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Communications director latest to leave Paterson staff

Paterson's communications director, Peter Kauffmann, resigned Thursday, March

Paterson's communications director, Peter Kauffmann, resigned Thursday, March 4, 2010, in the wake of allegations that the governor lied about soliciting and using free tickets to a 2009 Yankees World Series game. (May 4, 2009) Credit: AP File

ALBANY - As scandal engulfs his administration, Gov. David A. Paterson has lost three key staff members in eight days with Thursday's resignation of communications director Peter Kauffmann.

Kauffmann announced he was leaving a day after being interviewed by investigators for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who are probing allegations that Paterson interfered in a domestic violence case involving his longtime aide.

Kauffman's resignation also followed by a day the release of a scathing report by the state's ethics watchdog that accused Paterson of lying under oath about soliciting and using free tickets to a Yankees World Series game last year.

"Integrity and commitment to public service are values I take seriously," Kauffmann said, citing his previous career as a U.S. Navy intelligence officer. "Unfortunately, as recent developments have come to light, I cannot in good conscience continue in my current position."

Kauffmann, 34, was appointed the governor's top press officer a year ago with a salary of $175,000. Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook said Thursday the governor had no comment.

Kauffmann's testimony and e-mail to the Commission on Public Integrity is central to allegations that Paterson lied about the Yankees tickets. The commission has accused Paterson of breaking the law prohibiting acceptance of gifts from lobbyists and the ethics code. He faces fines of more than $90,000.

Paterson has disputed the commission's findings, saying he never "solicited" the tickets and didn't lie to investigators.

Kauffmann testified that Paterson initially told him the baseball team had offered five tickets, and they were free because he attended the Oct. 28 game in his official capacity. Based on this information, Kauffmann released a statement to a newspaper reporter.

But after Kauffmann informed Paterson the Yankees disputed his recollection of events, the governor conceded he hadn't been invited. Paterson then told Kauffmann he would pay $850 for tickets used by his teenage son and the son's friend after being informed another staff member planned to pay for his own ticket.

Kauffmann's resignation follows that of State Police Superintendent Harry J. Corbitt and homeland security czar Denise O'Donnell on Wednesday and Feb. 25 respectively.

The Corbitt and O'Donnell resignations are tied to another scandal involving Paterson and state troopers allegedly influencing in a domestic violence case in which the accused attacker was Paterson aide David Johnson.


Out the door


As controversy has engulfed Gov. David A. Paterson, three key members of his administration have publicly resigned in the past week. They are:


Peter Kauffmann


Job title: Director of Communications

Salary: $175,000

Tenure: March 23, 2009-Thursday

Reason for stepping down: "Integrity and commitment to public service are values I take seriously. Unfortunately, as recent developments have come to light, I cannot in good conscience continue in my current position."



Harry J. Corbitt


Job title: Superintendent of the New York State Police

Salary: $136,000* (excludes his pension from first retirement which was capped at $30,000 when he returned to state payroll)

Tenure: April 16, 2008-March 3, 2010

Reason for stepping down: "Working as a superintendent . . . there needs to be this public perception that the person serving in that position is trustworthy, forthright and has the best interest of the citizens . . . in mind. "This media firestorm has really destroyed my ability to function in that capacity."



Denise E. O'Donnell


Job title: Commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services and Deputy Secretary for Public Safety**

Salary: $165,000

Tenure: Jan. 16, 2007-Feb. 25, 2010

Comment on reason for stepping down: "The fact that the governor and members of the State Police have acknowledged direct contact with a woman who had filed for an order of protection against a senior member of the governor's staff is a very serious matter. These actions are unacceptable regardless of their intent."





*Corbitt also received his pension from his first retirement, which was capped at $30,000 per year when he returned to state payroll;

**O'Donnell took on the added role of deputy secretary for public safety in January 2009 after Michael Balboni, a former Republican state senator from Mineola, left the Paterson administration to become a homeland security consultant.


- Compiled by James T. Madore


SOURCES: NYS comptroller's office, NYS Red Book, Newsday interviews

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