Spitzer scandal documents could become public

DA requesting Gov. Paterson to waive privlege on Spitzer
March 25, 2008 12:59:09 PM PDT
Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares on Tuesday asked Gov. David Paterson to waive executive privilege for former Gov. Eliot Spitzer so Soares may release publicly all findings, testimony and records related to his probe of a travel scandal. Soares wants to release all material, including e-mails, involving Spitzer during the time two of his top aides are accused of compiling records that would embarrass Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno. Soares made his request Monday to Paterson, who referred it to the attorney general on Tuesday.

Spitzer said he had only cursory knowledge of the plot and blamed the aides. He granted only a limited waiver of privilege to deny Soares' access to some records.

Spitzer resigned March 12 amid a prostitution investigation.

"The public has expressed great interest in this matter, and we believe the people of the state of New York and the county of Albany have a right to a full airing of the events surrounding this case," said Soares, a Democrat. "We believe this is especially so because this matter involves the state's highest office.

"The people have put their trust in your office," Soares wrote Paterson, "and transparency is the most honorable way of reciprocating that trust."

Soares' letter to Paterson gave until 5 p.m. Tuesday for a response. On Tuesday Paterson's chief of staff, Charles J. O'Byrne, asked Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for a legal opinion on the request.

However, a senior member of Cuomo's staff said because of the information Soares requested, the deadline won't likely be met.

"Given the complexities of the legal issue and the fact that the D.A. Soares has been in possession of the documents for months, we don't understand the 24-hour deadline," said the senior staffer on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case and interagency discussions.

"It's important that we understand the history of the assertion of these privileges and it's also important that we understand whether or not the D.A. and the state Public Integrity Commission accepted the privileged assertions," the senior staffer told The Associated Press.

The state Public Integrity Commission that rules on the conduct of executive branch employees continues to investigate the case.

Cuomo issued a report in July that found misconduct by the two aides in a plot to smear Bruno for his use of state aircraft on days he attended Republican fundraisers. Cuomo found no crimes were committed, but he didn't compel testimony and the Spitzer administration wouldn't allow the top aide in the scandal, communications director Darren Dopp, to testify.

Soares' investigation, released in a report in September, found no evidence of a plot and no misconduct by the aides, who had argued they were following directions, policy and the state Freedom of Information Law by compiling the travel records and providing them to a reporter who sought them.

Soares recently returned to the case, however, and further questioned and investigated Dopp's role. Soares' final report is due this week.

Dopp's attorney, Michael Koenig of Albany, said Monday that Soares told him Dopp is cleared of any crime in the case. Soares' spokeswoman wouldn't comment on the investigation.

Soares' conclusions in the September report were based on the voluntary testimony and surrender of e-mails from Spitzer, Dopp, Secretary to the Governor Richard Baum, Spitzer press secretary Christine Anderson and William Howard, a former top public security aide in the governor's office.

There was no immediate comment from Spitzer's spokeswoman, Anna Cordasco.