ALBANY, N.Y. (WPIX)—Just when you thought you'd heard it all, the cloud of controversy hanging over Governor David Paterson has gotten more ominous.
Still in the process of fending off allegations that he had a hand in getting a domestic abuse victim to drop her charges, the Governor is now being accused of violating the state code of ethics.
The State Commission on Public Integrity claims an investigation has determined that Paterson accepted, as a free gift from the Yankees, tickets to attend last years World Series. The Commission concluded that he had no intention of paying for them. The Governor disputes the assertion and insists he "never solicited anything from the Yankees or did anything improperly." If the charges are proven, it could cost the Governor $100,000 in penalties. But it could cost him even more in his crumbling image.
The latest accusation was the buzz of the Capitol where statehouse workers in the corridors were heard talking among one another and querying, "have you heard the latest?"
As surprising as the new revelations are, they pale in comparison to the scandalous questions being raised over the domestic violence case involving one of the Governor's most trusted aides, David Johnson, who has been suspended without pay. At the Governor's request, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating whether Paterson personally intervened to influence the accuser, Sherr-una Booker, to drop the charges. He reportedly spoke to the woman on the phone and had state police reach out to her, an action that has prompted Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt to abruptly announce his retirement. He is the second casualty of the scandal in a week. Corbitt's boss, Deputy Secretary of Public Safety Denise O'Donnell quit because she could not "work in good conscience" for the administration after learning that a state police officer had contacted the abuse victim.
More serious is the allegation that the Governor had two members of his staff reach out to the woman, including one who, according to the New York Times, told the accuser "the Governor would like to make this go away." Paterson has denied this and told reporters at a news conference he has "never at any point attempted to influence or coerce anyone to do what they didn't want to do."
A number of Democrats and Republicans are demanding the Governor resign immediately, while others are urging patience, to let the Attorney General complete his investigation and to give Paterson the benefit of doubt. The Governor as well is asking for time, and voicing confidence that in the end he will be vindicated.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who continues to support Paterson, told PIX News "The Governor has to address issues. These are serious allegations." Senate Minority leader Dean Skelos told us the latest ethics charges are "troubling" and the Governor as well as all members of government should be held to "a higher standard." Skelos says if criminality is determined in the ethics probe, "then the Governor should resign." The matter has been turned over to the Albany County District Attorney.
At least one member of the legislature is calling for radical action. Long Island Republican Assemblyman Phillip Boyle says if the Governor refuses to step aside, he should be impeached.
With all the charges and investigations swirling around the Governor's office, the legislative process to hammer out a new state budget has been stalled. PIX News has learned that a number of key deadlines in the process have not been met, and that real negotiations have not yet begun to deliver a budget by the April 1st deadline.
Just days after withdrawing his campaign, Governor Paterson made it clear he's hanging in. "These are difficult times," he said, "but I'm a guy who's going to be tough too." As for calls for him to resign, the Governor was emphatic, "I think the best thing for me is to remain as Governor. I haven't done anything wrong."