DA BRUNO TO QUIT FOR LOBBYING CAREER

TIM O'BRIEN Staff writer
Section: MAIN,  Page: A1

Date: Friday, May 30, 2003

Correction: ***** CORRECTION PUBLISHED MAY 31, 2003 *****Due to an editing error, a story Friday about the resignation of Rensselaer County District Attorney Kenneth Bruno misidentified Warren Anderson as a former Assembly speaker. Anderson, a Republican from Binghamton, served 35 years in the state Senate and was its majority leader. The three Assembly speakers served by Kenneth Shapiro before he became a lobbyist were Stanley Steingut, Stanley Fink and Mel Miller. Also, the name of a lobbying firm where Bruno once worked recently was changed to Featherstonhaugh Wiley Clyne & Cordo.

Ken Bruno will step down as Rensselaer County district attorney June 13 to work for Albany's top lobbying firm. Bruno, a Republican who took office in 1997, said the $120,000 district attorney income wasn't enough for him to provide for his family, and he wanted new challenges. He said he does not expect to lobby the state Senate, where his father is Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, because of restrictions. But he can lobby the state Assembly and governor's office.


``I have spent about a quarter of my life in this office,'' Bruno, 40, said Thursday as he made his announcement, accompanied by his wife, two children and staff. ``The past 10 years have been a great, great experience. I have to think first about my two beautiful, beautiful daughters and my lovely wife.''


Bruno is going to work for Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edleman & Dicker. In 2002, the firm was paid $5.1 million to lobby the Legislature, the most of any firm in New York state.


``I'm going to be doing a variety of things,'' Bruno said. ``At this stage in my life, I felt like I want to expand my horizons.''


Deputy District Attorney Patricia DeAngelis will replace Bruno, although Gov. George Pataki could appoint someone else to fill the post until November's election.


DeAngelis, widely expected to run for the job this fall, said she will make a decision about the race after prosecuting the case against Christine Wilhelm, a Hoosick Falls mother charged with drowning her 4-year-old son and with trying to drown his 5-year-old brother. That case is set for trial next week.


``This has come as a surprise to me,'' said DeAngelis, who recently was promoted to the No. 2 spot. ``I have not yet had an opportunity to speak to my family. I will continue to fight to protect the citizens of this county. My first priority is to prosecute Christine Wilhelm.''


Timothy Nugent, who lost to Bruno in the election two years ago, said he is inclined to run again on the Democratic line. Nugent, a defense attorney and former chief assistant district attorney in Rensselaer County, said he first must consult his family.


Edward G. McDonough, Rensselaer County's Democratic elections commissioner, said he and Republican commissioner Larry Bugbee checked on proper procedures with the state Board of Elections. Prospective candidates will need to hustle to collect the required number of signatures on their petitions. Candidates for most offices will be able to begin circulating petitions on June 3, but candidates for district attorney will have to wait an additional 10 days until Bruno's resignation is effective.


The closing date to submit petitions is July 10.


Bruno said money was one reason for his decision, though he added that he considers the $120,000 salary sufficient for the job.


``That's a lot of money, but in this day and age, it's hard to accumulate any money or put any assets in the bank,'' he said, noting that a district attorney cannot take outside work. ``I think the compensation level is adequate. It's hard work, but I don't think you get any career prosecutors.''


Bruno said only that he will make ``more'' in his new job, but did not reveal the amount. Spokesman Kris Thompson said he did not know the salary.


Bruno said he doubted voters would be upset that he won't finish his term.


``I never felt I would be in this office forever,'' he said.


He also praised DeAngelis and said he was confident she was ready for the role.


``I leave the office in very capable hands,'' he said.


Troy Police Chief Nicholas Kaiser said he and Bruno had an excellent working relationship.


``He really did establish himself as an aggressive DA and always had the victims in his mind,'' Kaiser said.


He cited Bruno's creation of a memorial to victims of drunken drivers and establishment of a task force on drugs and gangs among his accomplishments.


Bruno said he feels that he has put to rest suggestions that he became district attorney because of his father's influence, though many of his campaign donations came from his father's Senate colleagues.


Now Bruno steps into a field where he will again have to downplay his ties to a powerful father. The state's lobbying laws place no restrictions on who he can lobby in his new role, according to David Grandeau, executive director of the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying. But the state's Public Officers Law is clear about limits that apply to the elder Bruno, according to a spokesman for the majority leader.


``If you are a legislator, you can't be lobbied by a relative,'' said Joseph Bruno spokesman John McArdle.


Before coming to the district attorney's office under Mary Donohue, now lieutenant governor, Bruno worked for the lobbying firm headed by James Featherstonhaugh. Now named Featherstonhaugh, Wiley & Clyne LLP, it was the No. 4 lobbying firm in Albany last year.


``He was a terrific lawyer; he'll be a terrific lobbyist,'' Featherstonhaugh said. ``Anybody would be lucky to have him.''


Among his new employer's clients are Albany Medical Center Hospital, Carnegie Hall, the American Insurance Association, the Health Care Association of New York, the Greater New York Hospital Association and Niagara Mohawk.


The firm, based in New York City, employs 550 attorneys in 16 U.S. offices, an office in London and five European affiliates. In Albany, it has a 20-person regional office with nine registered lobbyists. The chief Albany lobbyist for the law-lobbying firm is Kenneth Shapiro, a former top adviser to three Assembly speakers: Sheldon Silver, Mel Miller and Warren Anderson.


It has a reputation as being a Democratic firm.


``If there are Democrats there, they certainly will be bipartisan in two weeks,'' Bruno said with a laugh. Staff writers James M. Odato and Cathy Woodruff contributed to this story.