Rented Seat of Power in Westchester

JAN. 8, 1998When Andrew J. Spano arrived last week to take over the helm of Westchester County government, he found that he had inherited little from his predecessor's once-elegant office except a few dusty cabinets and a couple of ill-tended potted plants. The sumptuous leather couch and handsome walnut desk and matching chair and refrigerator were gone.Thus, Mr. Spano, the first Democrat to be elected Westchester County Executive in 15 years, began his tenure sitting behind a squat rented desk in an anything-but-power chair.But as his first order of business, Mr. Spano used the laptop computer he brought from home to change the law that allowed his predecessor, Andrew P. O'Rourke, to buy his office furniture at a discount and take it with him when he left.Mr. O'Rourke paid $5,075 for 16 pieces of furniture and a fax machine, said Susan Tolchin, Mr. Spano's director of communications. The county also gave Mr. O'Rourke his computer, which he had received from the county's General Services Administration in a trade for a personal computer.AdvertisementMr. Spano would like to see that county officials be allowed to take only ''mementos'' of their service, not fax machines, personal computers or brass candlestick lamps. ''What's at issue is what constitutes furniture and furnishings and what is a fair appraisal,'' Ms. Tolchin said.AdvertisementMr. Spano must wait about two months to get his own furniture, because county purchases must first be put out for competitive bids. In the meantime, the county is paying $1,126 to rent office furniture for Mr. Spano through February. If he keeps it an extra month, the rental is an additional $875.Sometimes when government changes, something ineffable seems lost. In this case, what is lost is more tangible.Please verify you're not a robot by clicking the box.Invalid email address. Please re-enter.You must select a newsletter to subscribe to.View all New York Times newsletters.Gone are a burgundy leather couch with rolled arms and brass nails (estimated replacement cost, $4,000; estimated current value, $1,000, O'Rourke price, $600) and matching high-back chair (replacement cost, $2,200; current value, $700, O'Rourke price, $300).Gone, too, are a six-foot-long walnut desk (replacement cost, $3,000; current value, $1,500, O'Rourke price, $750) and a matching walnut refrigerator cabinet with refrigerator (replacement cost, $1,500; current value, $550, O'Rourke price, $300).Mr. O'Rourke did not return a telephone message left for him today.David Eppinger, an office furniture dealer from Stamford, Conn., who appraised the furniture, said the prices Mr. O'Rourke paid were calculated by estimating what the group of 16 pieces would have fetched if they had been sold as a single lot by a company that was liquidating.If sold separately, the 16 pieces would have been worth about $9,000, Mr. Eppinger said. He estimated the replacement value for all of them to be $25,200. ''I think the price was fair for the county and for Mr. O'Rourke,'' Mr. Eppinger said. ''You have to remember that the furniture is a dozen to 15 years old.''Mr. Spano does not plan to replace all of the pieces, Ms. Tolchin said. Mr. Eppinger, who expects to place a bid for furnishing Mr. Spano's office, said he conducted the appraisal without charge.''It was fun just to go in and look at Andy's things,'' he said.We are continually improving the quality of our text archives. Please send feedback, error reports, and suggestions to .A version of this article appears in print on January 8, 1998, on Page B00007 of the National edition with the headline: Rented Seat of Power in Westchester. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

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