subject of Governor David Paterson, whom in the wake of a stunning abuse of office the entire political and media establishment of New York State has now deserted and is demanding his resignation, for some reason I just like the guy. I therefore take no pleasure in the
about his work habits and competence, even though it perfectly demonstrates Joseph Kay’s
of the Empty Black Suit which has been discussed a good deal at this site. The truth, however, is the truth. And the truth is that Paterson is a shiftless incompetent—inattentive to his responsibities, untrustworthy in his verbal commitments, incapable of making a decision and staying with it, and barely going through the motions of being governor, even as he takes himself seriously and imagines he’s doing a great job. His only virtue is his affabililty. He was Elliot Spitzer’s affirmative action pick for lieutenant governor who became governor through Spitzer’s resignation, and the state has paid a very heavy price for that choice for the last two years.
Paterson’s aides tell of gov’s laziness, tantrums and deceits
By ANNIE KARNI and GINGER ADAMS OTIS
February 28, 2010
The crumbling of David Paterson’s accidental governorship comes as no surprise to former top aides, who say Paterson loves the trappings of power, but not the work.
The governor—who announced Friday he would suspend his election campaign amid calls from Democratic leaders that he resign—shows little interest in policy. He resorts to grilling press handlers about what to do about big budget and policy issues and has told his budget director to “just decide what to do.” He is often unreachable for up to three days at a time.
But Paterson cloaks his lightweight status in the garb of formality. Top staffers need an appointment to walk into his office, and even his most senior aides have to check in with his secretary to confirm that they can approach him.
He takes a daily lunch break from noon to 1 p.m., which no one is allowed to interrupt.
No one on staff—not even his top aide, David “D.J.” Johnson—is permitted to call him “David.” Everyone must refer to him as “Governor.”
A spike of activity occurs between 1 and 3 p.m., which is marked on his schedule as “suggested desk time,” a phrase that has become something of a joke among staffers, as if real work is only optional.
Paterson usually quits the office at 4 p.m.. Some evenings, he invites staffers over to the Governor’s Mansion in Albany for dinner. In the past, he has been offended if they don’t drop what they are doing at work to socialize with him.
One former staffer described him as “very detached,” with a “very light schedule,” with an aversion to hard work.
Nonetheless, he carries an air of entitlement, and views himself as a smart and effective leader to the end, said one former staffer.
The staffer described him as a “baby,” turning on aides at the drop of a hat. While known in public for his affable demeanor, privately he is prone to temper tantrums. He can berate subordinates, telling them, “You shouldn’t have this job—I will fire you.”
A former staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Paterson is “insanely mercurial,” even with his top aides.
Charlotte Hitchcock, for instance, was one of the governor’s closest advisers and served as chief of staff until he decided to marginalize her because, he said, she “didn’t know what she was doing.”
He often relies on the last person to give him advice, the former staffers said.
The way to Paterson’s inner circle was through his now-suspended “body man,” Johnson, said a former campaign staffer. Johnson’s alleged beating of an ex-girlfriend, who was then contacted by the State Police and by the governor himself before she dropped a bid for court protection against him, ultimately unraveled Paterson’s election bid.
“D.J. had total power,” said the ex-staffer. “He delivered messages, took messages, advised Paterson. He was always with him.”
Lobbyists, strategists and business leaders in Albany were left scratching their heads by Paterson’s leadership style.
During talks about industrial-development policy, the governor slipped an overhaul proposal to some labor groups—then went to business big shots and loudly bashed all the suggestions that had come from his own office, said a source involved with the process.
“He was trying to determine what was his political advantage at any given moment,” the source said.
Paterson’s zaniness torpedoed a high-profile bill extending unemployment insurance last summer, sources said. After intense talks with labor and business leaders, the governor hammered out legislation both sides could live with.
“Then he sent out his own program bill without discussing it with anyone—and of course it was acceptable to no one,” said a lobbyist. “It just shows a complete lack of understanding of how the process works.”
Additional reporting by Reuven Blau and Maureen Callahan