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Westchester DA: I'm political attack victim

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore. (2009)

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore. (2009) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

ALBANY -- Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore Thursday said allegations that she improperly intervened to secure Medicaid benefits and food stamps for a maid were politically motivated.

"I have done nothing wrong on anyone's behalf let alone someone who was an employee for me," DiFiore said following a meeting of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics which she chairs. "This is generated as a politically motivated attack by a political operative in Westchester County and I'm just not going to speak about it any further."

County officials have been looking into why her housekeeper was approved for social services after being repeatedly rejected, according to published reports. County anti-fraud investigator Dhyalma Vazquez alleged in leaked emails that DiFiore used her influence to help her maid.

Vazquez also is the vice-chairwoman of the Westchester County Independence Party, which backed DiFiore's 2006 campaign but has clashed with her since over appointments she has made and her decision to switch to the Democratic Party.

Vazquez has denied the investigation was a political smear campaign.

Giulio Cavallo, head of the Westchester Independence Party, also denied that he or other party officials were involved in a smear campaign, and lashed out at DiFiore for suggesting that the investigation was politically motivated.

"She's trying to put a spin on this as politically motivated," Cavallo told Newsday. "We didn't have nothing to do with that."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday that he had "total confidence" in his choice of DiFiore to head the ethics commission.

"It's clear there is some political contortions to all this," Cuomo said of the accusations.

The commission met in executive session Thursday for about four hours. DiFiore left for about an hour and a half of the closed door portion of the meeting.

Commission spokesman John Milgrim said he could not comment on DiFiore's whereabouts during that part of the meeting.

With Christian Wade

State & Region