The New York Post by DAREH GREGORIAN, BRENDAN SCOTT and ALEX GINSBERG - December 31, 2009
Outgoing Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau took a few thinly veiled swipes at his handpicked successor yesterday during a farewell news conference to wrap up his 34 years as the borough's chief crime fighter. Morgenthau, 90, will hand over the reins today to his protégé Cyrus Vance Jr., who has already announced plans to demote two of his ex-boss' favored executives. "I have the finest staff anywhere," Morgenthau told reporters, and he singled out soon-to-be-demoted deputies Nancy Ryan and Pat Dugan, together with Mark Dwyer, who is leaving the office voluntarily. "They've all been key to the success of our staff," Morgenthau said. "They've made a great contribution to the success of the office." Asked if he was upset about Vance's moves, he said that all his successor's picks were "competent people," and that "he's entitled to make" whatever staff changes he wants. But he quickly described Ryan, who reinvestigated the Central Park Jogger case in 2002, as "extraordinarily valuable to this office," and said she was quite possibly "the best investigator in the United States."
Asked what advice he had for Vance, he also made a possibly oblique reference to the hiring of former staffers of Govs. Eliot Spitzer and George Pataki. "Hire people based on merit, not political connections," he said. Vance has tapped former Spitzer Chief of Staff Marlene Turner to serve as special assistant, a position for which she'll be paid $137,500, a spokeswoman said. But that will cost the taxpayers just a bit more, since Turner is already collecting her $16,380-a-year state pension, according to the state comptroller's office. State law generally prohibits state employees from "double-dipping" -- collecting pensions while working in a public-sector job. But the law would allow it in Turner's case because she will turn 65 in 2010. Morgenthau seemed wistful at times during the press conference, but showed a sense of humor as well, quipping, "I'll be out of here [tonight]. Not to worry." In what was essentially a farewell speech, he also thanked Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the city's other DAs and law-enforcement agencies for their help over the years. "This is not a job for a lone ranger. You need help from a lot of people to be successful," Morgenthau said. The DA knows something about success. "In 1975, when I became district attorney, there were 648 murders in Manhattan. Last year there were 62, and this year, so far, there are 58," he said. He added that when he took office, Manhattan was the site of 40 percent of the city's murders, compared with 12 percent this year. Morgenthau saved his biggest thank-you for his staff. "I take the credit or sometimes the blame, but they do the work," he said. "They're a tremendous group of people." email@example.com