Paterson Fallout: His Public Safety Secretary Resigns

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Gov. David Paterson’s Public Safety Secretary Denise O’Donnell resigned this afternoon over the State Police’s role in the domestic-violence case involving Paterson’s aide, David Johnson.

In a statement, O’Donnell said she was assured by State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt last month that the case was being handled by New York City Police, not State Police who do not have jurisdiction over the case.

“My immediate concern was what role the State Police would take in the investigation and I was assured by Superintendent Corbitt that the State Police were not involved,” O’Donnell, a former federal prosecutor from western New York, said in a statement.

“It was only last night when I learned from press reports the contrary details, including the involvement of the State Police. For these reasons, I am resigning my position as commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services and Deputy Secretary of Public Safety effective today.”

O’Donnell ran for attorney general in 2006 but dropped out before the Democratic primary. She is said to be considering a run again this year.

In her two-sentence resignation letter to Paterson, O’Donnell wrote:

“Dear Governor Paterson,

I regret to inform you that recent events make it impossible for me, in good conscience, to remain a member of your Administration. Please accept my resignation, effective immediately.”

Here’s her full statement:

“The fact that the Governor and members of the State Police have acknowledged direct contact with a woman who had filed for an order of protection against a senior member of the Governor’s staff is a very serious matter. These actions are unacceptable regardless of their intent.”

“It is particularly distressing that this could happen in an Administration that prides itself on its record of combating domestic violence.  The behavior alleged here is the antithesis of what many of us have spent our entire careers working to build – a legal system that protects victims of domestic violence and brings offenders to justice.

“In early January, following a breakfast meeting on another subject, State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt informed me that a senior Administration staff member had been involved in an incident months earlier where a Domestic Incident Report was filed. Superintendent Corbitt told me the staff member had an argument with his girlfriend, that a Domestic Incident Report had been filed, but that there was no arrest and that the matter was being handled as a local police matter by the New York Police Department.

“My immediate concern was what role the State Police would take in the investigation and I was assured by Superintendent Corbitt that the State Police were not involved.

“It was only last night when I learned from press reports the contrary details, including the involvement of the State Police.”

“For these reasons, I am resigning my position as Commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services and Deputy Secretary of Public Safety effective today.”

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