Black Leaders Think New York Governor Paterson Should Stay in Office


patersonInfluential black leaders in New York City say they believe Gov. David Paterson should stay in office amid allegations he and his staff interfered in a domestic violence case involving a top governor’s aide.

Meeting in a Harlem soul food restaurant that is the center of power for black politics in New York, the group led by the Rev. Al Sharpton agreed that Paterson should try to withstand the violence scandal and new ethics charges related to World Series tickets.

David Paterson, New York’s first black governor and a product of the Harlem political machine, faced rapidly waning support Thursday as many of the influential black leaders who have worked with him for decades gathered and began to discuss whether to craft a message to persuade him to resign.

The Rev. Al Sharpton convened the meeting of black New York City politicians at a soul food restaurant in Harlem to consider asking Paterson to leave office, according to a senior state Democrat briefed on the meeting. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Former Mayor David Dinkins, who had lunch with Paterson on Thursday, was emphatic when asked if the governor should resign: “No, absolutely no.”

Sharpton was going into the meeting with an open mind, wanting to do what is best for New Yorkers, said spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger.

“There is no pre-arranged crafting of any message going into the leadership meeting,” she said.

A state panel accused Paterson on Wednesday of illegally obtaining World Series tickets, then lying about it. That charge came on top of an investigation of whether the governor or staff members had inappropriate contact with a woman who made, but later dropped, an abuse complaint against an aide.

Testimony by communications director Peter Kauffmann was key to the decision by the Public Integrity Commission to charge Paterson with an ethics violation. Kauffmann resigned Thursday, saying he “could not in good conscience continue in my current position.”

The governor insists he did nothing wrong, won’t quit and will fight the ethics charges. His office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. issued a statement Thursday urging black leaders to delay any action to push Paterson toward resignation.

“I am urging Rev. Sharpton and the leaders of the African-American Community to not abandon Governor Paterson and to give him an opportunity to present his side of the story,” Diaz said.

“We Hispanic legislators, we are united,” Diaz said, noting the historic strength of the black-Latino coalition. “We wanted to make sure they know our position.”

One of the people attending Thursday’s meeting, Sen. Bill Perkins of Harlem, said Diaz’s comments and the surprise resignation by Paterson’s communications director is making the sentiment of the black leaders’ group “fluid.” The longtime friend of the governor said a proposal to seek Paterson’s resignation is still possible, but he wants to hear more discussion.

“I would not want to predict that” the group would call for Paterson’s resignation, “but, obviously, that it’s out there at all is meaningful …”

“The governor knows what he did,” Perkins said. If the allegations are true, Perkins said Paterson should “cut bait now and spare the public, the people of this state, the torturous resignation.”

Paterson represented Harlem for 20 years in the state Senate before becoming lieutenant governor in 2006, then governor in 2008, when Eliot Spitzer stepped down.

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