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Hevesi should resign Comptroller post demands trust, and this problem keeps getting bigger

It keeps getting worse for Alan Hevesi, New York's over-chauffeured state comptroller.

Outed last fall for providing his wife an unauthorized, taxpayer-funded driver, Hevesi dusted off his best comptroller's calculator and figured out that he owed New Yorkers $82,689. He paid the money.

A few weeks later, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who apparently owns a better calculator, figured out that the comptroller owed more than twice that amount and demanded that Hevesi put another $90,000 in an escrow account. Hevesi did.

Now, after a more thorough review, Spitzer says Hevesi actually shorted taxpayers by $206,294. That's 2 1/2 times the amount the comptroller first admitted, a surfeit that calls Hevesi's honesty, diligence and mathematical skills into serious question.

Any of those deficiencies should be fatal in an elected official whose job is to count and safeguard the public's money. He needs to step down, his November re-election notwithstanding.

Hevesi won't acknowledge his inability to do the job. Indeed, while he accepted Spitzer's figure of his debt, Hevesi insisted that the actual figure is far less, but unknowable because he kept no records of the work done on taxpayer time.

That's not much of a defense for a public official whose auditing duties give him a clear understanding of the importance of record-keeping. Indeed, the lack of those records shows that Hevesi had no intention of repaying this money. He has been undone by his own arrogance.

Nevertheless, Hevesi, a Democrat, says he won't resign. What is more, a 1987 magazine article written by Michael Balboni, now a Republican state senator, claimed that as a matter of law, an election following full disclosure of misconduct amounts to political exoneration. Based on that, Balboni recently said he believes Hevesi may be able to fend off removal proceedings, barring a criminal conviction. An Albany County grand jury is considering criminal charges.

Hevesi isn't seeing the full picture here. Unless other Democrats are foolhardy, Hevesi will be persona non grata with leaders like Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo, soon to be governor and attorney general. His company will be toxic and his opinions will be forevermore viewed through the lens of his own fiscal chicanery.

Unless he works up the nerve to step away, his next term will be marked by continual conflict and loss of clout. New Yorkers need more than that in this watchdog position, and Hevesi -- whether he is indicted or not -- will not be able to deliver it.

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