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Miranda quits as DiFrancesco's nominee to become treasurer

Originally appeared in The Associated Press on Wednesday, 3/28/01 3:12 PM

Isabel Miranda quit with regret Wednesday as a nominee to become New Jersey's next treasurer, charging her nomination "has fallen victim to a vicious and unfair effort to discredit me."

Miranda became a focus of controversy after The New York Times reported Monday that she was fired by Citibank five years ago for misusing expense accounts to carry on an extramarital affair.

But more concerns were promptly raised about whether Miranda could function as state treasurer, the executive with singular authority over all state finances, while remaining affiliated with U.S. Trust Company of New Jersey, a firm that competes for business handling government bond issues.

It is this latter issue Miranda cited in her resignation letter Wednesday. Miranda had agreed to take a leave of absence from U.S. Trust and to further recuse herself from any state decisions involving that firm, but she was unwilling to resign outright to take a state job that might last less than a year.

"I also now believe recusal is not sufficient to cure any perceived conflict I would have as a result of my leave of absence," Miranda said in her letter.

Acting Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco said he was disappointed his neighbor, a family friend, withdrew her name as he praised her "as a person of enormous character and integrity." Miranda also resigned as acting treasurer, a post she had held since Friday.

DiFrancesco became acting governor on Jan. 31 to complete the remainder of former Gov. Christie Whitman's unexpired term after she left to become head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He is a candidate for election to a full term, but his current tenure as acting governor ends next January.

Miranda's scheduled confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee was postponed Monday after the publication of the news report prompted committee members to ask for more time to review her confidential background investigation.

Citing unnamed current and former employees of the New York-based bank, the Times reported that Miranda was forced to resign and escorted from her Manhattan office. Auditors found evidence that she and Donald Browne Jr., an executive in Citibank's San Francisco office, had charged the bank for cross-country trips to visit each other and for trips together to places like Palm Beach, Fla., the newspaper reported.

Both DiFrancesco and Miranda denied the newspaper report. Sen. William Gormley, R-Atlantic, the Judiciary chairman, and the ranking Democrat, Sen. John A. Lynch, D-Middlesex, said they were given unprecedented access to Miranda's confidential background investigation. The state New Jersey State Police detectives had renewed their inquiry Monday into the terms of Miranda's departure from Citibank.

"I do applaud their openness in having us have access to it," Lynch said. "I believe the damage, if any, lies with the fact that the nomination was sort of rushed and mismanaged, and there was some awareness of potential problems that should have been fully explored."

Sen. Robert Martin, R-Morris, said Miranda's plan to serve as treasurer without fully breaking off her ties to U.S. Trust was troublesome.

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