By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
David Paterson, the accidental governor of New York State, is making it easier and easier for the Republicans to win back the governorship in 2010. At first he drew high approval numbers for the way he stepped into the state's highest office after Elliot Spitzer, his predecessor and fellow Democrat, resigned from office over issues related to his dalliance in a Washington, D.C., hotel room with a paid escort. And people took his side when NBC's Saturday Night Live, sometimes the arbiter of the nation's political humor, poked fun at his being legally blind in a sketch that was anything but funny.
But then Paterson himself performed in a skit where he mocked a person with disabilities, which sort of destroys the claim to moral outrage he wielded to good effect following the SNL incident. And now, reports the New York Post, Paterson has just cost New York State taxpayers $300,000 as the result of a racial discrimination lawsuit.
The lawsuit accused Paterson, the former Democratic leader of the New York State Senate, of firing a white Senate photographer so that a black photographer could be hired in his place. And to make matters worse, the Post reported, Paterson claimed in a sworn deposition that he didn't see well enough to have fired the photographer because of his race. A spokesman for Paterson later dismissed the comment as "a quip, a joke."
The settlement ends a civil-rights action first filed in 2005 by a 26-year Senate employee who claimed he was fired from his $34,000-a-year job as a photographer two years earlier and replaced by a black employee, El-Wise Noisette.
The shakeup, the Post said, happened after Paterson ousted then-Sen. Martin Connor (D-Brooklyn) as the minority leader. And, while neither Paterson nor the state admitted the white photographer was a victim of racial discrimination, the size of the settlement means "that the state wouldn't have made out very well if it had gone to trial," a source close to the lawsuit told the Post.
You would think Paterson would know better.
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