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DA closer to decision on Hevesi

The Albany County district attorney is getting closer to making a decision whether to seek an indictment against State Comptroller Alan Hevesi over his use of state-funded drivers for his wife.

Less than two weeks before he is scheduled to be sworn in for a second term as comptroller, Hevesi is facing the prospect of being charged with a crime involving the failure to reimburse the state on a timely basis for three years' worth of government employees being assigned to serve as drivers and companions for his ailing wife.

On the table is a decision for Albany County District Attorney David Soares on whether to charge Hevesi or strike a deal in which Hevesi would avoid prosecution in return for resigning. A third option -- clearing him -- would almost ensure Hevesi would remain in office, though a separate probe by a special counsel appointed by Gov. George E. Pataki is still under way.

"The office of the district attorney of Albany County is in active discussions with legal council for the NYS Comptroller regarding the disposition of 'Chauffeurgate,' " Soares said in a written statement Tuesday.

Soares said such discussions "are a normal part of the prosecution" of any case involving his office's public integrity unit. He provided no further information about the issue.

David Neustadt, a spokesman for Hevesi, declined to comment.

With December running out, speculation has been rampant this week in Albany that Soares will be moving one way or another on the case. Soares earlier this fall told officials with State Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer, the governor-elect, that he anticipated wrapping up his case by Christmas.

Should Hevesi resign from his post as the state's chief fiscal watchdog, the State Legislature would pick a replacement. Given their numbers in the Senate and Assembly, that means Democrats would end up tapping a new comptroller to replace Democrat Hevesi.

e-mail: tprecious@buffnews.com

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