswoman for Avista declined comment about its marketing efforts. But Stein has his own inside edge there: His brother, James Finkelstein, who runs his family's publishing interests, is an Avista partner.

The comptroller's office reports that the Psilos deal has yet to go forward. But city pension trustees voted at the end of last year to invest $170 million with Avista. That appears to spell a $1 million payday apiece for Stein and Rosen.

A spokesman for Rosen said he had no comment.

Stein didn't respond to several messages. That's only slightly surprising. When I wrote a story about his activities in the state comptroller's office in April, Stein called back well after deadline. He wouldn't discuss anything on the record. But he said repeatedly how much he regretted not having responded earlier. "Damn, I wish I'd called," he said. Maybe next time.

What made Stein's involvement with the state comptroller's office of special interest was his role in sparking the entire pension scandal. This stemmed from his timely introduction of his former girlfriend, actress Peggy Lipton, to a Queens political hack named Jack Chartier who was then Alan Hevesi's chief of staff. Chartier quickly became infatuated. When he was later investigated for misusing state resources on Lipton's behalf, Chartier told Cuomo's investigators about the outrageous shenanigans going on inside the pension fund. The rest will soon be state history.

Thompson also ducked an interview for this story. Since the scandal broke, he has pushed reforms, including banning fixers like Stein from future pension deals. But as the Voice has reported, Stein is just one of several Thompson cronies who grew wealthy milking these fabulous pension investments before the comptroller saw the light.

Now that Anthony Weiner has been chased from the race, Thompson is Michael Bloomberg's only serious opponent for mayor. Normally, this would make the comptroller's pension role fair game for the mayor's hard-punching campaign aides. So far, they've stayed mum. Maybe that's because they prefer not to go negative on Thompson, the city's top African-American official. Or maybe it's because Bloomberg's representatives on city pension boards voted to approve the same insider deals.

trobbins@villagevoice.com

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