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Memo to Campbell: New sheriff in town 

Former Whitewater prosecutor to take over as U.S. attorney

Three years into the federal investigation of his administration, Mayor Bill Campbell will have a new nemesis when William S. Duffey Jr. takes over as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

Duffey will replace Richard Deane, who's stepping down Oct. 19. The departure of Deane, an appointee of the Clinton administration, has been anticipated since George W. Bush became president. Duffey says he's still awaiting Senate confirmation, and has no timetable for joining the office.

Duffey, 49 years old and a partner with King & Spalding, is no tenderfoot when it comes to investigating high-profile politicos. He tangled with the Clinton administration when he served from 1994-95 as Deputy Independent Counsel in charge of the Arkansas phase of the Whitewater investigation.

Campbell's office isn't commenting on Duffey's arrival, and Michael Coleman, Campbell's attorney, could not be reached for comment. Last year, though, the mayor characterized federal authorities as "forces of evil" and implied that the investigation was motivated by racial prejudice. Still, his words rang a bit hollow, considering that Deane himself is African-American, as is the local head of the FBI. We'll know soon whether the appointment of Duffey, who's white, will renew Campbell's rhetoric.

After all, it's the U.S. Attorney who will decide when, or if, there's sufficient evidence to push for indictments within Campbell's administration. So far, only Fred B. Prewitt, the former chairman of the city's Civil Service Board, and former Fulton County Commissioner Michael Hightower have been jailed in connection with the investigation. The investigation has been broad-ranging, and authorities have looked into the awarding of city contracts and their connection to fundraising during Campbell's 1997 mayoral election.

The question is, with less than three months to go before Campbell leaves office, will the transfer of power from Deane to Duffey slow the investigation?

Doubtful, say observers. The investigation has been going on for so long that, according to sources, most of the probe's heavy lifting has already been done. Besides, it's the 65 assistant attorneys within the Atlanta office who do most of the day-to-day work.

Indeed, if anything slows the investigation, it would be the ongoing hunt for the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. Thousands of FBI agents are on that case. The result? "A slowing effect and an impact" on pending and developing cases, says Patrick Crosby, spokesman for the local U.S. Attorney's Office.

It would be Duffey's job to make the "final decisions to seek to indict or not indict cases," says former U.S. Attorney Kent Alexander.

Unless, of course, the decision gets ethically sticky. For instance, amid the conga line of attorneys representing various city officials in the investigation, one may turn out to be a former colleague of Duffey's. In that case, Duffey might be forced to sit out any major decisions involving the case, Alexander says.

Even Deputy U.S. Attorney General Larry D. Thompson, a former colleague of Duffey's at King & Spalding and now Duffey's boss, for example, has ties to the investigation. He represented Hightower, the first high-profile political figure prosecuted in the investigation.

It's not strange for a new U.S. Attorney to have conflicts of interest during the first year or more in office, says Joe Whitley, who served two stints as a U.S. Attorney in Georgia, from 1981-86 and 1990-93. If Duffey had to step aside, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Nina Hunt would take charge. She's also the person who will likely run the office if there is a gap between the time Deane leaves and Duffey takes over.

Any time there is a question about his role as U.S. Attorney, Duffey says, he will discuss the issue with the ethics office in the Department of Justice. Duffey didn't comment specifically on what effect he'll have on the Campbell investigation, but he says this about the new gig: "I know it's not going to be easy, but no good job is."

Duffey received his law degree from the University of South Carolina. During the 1980s, while with King & Spalding, Duffey was involved in two high-profile internal investigations, one for E.F. Hutton after the investment firm pleaded guilty to fraud charges and the other for Exxon after the Valdez disaster.

Duffey has been a partner with King & Spalding since 1987 -- save for the years in Whitewater -- and before that, served in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps.

Duffey has been active in Republican politics, especially with the late U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell. Duffey is the chairman of the Coverdell Leadership Institute, a program that trains Republicans for government office.

"He's a good attorney and a loyal partner at King & Spalding," Alexander says. "He's a straight shooter and very bright."

Julia Emmons, an Atlanta city councilwoman and a close friend of Duffey's, was interviewed by the FBI during the confirmation process. She says Duffey is one of the people she admires most.

"He is a man of extraordinary ethics," says Emmons, a Democrat. "He is not vindictive, and he is very fair."

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