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by Jay Gallagher

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another shoe drops on Paterson

The shoes continue to drop on Gov. Paterson. The one that hit him today might be the most damaging yet.

The state Commission on Public Integrity charged him with violating the state’s gift ban when he accepted free tickets to the first game of the World Series last fall at Yankee Stadium.

The ethics panel also asked Albany County District Attorney David Soares and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to probe whether the governor or anyone else lied under oath to the commission during its investigation of the ticket incident.

Cuomo is already looking into what role if any Paterson played in a Bronx woman who said she was roughed up by a top Paterson aide deciding not to press for an order of protection.

The commission charged today that the Governor violated the state Public Officers Law Sections when he sought and obtained free tickets from the Yankees for himself, his 15-year-old son and his son's friend as well as two aides to the game in the Bronx on Oct. 28. The Yankees are listed as a group that lobbies the administration.

Paterson could have to pay $90,000 in fines if the charges stick.

Paterson told investigators that he always intended to pay the $850 for tickets for his son and the son's friend, but paid for all five he received only after being confronted by a reporter about it, the commission said. The five tickets were valued at $2,125.

Paterson declined to discuss the details of the ticket situation when asked about it by reporters today. But he said he has asked to meet with the commission.

“We also dispute that I solicited anything from the Yankees or acted improperly,’’ he said.

He also denied that he did anything to try to persuade the domestic-violence victim to back off her charges.

"I, at all times, upheld the oath of my office and never at any point attempted to influence or coerce anyone to do anything they didn't want to do," Paterson said.

Legislative leaders said Paterson needs to deal with the charges to clear the decks as they try to agree on a plan to close a $9 billion budget hole.

“These are serious allegations the governor will have to address,’’ said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan.

Paterson and the four legislative leaders met briefly in public today to start talking about the budget, which is supposed to be in place by April 1. All just made stock pledges to be responsive and/or resist tax increases.

At one point Paterson asked them what their ideas were for spending cuts to shrink the gap. None had any specific suggestions.

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