Amid calls for his resignation due to his alleged role in a domestic abuse case involving a top aide, Governor David Paterson was charged Wednesday by the state’s Public Integrity Commission with violating the state’s ethics laws.
In a statement released Wednesday, the New York State Commission on Public Integrity says the governor violated the gift ban when he secured free tickets to the first game of the 2009 World Series from the New York Yankees.
The commission has asked State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the Albany County District Attorney to investigate whether the governor or anyone else may have lied under oath when asked about the tickets.
Paterson asked for five tickets for free. He said he was attending in an official capacity, but never participated in the opening ceremony, nor was he announced, nor did he meet any of the other dignitaries there.
Later, the governor said he attended at the Yankees' request, which the commission found wasn't true. The commission also found reasonable cause the governor did not write out a reimbursement check to the Yankees, even though he said he did. They found despite what the governor said, he never intended to reimburse the Yankees and backdated a check.
"We are asking to meet with the Public Integrity Commission based on the facts of the testimony, which we dispute," said the governor. "We also dispute that I solicited anything from the Yankees, and acted improperly."
He told investigators that he had always intended to pay for the tickets for his son and his son’s friend. However, the commission believes he never planned on paying for them until a press inquiry "caused him to submit a backdated check as payment for the tickets."
What may be most difficult for Paterson to explain is the difference between his signature and the signature on the Yankees check, seen left. At the top is the governor's verified signature from a public document. Next is what is supposedly his signature on the check that paid for the Yankees tickets. However, it looks nothing like the top signature.
Yet the name David is almost identical to the bottom signature – which comes from Paterson's aide David Johnson, the one at the center of a domestic abuse scandal.
The penalty for violating the gift ban is a maximum fine of $40,000. He faces an additional fine of $10,000 for allegedly violating three sections of the ethics code.
In response to the charges, the governor's office released a statement saying it's reviewing the finding but that "Governor Paterson maintains his innocence and intends to challenge the findings of the Commission both with respect to the law and the facts. The Governor takes this matter very seriously and intends to fully cooperate with any further inquiries or investigations, but believes the Commission has acted unfairly in this matter."
Paterson Says He Will Be Vindicated By Findings Of Aide Investigation
The latest allegations come as Paterson is battling a scandal that he and those under his direction tried to influence a woman not to press domestic abuse charges against a top aide.
Speaking with reporters in Albany, the governor said he is frustrated, but cannot disclose any information while he is cooperating with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's investigation in the matter.
"I would really love to tell my side of the story,” Paterson said. “I have worked on domestic violence issues for over 20 years and I think I'm sensitive to victims to perspective victims and I think that I would relish the opportunity to talk to you about this now. But when I read these accounts that are unsourced and inaccurate, it's obviously frustrating. The hope for me is the AG's investigation is a place where witnesses have to take an oath and hopefully where the truth comes out. And when the truth comes out, I'm confident I'll be vindicated."
According to a New York Times report Wednesday, a mutual friend of both the governor and the woman accusing advisor David Johnson of attacking her told investigators that Paterson asked her to convince the accuser to drop the issue.
Citing a person familiar with her account, Deneane Brown reportedly told investigators Paterson asked her to tell the accuser "the governor wants her to make this go away."
Brown is then said to have contacted the accuser repeatedly, before arranging a call between the woman and the governor.
That call came a day before the accuser missed a court date and her case against Johnson was dismissed.
A Paterson spokesman is denying Paterson told Brown to make the issue go away.
Poll: Paterson Should Stay In Office
Despite the scandal plaguing the governor, it appears New Yorkers do not want to see him leave office just yet.
A new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows voters want Paterson to finish his term by a two-to-one margin.
This is despite the fact that only 24 percent of those polled approve of his job performance – Paterson's worst score ever.
When broken down by party, 64 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans think Paterson should serve out his term. And 58 percent of independents think Paterson should remain in office.
While Attorney General Andrew Cuomo may be the favorite to be the next governor, voters don't want him to investigate the Paterson scandal.
According to the poll, 61 percent think an independent prosecutor should be appointed, while only one-quarter want Cuomo.
Quinnipiac surveyed more than 1,200 voters over the last two days. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.
Meanwhile, another top official is resigning from office as a result of the scandal.
State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt is retiring at the end of the day today.
He says the media attention has made it impossible for him to serve.
"It's important for me to move away from being the main attraction so that the State Police can get on with doing the business they do every day," Corbitt said.
Last week, Corbitt's boss, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, Denise O'Donnell quit after criticizing Paterson's staff for contacting the women at the center of the domestic violence complaint.