New York's ethics board has closed, without charges, an investigation into leaks of personal claims against Caroline Kennedy by someone close to Gov. David Paterson shortly after she dropped from contention for an appointment to the U.S. Senate.
"After a factual and legal inquiry, the Commission on Public Integrity has unanimously determined to close this matter with no further action,'' stated a letter from Barry Ginsberg, executive director of the commission.
State Public Integrity Commission spokesman Walter Ayres wouldn't comment, saying the board only comments on findings of wrongdoing. He says a letter was sent to good-government groups that asked for the investigation.
Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group complained the two-sentence letter he received Tuesday nine months after requesting the probe doesn't say if anyone was questioned.
Horner said that shows the need to overhaul Albany's secretive ethics process.
"We don't know what they did,'' Horner said. "Did they talk to anyone in the (Paterson) administration? Did they talk to Ms. Kennedy? This is why having ethics watchdogs deliberating in secret begs more questions that it answers. How does the public know?''
Horner said he was never interviewed, despite making the formal complaint about a Paterson campaign aide blamed for directing the leak on Kennedy's taxes, her marriage and her nanny. He noted that Paterson eventually confirmed the leak was directed by a campaign staffer.
In January, Paterson was under pressure by the Kennedy family and supporters of then ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy to continue the family's Camelot legacy by appointing the daughter of slain President John F. Kennedy to the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton's appointment as secretary of state.
The rumors appeared to provide reasons why Kennedy dropped out, shortly before Paterson chose upstate congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand for the Senate seat.
"Governor Paterson is pleased that this matter has been investigated and that the Commission on Public Integrity has determined that no one in his administration violated the Public Officer's Law,'' said Paterson spokesman Peter Kauffmann.
There was no immediate comment from spokesmen for Kennedy.
Under state ethics laws, a violator could face up to a $10,000 fine.
The claims released to reporters on the condition of anonymity appeared to have been taken from questionnaires Paterson required of candidates for his appointment to succeed Clinton. The responses were called confidential and Paterson refused to release them publicly.
NYPIRG, Citizens Union of the City of New York and Common Cause/NY asked for the investigation on Feb. 23.
The bungled handling of the lengthy selection process contributed to a steep slide in the polls for Paterson. Paterson had called for the Public Integrity Commission to be abolished, after state Inspector General Joseph Fisch accused its executive director of leaking information to the former administration of Gov. Eliot Spitzer as the commission investigated Spitzer aides. Spitzer had appointed most of the commission's members.
But Paterson has since made his own appointments to the commission.
"It's partisan, it's incompetent, and it has outlived its usefulness,'' said David Grandeau, the former executive of the state lobbying commission that was a forerunner of the Public Integrity Commission.