NY governor's work goes on as the pressure builds

NY governor's work goes on as the pressure builds

Published March 2, 2010

ALBANY, N.Y. – New York Gov. David Paterson discussed his political future with the head of the state's Democratic Party on Tuesday, hours after the National Organization for Women joined the voices urging him to resign because of a report that he had staff members contact a woman about her allegation of abuse by a top aide.

Paterson still has his side of the story to tell, and it "explains an awful lot," said State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, who met with him at the governor's mansion.

"I did not get the sense that the governor is considering resignation, that resignation is pending," Jacobs said, who was picked for the job by Paterson, a longtime friend.

"There shouldn't be any more shoes to drop," he said, referring to the New York Times articles that have reported on the case. "The sense I got from him is there won't be."

NOW is highly influential in Democratic politics and called for the governor's resignation despite what it considers Paterson's "excellent" record of strong support for women's issues and in combatting domestic violence.

"It is inappropriate for the governor to have any contact or to direct anyone to contact an alleged victim of violence," said Marcia Pappas, president of NOW New York State. "This latest news is very disappointing for those of us who believed the governor was a strong advocate for women's equality and for ending violence against women."

"It is now time for the governor to step down," she said in the written statement.

There was no immediate comment from Paterson's office. Some leading Democrats have said he should resign to avoid further damage to the party in the 2010 elections. Paterson has said he did nothing wrong and won't resign.

Sherruna Booker told police she was roughed up on Halloween last year by Paterson aide David Johnson, her boyfriend at the time, but she decided not to press charges. At issue is whether Paterson or anyone from his staff or security detail influenced her decision.

Paterson has acknowledged that he spoke with Booker but said she initiated the call and that he did not try to get her to change her story or not pursue a charge.

The New York Times on Tuesday provided new details on Paterson's involvement in the matter, reporting that the governor had personally directed two state employees to contact the woman.

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo — often mentioned as a potential governor by the very critics dogging Paterson — is investigating the contacts, at Paterson's request. Any criminal case will hinge on whether Paterson, staff members or state bodyguards tried to get Booker to change her story, making charges of witness tampering or obstructing justice possible.

Some Democratic lawmakers said that even if it turns out there was no effort to sway Booker, the situation gives the appearance of impropriety.

A Paterson administration official told the AP that one of the staff workers, press officer Marissa Shorenstein, was told by Paterson to contact Booker but only to seek her public statement. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak for Paterson.

The other employee told to contact Booker was Deneane Brown, a friend of Booker and Paterson who works in the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal. The Times, citing unnamed officials, reported she reached out to Booker to arrange a phone call with Paterson. The administration official wouldn't comment on Brown's role.

After that Feb. 8 call, Booker failed to appear in court against Johnson and the domestic violence case that was building against him was dropped.

The administration official told the AP that Shorenstein's role was "very limited."

On Monday, the governor said he would serve out his term, which has less than a year left. Jacobs, the Democratic chairman, said he had tried to fend off some county party leaders who had pushed Paterson to end his campaign.

Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch said Tuesday that he isn't making any preparations to succeed Paterson but that he won't discuss their private meetings.

Paterson called the state's two top legislative leaders — Senate Majority Leader John Sampson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, both Democrats — to the executive mansion Tuesday afternoon, but Silver said they never discussed whether the governor should resign.

"I don't feel he should resign," Silver said after the lunch-hour meeting. Sampson wouldn't comment.

Paterson has been holding back on making too many public comments to avoid interfering with Cuomo's investigation, Jacobs said.

NOW has been influential in past scandals, including the ultimate resignation of Paterson's predecessor, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who was named in a prostitution investigation. Paterson was lieutenant governor at the time and ascended upon Spitzer's departure.


Associated Press writer Valerie Bauman contributed to this report.

Written by MICHAEL GORMLEY, Associated Press Writer


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