By Anna Gustafson and Howard Koplowitz
Queens officials said Gov. David Paterson should resign if allegations he ordered members of his administration to pressure a woman into dropping her charges of domestic violence against one of the governor’s top aides prove true.
“If an investigation finds the governor did engage in the conduct we are reading about, then he certainly should step down,” said state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows). “%u2026 From what I understand, the governor seems pretty determined to stay in office, but that said, he was pretty determined last week to run for election.”
Paterson, who ended his campaign for a full term in office Friday, faces reports in the The New York Times that he asked two members of his administration, press secretary Marissa Shorenstein and Division of Housing and Community Renewal employee Deneane Brown, to contact the woman who told police that David Johnson, a close confidante of the governor, assaulted her on Halloween. The woman reported being choked and thrown against a dresser.
The woman had been granted two temporary orders of protection and had said in court the state police tried to persuade her to drop the charges, according to The Times. Following phone conversations with Brown and one talk with the governor, the woman did not appear for a Feb. 7 court hearing about her request for a final protective order against Johnson and the judge dismissed the case, The Times reported.
“It is a tragedy any time you see an elected official being enmeshed in political scandal,” Councilman James Sanders (D-Jamaica) said. “I don’t know how New York gets out of all this. We seem to be a flood in scandal.”
Sanders said anyone who “has abused women %u2026 or covered up that abuse” should resign.
Paterson has asked state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who was expected to run against the governor in the Democratic primary, to investigate the matter.
“I have never abused my office — not now, not ever,” Paterson said Friday when he announced he was ending his short-lived election campaign. “I believe that when the facts are reviewed, the truth will prevail.”
Paterson’s office had no comment on the latest reports that he asked aides to contact the woman.
Paterson came into office in March 2008 after former Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned after reports surfaced he had hired prostitutes.
Comptroller John Liu, a former Flushing city councilman, called on the governor last week to remove himself from office.
“We have a $4.1 billion budget deficit to grapple with in New York City and cannot make real progress until the state budget is resolved on time one month from now,” Liu said. “In order for this to happen, we need Gov. Paterson to step down now.”
Liu praised Richard Ravitch, the state’s lieutenant governor, who would replace Paterson, calling him “the person most able to steer clear of politics, bring people together and bring about a balanced, on-time state budget.” Paterson appointed Ravitch lieutenant governor in September 2009.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) did not ask the governor to step down, but they did back his decision to end his campaign.
“I believe that Gov. David Paterson’s decision not to seek re-election is a prudent one for him personally, the state and our government,” Addabbo said. “I have often been a critic of the governor’s deficiency in making essential decisions. The lack of his ability to make an important decision has been evident during the selection of a U.S. Senator in 2009, the budget process, last year’s state Senate stalemate and most recently, the Aqueduct VLT project.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.