The other tip-off that something was badly amiss on Hevesi's watch was the shadowy presence of Hank Morris, the comptroller's all-purpose political consultant. Morris kept his hands in everything in the comptroller's office and left his fingerprints on nothing. Morris, too, stands indicted, charged with having bartered his influence for millions of dollars in pension fund deals.

But while Morris spent his time learning the investment business in order to profit from his client's clout, Chartier was making his biggest investment in Lipton and her well-being. She was battling cancer at the time and was badly in need of someone to lean on. Chartier used his state car and driver to chauffeur her about, delivering her to chemotherapy treatments and other appointments. Lipton was also writing a book about her life, and Chartier spent many nights, with his driver left idling outside, at her Upper East Side apartment, helping her find the right words to express herself.

If not for Chartier's reckless behavior with a beautiful blonde and a state car, it's quite possible that the financial hijinks that went on during Hevesi's term in office might have escaped official notice. The give-to-get atmosphere surrounding the office of state comptroller has always been pervasive. The back pages of every newspaper are filled with stories about the astonishing good luck of those who supported the state's top fiscal officer when it came to winning contracts and investments. It is unseemly, but it's rarely found to be illegal, given the state's wide-open campaign-finance laws.

Stan Shaw

But after Hevesi was caught on the eve of re-election in 2006 using his own state driver to help his ailing wife, his chief of staff's rascally conduct quickly came to light. One theory is that the story was nudged into print by one of Lipton's old flames. Regardless of how it surfaced, it is entirely unclear whether Chartier, whose own legal fate has not been disclosed, has big regrets. Danger is always part of the thrill in any fling. Just ask Tiger Woods.

trobbins@villagevoice.com

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