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N.Y.'s new governor admits affairs

David Paterson says that infidelities ended 'several years ago' and that he broke no laws nor his oath of office.

March 19, 2008|Erik German | Newsday

ALBANY, N.Y. — A day after being sworn in, New York Gov. David A. Paterson on Tuesday admitted to adultery with multiple women while serving in the state Senate -- including a state employee now working in the governor's office -- although experts doubt he would be forced to resign.

With his wife, Michelle Paige Paterson, beside him, the new governor told reporters that his marital infidelity ended "several years ago" and never involved women he supervised or who were on a payroll he was responsible for. He also said he didn't try to secure promotions or special treatment for them, beyond helping one work from home during an illness.

The Manhattan hotel rooms used for the liaisons were not paid for with tax dollars or "intentionally" with campaign funds, Paterson added.

Still, the second disclosure in just nine days of a governor breaking his marriage vows rocked the capital. Yet there was relief as well, because Paterson's transgressions don't appear to involve breaking the law. Eliot Spitzer resigned last week after allegations that he had hired prostitutes.

"I betrayed a commitment to my wife several years ago," Paterson said at his first news conference as governor. "I do not feel I betrayed my commitment to the citizens of New York state. I haven't broken any laws. I don't think I have violated my oath of office."

Paterson, a Democrat, offered scant details of the affairs except to say that they ended sometime after 2002, when he became Senate minority leader. He said one former mistress, who now works for him, would be given a choice of remaining in her current job or moving elsewhere.

That woman was identified by the Wall Street Journal as Lila Kirton, 49, director of community affairs, who joined Spitzer's administration after working for him when he was attorney general.

Kirton and a Paterson spokesman didn't immediately return telephone messages seeking comment Tuesday night.

Paterson said, "There were a number of women. . . . I was pretty upset and was kind of just angry, and for a period of time I was using poor judgment. I wasn't reckless."

He also said his wife committed adultery but wouldn't provide details. She acknowledged only going to "counseling" and described marriage as having "peaks and valleys."

The first couple chose to disclose their mutual infidelity after being questioned Monday by a New York Daily News columnist hours after Paterson was sworn in as the 55th governor. Paterson said he would have divulged his information if he had run for governor.

State leaders rallied to Paterson, regardless of party affiliation. In the Capitol's marble hallways, there seemed to be a desire for the issue to go away.

"As long as it doesn't interfere with how he's governing, it's nobody's business," Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said.

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Newsday staff writers Melissa Mansfield and James T. Madore contributed to this report.

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