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Spitzer chides Pataki on late appointments

Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer raised concerns Thursday about the last-minute rush by outgoing Gov. George E. Pataki to appoint political allies to state boards with terms that don't expire for years.

Spitzer said that although Pataki is still governor until midnight Dec. 31, it is "somewhat contrary to the spirit of . . . good governance" to make long-term appointments that will carry over to Spitzer's administration, which is dedicated to "a new direction in governance."

"I would say that as much as I've tried to respect the incumbent's legal capacity to make decisions, I think wise policy would dictate against putting in place individuals in agencies where their term of office would extend deeply into my term," he said.

Spitzer declined to say if he has discussed the matter with Pataki.

With the Legislature returning to Albany next week for a special session, Pataki could use the occasion to continue the practice, going on for months already, of placing Republicans and other political allies -- more than 400 cases in recent months -- onto boards with terms that don't expire, in some cases, for many years.

Pataki, meanwhile, said he will continue to make more appointments when the GOP-led Senate returns to town next week.

"I've always believed the people you put on authority boards don't serve you, they serve the people of the State of New York and that's what they will do," said Pataki, who said the appointments do not violate the spirit of the November elections.

Spitzer raised concerns about the appointments as he unveiled plans for the "people's inaugural" on Jan. 1. For the first time since the 1800s, a New York governor will be sworn in outdoors, in a park next to the Capitol. The park can accommodate 15,000 people, and the event is open to the public.

"This will be the first taste of people's heartiness and willingness to participate in the rigors of government as we envision it in New York," Spitzer said in a reference to the possibility of frozen ceremonies.

Spitzer and his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, will then open the Governor's Mansion to the public. The ceremony will feature a free concert, with James Taylor and Natalie Merchant, a nearby state concourse filled with cultural exhibits, performances by Broadway and other stars and food from restaurants from around the state.

Spitzer said his political fund, which has more than $5 million left after the election campaign, will pay for the day's events.

Spitzer will take the formal oath of office on New Year's Eve in the governor's mansion.

He also announced six aides who will make up his inner circle. All the appointments were expected, and most served with him for years in the attorney general's office.

Richard Baum, Spitzer's former chief of staff and campaign strategist, will be secretary; David Nocenti, currently counsel in the attorney general's office, will be counsel in the governor's office; Paul Francis, a former chief financial officer of Priceline.com, will be his budget director.

Also, Francine James, another carry-over from the attorney general's office, will serve as appointments secretary. Handling press duties will be communications director Darren Dopp, a longtime Spitzer aide, and Christine Anderson, who joined Spitzer's campaign team earlier this year.

e-mail: tprecious@buffnews.com

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