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Cloud over Albany

When David Paterson ended his campaign for a full four-year term as governor less than a week after announcing his candidacy, he vowed to serve out the remainder of his term.

With each passing day, however, that seems increasingly problematic. In a series of articles, the New York Times has reported on Mr. Paterson’s intervention in a domestic violence case involving one of his closest aides. The claims against the governor are unproven, but a cloud of suspicion hangs over Mr. Paterson.

On Wednesday, that cloud darkened when the state Commission on Public Integrity issued a report accusing the governor of violating the Public Officers Law when he obtained from the New York Yankees-a registered lobbyist-free tickets to the opening game of the World Series last fall. The tickets were for himself, his son and others-including David Johnson, the senior aide at the heart of the domestic violence case.

The ethics law bars any state officer or employee from "directly or indirectly soliciting, accepting or receiving anything of more than nominal value if it is reasonable to infer that the gift was intended or could reasonably be expected to influence or reward him or her in the performance of his or her official duties."

In its report, the commission said the governor’s testimony on the matter "is not credible and is contradicted by evidence." It has asked Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the Albany County district attorney to investigate whether the governor committed a crime "by swearing falsely during the commission’s interview of him and by causing a check to be back-dated."

In polls conducted earlier this week, including the RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll, most New Yorkers said the governor should not resign. Certainly in the domestic violence case, judgment must await the outcome of the attorney general’s investigation.

But the governor’s ability to lead the state at this critical time surely is in question. New York faces a deficit of more than $9 billion, at the latest count, yet Mr. Paterson reportedly has not begun to negotiate with legislative leaders even though the budget deadline is less than a month away.

The governor says he still wants to lead; he needs to demonstrate that he can.

3/5/10 (c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

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