Gov. Paterson Declines to Attend His Own Ethics Hearing

Governor's no-show was based on legal strategy

By Andrew Siff
|  Tuesday, Aug 17, 2010  |  Updated 5:46 PM EDT
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Gov. Paterson Declines to Attend His Own Ethics Hearing

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Gov. David Paterson represents his favorite team.

In baseball terms, it was the equivalent of an intentional walk.

Rather than face the vaunted lineup of the Commission on Public Integrity today, Governor David Paterson chose not to make his pitch.

Now, the hearing officer will decide if Paterson broke ethics rules by accepting $5,000 worth of free Yankees tickets last fall. The possible punishment: a fine of $95,000.

For those too enmeshed in this year's pennant race (or governor's race) to remember the details, Paterson brought his son,  his son's friend and two aides to Game 1 of the World Series.

The governor later maintained he was there in an official capacity, but re-paid the team for his guests' tickets. Still, the Commission on Public Integrity was skeptical.

"The sad truth is that the governor intentionally misled the commission," said Jeff Schlanger, the Special Counsel making today's closing argument against the governor.

Paterson didn't respond -- because he wasn't there. 

Why not? His lawyer made that decision, choosing to wait for Judge Judith Kaye's ruling on the criminal charge: an allegation the governor lied under oath about the Yankees controversy.

"The governor is following our legal advice, and respectfully declines to participate in the commission's proceedings," said Paterson's attorney, Ted Wells.

Judge Kaye has given no indication of when she'll decide if the governor is guilty of a crime. But earlier this month, she concluded he was not guilty of criminal wrongdoing in another scandal, the domestic violence case involving the governor's aide, David Johnson.

As for the ethics allegations, some government watchdog groups say it's an open and shut case, since the Yankees do business with the state. That means the moment there's a transaction of any kind, it raises questions about a conflict of interest.

"If you're a public official," said NYPIRG's Blair Horner, an ethics watchdog, "you're not allowed to accept a gift from a registered lobbyist."

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