The appointment of Richard Ravitch to serve as New York's lieutenant governor was illegal, a state appellate court ruled yesterday. Gov. David Paterson will appeal the ruling to the state Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.

"We will try to persuade them that under Public Officer Law 43 the governor does have the right to fill vacant offices, the explicit right, and we see the lieutenant governor as one of those offices," Paterson told reporters. He said he was willing to have Ravitch confirmed by the Senate or the full Legislature "to avoid the feeling there would be a rogue person appointed lieutenant governor."

The state constitution did not allow Paterson to name the former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman to the post on July 8, a four-judge panel said. Senate Republicans immediately sued last month to block Ravitch from serving.

Paterson made the appointment to break a deadlock caused by a leadership battle in the Senate that temporarily left the chamber split 31-31. The lieutenant governor can cast a tie-breaking vote but the office has been open since Paterson ascended from it to replace former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned last year in a prostitution scandal. Paterson's office argued that he was allowed to fill vacant offices by appointment where the state law did not specify how vacancies should be filled.

Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, said he was confident that the state Court of Appeals would find that "the governor had no legal authority to make the appointment."

"The Appellate Court today upheld the position I have taken all along, that the governor acted recklessly and unconstitutionally when he put his own political interests ahead of the public interest to appoint a lieutenant governor," Skelos said in a statement.

Speaking to The Bond Buyer last week, Ravitch called himself the "potential" lieutenant governor. Ravitch said his term would be "of short duration even if it is found to be legal, because I'm obviously not going to run in 2010."

Ravitch has been working on a plan to close a projected $2.1 billion current-year operating deficit that has opened up as tax revenue collections have fallen below forecasts. Paterson called upon Ravitch last year to help find a solution to the MTA's long- and short-term financial needs.

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