McGreevey takes stand, explains finances

May 27, 2008 6:36:40 PM PDT
New Jersey's gay former governor painted a dire picture of his finances Tuesday, telling a judge he owes his boyfriend a quarter-million dollars, is months behind on child support payments and hasn't saved a dime despite having earned hundreds of thousands of dollars as a politician, lawyer and author of a memoir about his political fall.Former Gov. James McGreevey testified that he's sinking further into debt as he pursues a religious degree. He said his $48,000 annual income from a part-time college teaching position and consulting work is insufficient to meet his financial obligations. They include $3,000 monthly rent to his boyfriend, child support to two children from two marriages and $12,000 a year for seminary tuition.

McGreevey, 50, said the adverse publicity of his high-profile divorce and his spectacular resignation as governor amid a gay sex scandal have all but eliminated opportunities for him to earn more.

When a question from Union County Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy touched on his bleak financial circumstances, McGreevey responded: "Judge, I understand my financial condition more acutely than anyone in this room."

The former governor's testimony came as the McGreevey divorce trial entered its third week. Cassidy will determine in this phase whether - and how much - McGreevey should pay in alimony and child support to his estranged wife, Dina Matos McGreevey.

The McGreeveys split in 2004 after he declared himself "a gay American" on national television, acknowledged an affair with a man on his staff said he would resign. The staffer with whom the alleged affair took place has denied it, saying he was sexually harassed by the governor.

Matos McGreevey, 41, wants compensation for 13 months she would have lived in the governor's mansion had he not resigned early. McGreevey argued that the so-called "gubernatorial lifestyle" - transportation in state police helicopters or trooper-driven SUVS, 24/7 security and use of two beach houses - are perks of being governor, not matrimonial assets.

McGreevey testified that he has borrowed in excess of $250,000 from boyfriend Mark O'Donnell to cover legal bills and other expenses and that he owes his first ex-wife $11,000 in child support. He testified that he has no savings despite earning a six-figure salary for a few years. He hedged when Cassidy asked if he could take seminary courses at night and work more during the day.

"Anything's doable," he said, before offering reasons why pursuing part-time coursework would not be ideal. For example, he said students cannot complete classes out of sequence and not all classes are offered every semester.

The ex-governor's finances consumed the entire trial day Tuesday, with financial experts for each side sandwiching McGreevey's 90 minutes of testimony in the morning. Each side is trying to establish what McGreevey is capable of earning, and therefore, what he can afford to pay.

As expected, the sides are far apart.

An accountant hired by McGreevey's side testified that the former governor's earning potential is limited by the sex scandal. The expert, Sharyn Maggio, testified that the McGreeveys could never have afforded the perks of the governorship on their salaries. He earned $157,000 as governor, and she netted $43,000 as a hospital executive, according to testimony.

Matos McGreevey's expert, Kalman Barson, said McGreevey could earn $1.4 million over his lifetime by cashing in on the notoriety he achieved as the nation's first openly gay governor.

His earning potential, in Barson's opinion, includes $20,000 per speech on the lecture circuit, and income from another book. McGreevey received a $250,000 advance for his first book, "The Confession," but the book did not sell well enough to trigger further royalties.

In his cross-examination, McGreevey lawyer Stephen Haller challenged the assumptions Barson used to establish McGreevey's "celebrity goodwill," a legal concept that calculates extra earning potential based on fame. Afterward, Haller said Barson "used no identifiable professional standards" on which to base his conclusions. "His valuation is a piece of fiction," Haller asserted.

Barson returns to the stand Wednesday as cross-examination continues.

Matos McGreevey will have a turn on the stand later this week, perhaps beginning as early as Wednesday afternoon.


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