The top spokesman for Gov. David Paterson resigned Thursday, saying he couldn't "in good conscience continue" in his job, becoming the third key administration member to jump ship as the governor faces two misconduct investigations and increasing calls for him to quit.
"As a former officer in the United States Navy, integrity and commitment to public service are values I take seriously," Peter Kauffmann stated in a brief statement. "Unfortunately, as recent developments have come to light, I cannot in good conscience continue in my current position."
Kauffmann's testimony and e-mails were critical in a charge by the state Public Integrity Commission that Paterson illegally obtained World Series tickets, then lied about it. The commission found Kauffmann's testimony was credible and backed up by e-mails at the time that showed Paterson's story changed about whether he intended to pay for the Yankees tickets he sought.
Paterson says he is innocent and won't quit. His office didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.
The governor's seeking and using the tickets for two aides, his son and his son's friend, was a violation of the state's ban on gifts to officials by organizations doing business with the state, according to the accusation by the commission.
Meanwhile, a senior state Democrat told The Associated Press that black party leaders in Paterson's New York City neighborhood are meeting Thursday night in the hopes of crafting a "message calling for the governor to resign."
The meeting could play a large role in the fate of New York's first black governor, according to the Democrat, who was briefed on the meeting and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
A black Democratic adviser who also spoke on condition of anonymity said the Rev. Al Sharpton is expected to say he's rethinking his support for Paterson.
Paterson is also being investigated over contact with a woman who made a domestic violence complaint — later dropped without explanation — against the same aide who accompanied Paterson to the World Series.
A Paterson administration official previously told The Associated Press that the governor directed press officer Marissa Shorenstein to contact the woman but only to seek her public statement. Kauffmann was Shorenstein's boss.
Kauffmann is the third top staffer to leave the administration.
Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Denise O'Donnell abruptly quit Feb. 25, saying state police Superintendent Harry Corbitt had assured her his agency was not involved in the confrontation involving Johnson. State police later acknowledged contacting the woman.
Corbitt announced his unexpected retirement from state police Tuesday. He denied misleading O'Donnell. He said that he told her state police weren't involved in the investigation, not that they hadn't contacted the woman.
Associated Press writer Valerie Bauman contributed to this report.
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