Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gov. Paterson's Free Yankee Tix Were Expensive After All

It's going to hit Gov. David Paterson quite hard in the pocketbook. After taking testimony from witnesses and determining that Gov. Paterson thought it was his right to obtain free tickets to a Yankees World Series game, the Public Integrity Commission requested Paterson be fined $96,375.
The recommendation will be passed along to an administrative law judge who will decide the matter, which could take months to resolve.

The proceedings, including the damning testimony of Paterson's former spokesman and three top Yankees officials, were conducted without the governor, who refused to attend.

Three chairs saved for the governor's legal team sat empty throughout the hearing, which lasted barely two hours.

Paterson had argued the commission should have held off until a special counsel finished a spin-off investigation into whether Paterson perjured himself during the agency's original probe.

Paterson's failure to pay for five VIP seats behind home plate -- a potentially illegal gift worth $2,125 to $6,000 from the Yankees, a registered lobbyist -- was first reported last November by The Post.

Commission lawyers credited the newspaper with calling Paterson out on the alleged ticket-taking scheme.

"In fact, the governor never intended to pay for any of the tickets until Fred Dicker of the New York Post started asking questions," commission counsel Bridget Holohan said in her opening statement.

State law bars top public officials from accepting gifts of anything but "nominal" value from entities such as the Yankees that employ lobbyists or that attempt to influence official decisions.

Special Counsel Jeff Schlanger said Paterson "intentionally misled" the commission and added that the governor's ethical standards "sadly and widely missed the mark." Paterson has said he attended the ballgame in his "official capacity" and has denied any wrongdoing.
That's a historic fine and the first of its kind against a sitting governor.

Paterson may well be out of office by the time the judge rules on the fine.

The entitlement culture is pervasive in politics where politicians feel that they are more than entitled to perks of the office, even if it is violation of ethics codes or state law.

Yet, it also appears that Paterson purposefully misled the Commission on his actions, and that is particularly troublesome. In fact, those claims could lead to criminal charges down the road for perjury and obstruction of justice.

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