Albany, NY – Governor David Paterson says he's innocent of charges by a state ethics panel that found he broke the public officers law when he accepted free tickets to Yankee stadium for a World Series game. The governor tried Wednesday to conduct state business in an atmosphere of uncertainty.
Paterson spoke for the first time since announcing several days ago that he would end his political campaign for election. He again insisted he has not violated his oath of office, despite new developments in two growing scandals.
A state ethics panel, in a 17 page report, has now accused Paterson of breaking the public officers law in connection with accepting some free Yankees game tickets. The State Commission on Public Integrity also says the governor lied when he told them he'd intended all along to pay for the tickets to the first game of the 2009 World Series. Paterson says it's the ethics panel that's got it wrong.
"We also dispute that I solicited anything from the Yankees and acted improperly," said Paterson.
The governor said he could not get into the facts of the case, because he is challenging the ethics panel ruling. The panel has recommended that the Attorney General and Albany County District Attorney begin a criminal investigation.
Paterson says he also can't specifically address new charges that he directed his press secretary and another state employee to interfere in a domestic violence case involving one of his aids, saying he does not want to jeopardize the on-going probe. But he says he's been a strong advocate against domestic violence throughout more than two decades in public office.
"I have displayed respect and sensitivity to people who either were or may have been abused," said Paterson. "And I don't think that changed over the past few months".
The governor believes that in the end, the public will give him a fair hearing and that he will be vindicated.
Paterson also, for the first time since his announcement that he was dropping out of the governor's race, made a public effort to govern. He held a cabinet meeting, and then an open leaders meeting, where he told legislative leaders that he intended to remain in office and negotiate a new budget. The governor chided lawmakers who say they are against his proposed taxes, including a new tax on sugared soft drinks, and against his proposed cuts, saying something has to give. He says the state has bills coming in April and May that it can't afford right now to pay.
"We don't know how we're going to meet these costs, unless there are extreme actions," said Paterson.
When Paterson asked the leaders what their ideas are for closing the gap, he was met largely with silence.
Afterward, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who earlier had expressed alarm at the governor's lack of candor over his actions in the two scandals, seemed resigned to trying to conduct budget talks with Paterson.
"The governor is the governor right now, and we have no choice," said Silver.
Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson agreed, saying lawmakers can't "abdicate our responsibilities".
Silver, who has a poor relationship with the governor, previously suggested that Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch conduct the negotiations. Ravitch did not attend the leaders meeting.