ALBANY - State Police Superintendent Harry J. Corbitt Tuesday announced plans to step down as controversy engulfed the agency for the second time in less than three years.
Corbitt, who came out of retirement in 2008 to lead the State Police, has been criticized over allegations that some troopers interfered in a domestic violence case involving David Johnson, a top aide to Gov. David A. Paterson. The governor's top law enforcement adviser, Denise O'Donnell, resigned last week, saying Corbitt misled her about the troopers' role in the case.
Corbitt again denied misleading O'Donnell, telling an upstate cable TV show that she drew the wrong conclusions from information he gave her.
He told the "Capital Tonight" program he would retire this evening because he sees no other recourse to attacks on his character.
"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," he said during the program. "This media firestorm has really destroyed my ability to function in that capacity."
Corbitt returned to the State Police as superintendent in early 2008. Paterson appointed him after a controversy involving travel records compiled by troopers about then-State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, the Republican nemesis of Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer aides leaked the documents to the media to tarnish Bruno's reputation.
That controversy sparked the resignation of Acting Superintendent Preston Felton. Corbitt instituted a number of changes he said would prevent future impropriety by the troopers who protect Paterson and state buildings.
Asked about Corbitt's planned departure, Paterson said, "I think we will move forward now and we will look to see who will be the best person to lead the State Police."
The governor declined to comment on whether he had asked Corbitt to step down.
With Elizabeth Moore