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PATAKI'S EMPLOYMENT PLAN FRIENDS AND RELATIVES OF FRIENDS FIND WORK

POLITICIANS since the dawn of time have managed to put friends and relatives of friends on the public payroll. So, at one level, recent all-in-the-family appointments to the Pataki administration in Albany are nothing new.

But, at another level, they are especially disappointing. It is unseemly for Gov. Pataki and his team to load up with friends and friends of friends at a time when the governor has rolled out a budget that stands to lay off many state workers, push others into early retirement, lead to a large state university tuition increase and restrict many worthwhile programs.

One appointment that has raised eyebrows puts the brother of Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Pataki buddy, on the payroll in the new $73,600-a-year job of special assistant to the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

It's being insisted that Robert Bruno got the job on merit, not connections. An office spokesman brags that Bruno was one of the first 2,500 persons in the state to get credentials as a substance-abuse counselor. Don't bother asking if the other 2,499 got a crack at this job, which pays a lot more than counselors are used to getting.

There are other recent appointments of note.

Bruno's son is on the job as a $40,000-a-year construction inspector. The sister-in-law of the governor's chief counsel turns up as a $90,000-a-year deputy commissioner in the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The son of the Republican party chairman is good for $80,000 a year with the Department of State. The daughter of the Conservative Party chairman is getting $40,000 in the governor's press office.

The brother of two Republican legislators from Westchester County is good for a $95,000-a-year position. The wife of the lieutenant governor's chief of staff will be found in an $83,000-a-year slot called deputy commissioner for administration.

So while a lot of state employees are wondering if they'll have work a few months from now, some people with nice family and political connections are finding their path to state jobs a smooth one.

Pataki ought to know that ordinary citizens snicker when they hear about such antics. Behind all the grand words about economy, efficiency and cost-cutting, it looks like politics as usual.

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