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Ex-county attorney takes over Yonkers IG office

City Hall on South Broadway in downtown Yonkers.

City Hall on South Broadway in downtown Yonkers. (Feb. 23, 2012) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

Kitley Covill said yesterday that she won't focus on hunting up scandals in her new job as Yonkers' inspector general.

Her mission will be to improve transparency and accountability in government, she said on her first day at work.

A respite from scandal may be welcome in Yonkers. In recent months, former City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi was convicted of bribery charges, two department heads were fired for signing off on an unauthorized pay raise for the previous deputy mayor and State Police have been investigating allegations by the current mayor that someone in his administration has been snooping on his and other city officials' emails.

Meanwhile, new Mayor Mike Spano has been taking steps to beef up the city's ethical and legal regulations.

A former Westchester County attorney, the 57-year-old Covill will serve a five-year term and be paid $161,132 a year.

"I'm not looking to see if I can unearth a Sandy Annabi kind of situation," Covill said. "You're never going to unearth something like that because it's done in secret. It's the nature of the beast."

That doesn't mean she won't be looking for ways to keep city government honest.

In coming weeks, Covill said she plans to meet with city department heads to outline her strategy and discuss ways to improve the ethical and legal system.

"Yonkers isn't much different from a lot of municipalities," she said. "They have some systems that have gotten entrenched and we just need to pull those out, look at them and suggest other ways to do business."

Yonkers, New York's fourth-largest city, is still reeling from the corruption scandal involving Annabi, who in April was found guilty of federal bribery charges along with former Yonkers Republican Party chairman Zehy Jereis. Prosecutors say Annabi traded money for her vote on a development project.

More recently, the city's Human Resources deputy commissioner, Gerard Serpico, and Management and Budget Director Carl Maniscalco were fired for allegedly arranging a last-minute $32,000 pay raise for former Deputy Mayor Bill Regan.

Just two weeks ago, Spano called Yonkers and New York State Police detectives to City Hall and told them someone has been reading his emails and those of other top administrators. That investigation is ongoing.

Covill, a Katonah resident, replaces Dan Schorr, a former prosecutor and finance attorney who held the post for two years and resigned in April to work for a Manhattan-based private investigations firm.

Spano said Covill has the "experience, integrity, thoroughness and toughness" necessary to succeed in her new job and prevent further scandal.

"I am confident Kitley will help promote ethical, fiscal, and legal accountability throughout our city as our new inspector general," he said in a statement Wednesday following her confirmation.

Covill served as an assistant county attorney for the past six years, overseeing investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect of minors. Previously, Covill ran her own law firm, frequently dealing with civic matters.

She was also an assistant district attorney in Nassau County, where she ran the Civil Forfeiture Unit, a position that required her to investigate and pursue financial proceeds of criminal enterprises.

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