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NY Mayor Defends Towers Fund Change (AP)

Associated Press Writer

February 21, 2002, 1:56 PM EST

NEW YORK -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday that despite the complaints of some widows, he has no problem with Rudolph Giuliani overseeing a charity designed to aid families of victims of the World Trade Center attack.
The widows of 15 police officers have threatened legal action to stop the transfer of control of the $160 million Twin Towers Fund to a private charity managed by Giuliani, who preceded Bloomberg as mayor.
"I understand why they feel the way they do," said Bloomberg. But he added that "Giuliani does, did and will care about the widows and children left behind."
The fund was created by then-Mayor Giuliani for families of police officers, firefighters and other public employees killed in the attacks. Giuliani told The New York Times he wanted to continue to run the fund because families "are going to get their money faster, they are going to get it with more options and they are going to be a lot more protected if I stay involved in this."
Representatives of the officers' widows say they fear a shift of the money into a private fund would lessen oversight and could threaten recipients' privacy. Some also criticize the proposed pay scale for the fund, with several getting six-figure salaries. Giuliani would serve as unpaid chairman of the board.
"Even if you disagree with Rudy, I don't see how you can disagree with his motives," Bloomberg said. "He really would like to do what's right." Measures sought by state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer will further protect the public, he added.
Spitzer, who must approve the transfer of the fund from city control to the charity, is insisting on audits and other controls before Giuliani takes control. He wants some of the fund's board members to be appointed by Bloomberg and wants city auditors to examine the fund's finances. Giuliani aides have indicated that the former mayor supports such safeguards.
Giuliani calls his role in the fund is "a sacred obligation." As for the widows' concerns, Giuliani said: "I don't know what their lawyers are saying to them."
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