NY gov.’s press aide quits in scandal; 4th to fall

0
20

Press sec resignsGov. David Paterson’s?press?secretary on Wednesday became the fourth top staffer to quit amid dual scandals, resigning just hours after her boss publicly proclaimed for the first time that he did nothing wrong when he talked to a woman who had accused one of his top aides of abuse.

Paterson also said Wednesday on a radio show that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, whom he appointed to the seat, threw him “under the bus” by suggesting he might have to resign over his role in the abuse allegations.

In a separate scandal that threatens his administration, Paterson’s lawyer on Wednesday released a harsh critique of an ethics violation against him for accepting World Series tickets, and the state’s former lobbying chief called the ticket investigation “an ethical lynching” of the state’s first black governor.

Press?secretary Marissa Shorenstein said she resigned after two years because she could no longer do her job because of the abuse scandal. The New York Times had reported that Shorenstein, at Paterson’s instruction, called the accuser on the phone.

Shortly after the contact by another Paterson staffer, Deneane Brown, the woman failed to show up for a court date on the case, resulting in its dismissal. Shorenstein reportedly called the woman days later when the issue was being reported by news organizations. A special counsel is investigating whether the administration, including Paterson and a trooper on his security detail, improperly contacted the woman.

“Due to the circumstances that have led to my unwitting involvement in recent news stories, I can no longer do my job effectively,” Shorenstein said in a brief statement released through a private e-mail account. “Throughout my career I have performed my duties professionally and with integrity, basing my actions on what I believed to be true at the time.”

In the past three weeks, Paterson’s deputy public safety secretary, his state police superintendent and his communications director, who was Shorenstein’s boss, have quit because of the scandal.

Paterson has insisted throughout the resignations and calls for his own that he did nothing wrong, but he has declined to be specific about his contact with the aide’s accuser. But in a radio interview early Wednesday, Paterson broke his silence and said he didn’t try to persuade the woman to drop her domestic violence complaint.

“I would never, nor did I ever, try to persuade anyone not to take the natural course of the law,” Paterson said Wednesday on Don Imus’ show on the Fox Business Network.

Paterson then agreed with Imus, who asked whether Gillibrand ? appointed in 2009 to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton ? had thrown the governor “under the bus” as he faced scandal and calls for his resignation.

On March 2, Gillibrand had said that “if the allegations of abuse of power are true, then the governor will be unable to govern and he will have to step down.”

Imus asked Wednesday, “What’s that all about?”

“That’s about when you are in a jam, there are people who will throw you under the bus,” Paterson said to laughs from the audience at the Hard Rock Cafe in Manhattan.

“Whenever you watch a movie or whenever you read a book someone who is in a terrible or difficult situation, there are always those who do that,” he continued. “They just don’t expect you to get out from under the bus. And when you do, they should be forewarned.”

Imus commiserated, then asked whether Paterson has spoken recently to Gillibrand.

“It’s hard to talk to anyone when you’re under a bus,” Paterson quipped.

Gillibrand, through spokesman Matt Canter, said Wednesday that the investigation must be completed before any decisions are made, but that Paterson should resign if the allegations are proved to be true.

“She remains hopeful that the investigation will clear the governor of these allegations,” Canter said.

Paterson’s comments came as his attorney struck back at the state’s Commission on Public Integrity. The commission’s investigators found reasonable cause that Paterson got World Series tickets from the New York Yankees in violation of a gift ban, then lied about it to investigators. Paterson denies any wrongdoing in that case, too.

Paterson’s attorney, Theodore V. Wells Jr., called the report “half-baked” and a “rush to judgment.” He released e-mails and testimony Wednesday that were not included in the report and that cast doubt on the testimony on which the accusations are based.

“It appeared to me be an ethical lynching,” said David Grandeau, the state’s former lobbying chief who has long criticized the Public Integrity Commission that replaced his lobbying commission. “They didn’t complete the investigation and were in such a rush to do the governor harm.”

Grandeau, called Albany’s most effective watchdog by good-government groups, also criticized the commission’s defense of its report, before it goes to a hearing in which Paterson could defend himself.

“The governor will not get a fair hearing from the Commission on Public Integrity,” Grandeau said.

(This version CORRECTS sequence of calls to woman, Shorenstein’s role in 5th graf.)

Source: The Associated Press.