New York Gov. David Paterson might have won some time when he received what has become rare support from influential black leaders as he tries to ride out allegations in two scandals that threaten his job and led to the resignation of three top staffers.
Paterson and his administration are seeking to regroup Friday in what one official described as pep talks. Late Thursday night, black leaders in New York City said he deserves his right to due process and should stay in office.
Paterson is facing allegations that he and his staff interfered in a domestic violence case involving a top governor's aide. Also, a state ethics panel has accused him of seeking and accepting World Series tickets from the New York Yankees last year despite a gift ban, then lying to the panel about it.
Paterson lost a third top deputy Thursday when communications director Peter Kauffmann abruptly resigned after weeks of serving as the defending voice of the governor.
"As a former officer in the United States Navy, integrity and commitment to public service are values I take seriously," Kauffmann stated in a brief statement sent on his private e-mail account. "Unfortunately, as recent developments have come to light, I cannot in good conscience continue in my current position."
Paterson's public safety deputy secretary, a Cabinet position, and his state police superintendent resigned days before.
Later Thursday, the group of black leaders — many of them state senators and Assembly members representing New York City — argued it is critical for Paterson to function in the month before a state budget is due. They said stability is needed as the state faces a deficit of more than $8 billion.
Group members led by the Rev. Al Sharpton said they want to meet with the governor to discuss his ability to continue to govern.
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn said in an interview afterward that there was overwhelming support for the idea that Paterson is entitled to the presumption of innocence until the investigation is finished.
"We all believe that Gov. Paterson at this moment can continue to move forward and do the people's business as the legal proceedings play themselves out," he said.
Outside the restaurant, Sharpton was asked explicitly if he supported the governor.
"I'm the convener," he said.
"There were people on both sides," he said, adding that "the overwhelming majority" backed Paterson.
Former Mayor David Dinkins said Paterson absolutely should remain in office. Former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall made a case for Paterson to stay, while others reportedly were angry inside the closed meeting, with some calling for Paterson to resign.
Paterson hasn't been charged with any crimes and has said his side of the story will clear him. But he said he can't divulge elements of his side of the story because he said it would interfere with the investigation he asked Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to take on.
The governor's office didn't respond to requests for comment.
Gormley reported from Albany. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Ula Ilnytzky and Colleen Long in New York and Valerie Bauman in Albany.
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