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Klein pushes back against rumors surrounding his departure

As the dust settles around his abrupt resignation and replacement, Chancellor Joel Klein is beginning to fight speculation that he was pushed out of his job.

In an interview with New York Magazine today, Klein refuted the suggestion that tension had developed between him and Mayor Bloomberg after the mayor placed Chief Operating Officer Sharon Greenberger in the Department of Education. Sources told the Times — and I heard the same thing — that Greenberger was “imposed over Joel’s objection.”

Klein told NY Mag:

That’s absolutely preposterous. Part of my thinking, in terms of both the issues I was facing and long-term for the department, was that I needed to bring in a great long-term operating officer. I took the mayor to lunch at Nam, in Tribeca, and I said to him that I thought Sharon, who I had worked closely with at the school construction authority, was the right person. He agreed and thinks she’s terrific. Both of us went ahead and recruited her aggressively. Anybody who says she was imposed on me is simply fabricating.

Asked if he had been forced to resign, Klein responded: “Totally my decision.” He told the Times: “I really did think it was the right time for me.”

Still, some elements of Klein’s story don’t make perfect sense. DOE officials have said that in meetings to discuss the mayor’s third term, Klein never gave them reason to doubt that he wouldn’t be there. And in June of last year, Klein said there was no question that he planned to stay. He said:

The mayor has made clear and I have made clear I have no intention of going anywhere. He added, As long as the mayor will continue to have me, I’ll continue to serve.

His comment was made before the mayor won re-election and may have referred to speculation that he would leave before the second term ended.