Just days before leaving office, Gov. David Paterson was slapped yesterday with $62,125 in fines by a state watchdog group for taking free Yankees World Series tickets in 2009.
The State Commission on Public Integrity found that Paterson, whose term ends Dec. 31, gave false testimony to investigators, never intended to pay for the tickets and “knew his conduct was unlawful."
The fine, reportedly the first of its kind issued to a governor in office, includes $2,125 for the value of the five tickets for Game 1 of the series between the Yankees and the Phillies and $60,000 for violating public officer laws. Paterson attended the game with his son, his son’s friend and two aides.
“Unfortunately the Governor set a totally inappropriate tone by his dishonest and unethical conduct,” Michael Cherkasky, commission chairman said in a statement. “Such conduct cannot be tolerated by any New York State Employee, particularly our Governor.”
The Commission also noted that the Yankees have “myriad and continuing business and financial interests” with the state, such as tax and real estate issues, and state law prohibits elected officials to accept gifts from lobbyists.
While insisting that he always intended to pay for the tickets, Paterson didn’t do so until after reporters late last year starting asking him questions about it.
Paterson’s attorney, Ted Wells, blasted the commission’s findings, calling them “outrageous.”
“The Commission has wildly misrepresented the facts, exceeded its legal authority, and generally confirmed what has long been obvious: that these proceedings were always about political retribution and never about the truth,” Wells said in an e-mail statement.
State prosecutors had been asked to investigate whether Paterson did anything criminal, but no charges have been filed.