Paterson Appoints Peter J. Kiernan As Chief Counsel

Marbury, smiling that $21.9 million smile.Photo: Patrick McMullan

Governor Paterson has finally filled a senior and long-vacant position in his inner circle, appointing lawyer Peter J. Kiernan to serve as his chief counsel, according to sources close to both. As chief counsel, Kiernan becomes a top adviser to Paterson and one of the most powerful figures in the executive chamber, which faces an unprecedented budget deficit this year and has seen an unusually high amount of turmoil in recent months. Paterson’s first pick of chief lawyer, State Supreme Court justice James Yates, accepted the gig but bailed shortly after, apparently because he couldn’t get along with the governor’s bullyish top adviser, former priest Charles O’Byrne. Now that O’Byrne finally resigned over his tax flap, the power structure of the governor’s inner circle has changed, and Kiernan is set to become a pivotal force. So who is he? He’s a trustee on the Citizen’s Budget Commission, and a former lawyer for the Mayor’s office, the Cuomo administration, and the State Senate Democrats. He was most recently counsel in the public-finance department of the law firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP. He’s also a big contributor to Democrats, giving $21,000 to Eliot Spitzer’s campaign in 2006 and $7,000 to Spitzer’s reelection campaign in 2010, which never materialized.