March 4, 2010 / 7:51 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-NY governor's backers may ask him to step down

* Second high-level Paterson aide resigns within a week

* Supporters call “emergency meeting” to discuss future

By Joan Gralla and Basil Katz

NEW YORK, March 4 (Reuters) - New York state Governor David Paterson’s political supporters will meet on Thursday to discuss whether he should resign in the face of mounting scandals.

Paterson’s political problems grew on Thursday when his director of communications resigned — the second high-level aide to resign in a week.

“I don’t see how” Paterson can keep his job, said one invited guest, who spoke on condition of anonymity and said some of the discussion might focus on finding a graceful way to ease Paterson out.

Paterson had already abandoned his brief campaign to seek a new term amid questions he may have improperly intervened to protect a trusted aid from a domestic violence allegation. Then he was charged on Wednesday by the state’s ethics watchdog for unlawfully taking free tickets to the 2009 World Series. [ID:nN0397393]

Paterson has denied any wrongdoing and pledged to cooperate with investigators.

Denise O’Donnell, Paterson’s deputy secretary for public safety, resigned last week in protest of contacts that Paterson and the State Police had with a woman who had sought a protective order against Paterson aide David Johnson. She called those contacts “unacceptable regardless of their intent.”

The woman failed to show for a court appearance one day after speaking with the governor, resulting in the case being dismissed.

Then on Thursday Paterson’s director of communications resigned, citing matters of “integrity and commitment to public service.”

“Unfortunately, as recent developments have come to light, I cannot in good conscience continue in my current position. I have notified the governor that I am resigning as director of communications,” Peter Kauffmann said in a statement.


Paterson, who was elected lieutenant governor in 2006, assumed the top job two years ago when former Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned after he was found using a prostitute.

State Assemblyman Michael Benjamin said he most likely would attend Thursday night’s meeting in New York City but that he would continue to support the governor.

“I’m not going to join the chorus of folks who want to hound him out of office,” said Benjamin, adding that rumors surrounding a call for Paterson to resign were “premature.”

African-American and Latino politicians will gather over dinner to discuss whether Paterson can continue to lead the state, said the invited guest.

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton called the “emergency” meeting to discuss Paterson and U.S. congressman Charlie Rangel, who temporarily stepped down as chairman of the powerful U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday while he faces an investigation for ethics violations. [ID:nN03223827]

Paterson and Rangel are both African Americans from Harlem, the historic center of black culture and politics in New York.

Sharpton, who declined to comment specifically about the meeting, said in a statement participants would “discuss how we protect issues that are of major concern in light of new developments with Governor David Paterson and Congressman Charlie Rangel.”

Attendees include prominent minority politicians and clergy, Sharpton said.

If Paterson were to step down it would leave an unelected appointee in office until a new governor is elected in November and sworn in next January. (Editing by Daniel Trotta and Eric Beech)

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