The National Organization for Women on Tuesday urged New York Gov. David Paterson to resign because of a report he directed two staffers to contact a woman about a domestic violence case involving one of his top aides.
The group is highly influential in Democratic politics and called for the governor’s resignation despite what it considers Paterson’s “excellent” record of strong support for women’s issues and in combatting domestic violence.
“It is inappropriate for the governor to have any contact or to direct anyone to contact an alleged victim of violence,” said Marcia Pappas, president of NOW New York State.
“This latest news is very disappointing for those of us who believed the governor was a strong advocate for women’s equality and for ending violence against women.”
“It is now time for the governor to step down,” she said in the written statement.
Citing sources with direct knowledge of the governor's actions, The New York Times Monday night said Paterson asked his press secretary and a housing official to speak with the woman at the center of the Oct. 31 alleged domestic violence incident. The woman had sought an order of protection against Paterson aide David Johnson.
PHOTOS: Gov. Paterson aide scandal
Paterson has maintained that he didn't know the full extent of the case until contacted by the newspaper last month. He has acknowledged speaking with the woman last month - but insisted that wasn't improper. After the conversation with Paterson, the woman failed to show up for a court proceeding and her case was dismissed.
The latest Times story comes as some Democrats are calling for Paterson to resign. His communications director Peter Kauffmann declined to comment last night.
Allegations about the role Paterson and the State Police played in the case caused Democrats to pressure him to drop his election campaign last Friday. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating the matter at Paterson's request.
Yesterday morning, Paterson said of Cuomo's probe, "This is a separate issue that involves someone that worked for us and not me."
But the Times, citing a person briefed on the matter, reported that Paterson directed his No. 2 press aide, Marissa Shorenstein, to ask the woman in the domestic violence case to publicly say it was "nonviolent."
Shorenstein never reached the woman but Paterson made the request as the Times was preparing a front-page profile of Johnson that was published Feb. 17, according to the paper.
A source told Newsday Monday night that Shorenstein was only asked to contact the woman shortly before the Times story was posted on its Web site. Shorenstein was requested to see if the woman would make a statement for inclusion in the Times story, the source said.
Shorenstein did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.
Paterson allegedly requested Deneane Brown, a friend of his and of the woman, to contact her before a court proceeding on Feb. 8, the Times said. Brown also asked the woman to call the governor, which she did on Feb. 7, the paper said.
Brown, who works for the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal, reached the woman on more than one occasion over several days, the paper said. The specifics of Brown's actions remain unclear. She could not be reached for comment Monday night.
Earlier Monday, state legislative leaders rallied to Paterson as he defiantly vowed to remain in office and negotiate next year's budget.