Former New York comptroller Alan Hevesi, tarnished by public scandals, dies at 83

NEW YORK (AP) — Alan Hevesi, a longtime elected official from New York City who resigned as state comptroller amid one scandal and later served prison time after a “pay-to-play” corruption probe, died Thursday. He was 83.

A release from his family said he passed away peacefully surrounded by his children and loved ones. He died of Lewy body dementia, according to a spokesperson.

Though his two-part downfall made him a symbol of corruption in New York politics, he was a respected state lawmaker for much of his career.

The former Queens College professor won a state Assembly seat in 1971 and served more than two decades in the chamber, gaining a reputation as an impressive debater with an interest in health care issues.

He won the New York City comptroller’s job in 1993, though he fell short in a 2001 bid for the Democratic nomination for mayor. He won the state comptroller’s election the next year.

As Hevesi ran for reelection in 2006, a state ethics commission found he had violated the law by using a staffer as a driver for his seriously ill wife for three years and not paying for it until after his Republican opponent raised the issue.

Hevesi was still reelected by a wide margin, but he never made it to his second term. About six weeks later, he pleaded guilty to defrauding the government and resigned. He paid a $5,000 fine.

His legal problems continued after he left office.

Over the next four years, a sweeping state investigation by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo showed that officials and cronies got fees and favors from financiers seeking chunks of the state retirement fund to manage. As comptroller, Hevesi was the fund’s sole trustee.

He pleaded guilty to a felony corruption charge in October 2010, admitting he accepted free travel and campaign contributions from a financier in exchange for investing hundreds of millions of dollars of state pension money with the businessman’s firm.

“I will never forgive myself. I will live with this shame for the rest of my life,” he said at his sentencing in April 2011.

Hevesi served 20 months of what could have been a four-year prison sentence.

His son Andrew serves in the Assembly. Another son was a state senator.