Matos McGreevey testifies at divorce trial

May 28, 2008 8:49:17 PM PDT
The estranged wife of New Jersey's gay former governor took the stand in their bitter divorce trial Wednesday, saying she depleted her savings to pay for their $30,000 wedding and reluctantly agreed to add dozens of his political cronies to the guest list.Dina Matos McGreevey painted a picture of herself as a dutiful and supportive spouse who devoted herself to James McGreevey's goal of being elected governor.

"Once we became engaged, I was a full partner," said Matos McGreevey, who testified for about an hour and was to return to the witness stand Thursday.

The McGreeveys wed in 2000, but their marriage unraveled after he proclaimed himself "a gay American" in 2004, announced he had had an affair with a male staffer and resigned as governor. The staffer denies the affair and says he was sexually harassed by McGreevey.

Matos McGreevey, 41, wants compensation for losing out on the perks of his job - state police transportation and a 24/7 security detail, a household staff and use of two beach houses - because he resigned 13 months shy of completing his first term.

McGreevey maintains that perks of the governor's office are not a marital asset.

Matos McGreevey said she drained her savings account for their Washington wedding because her parents didn't have the means. She said she and McGreevey maintained separate checking accounts even after the wedding and that she was never privy to how he spent his paycheck.

She said she paid for her own car, insurance and clothes out of her salary, estimated at $55,000 a year as a hospital executive. She said being on the arm of a politician sometimes required three changes of clothes in a single day.

Matos McGreevey's accountant, Kalman Barson, placed the value of their so-called gubernatorial lifestyle at $51,000 a month, but acknowledged under an intense cross-examination that he relied mostly on guesswork to derive the estimate.

McGreevey's accountant has put the value of maintaining that lifestyle at a far more modest $16,000 a month.

In a second day of cross-examination Wednesday, McGreevey lawyer Stephen Haller challenged every assumption Barson used to ascertain the cost of maintaining her lifestyle as first lady. For example, Barson said he never asked Matos McGreevey for receipts or bank statements to document travel, day care or entertainment expenses, yet included those expenses in his report.

Barson acknowledged knowing little about the actual habits and lifestyle of the former first couple. He acknowledged coming up with an $8,000-a-month estimate for living in a house similar to the governor's mansion without ever being inside the mansion.

Haller later asked Union County Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy to disqualify Barson's testimony as unreliable, but Cassidy deferred, saying she would rule on the motion as part of an overall finding in the case.

Cassidy is hearing financial testimony to determine how much McGreevey should pay in alimony and child support.

The couple earlier agreed on custody of their only child, 6-year-old Jacqueline, but their arrangement remains under seal. McGreevey was seeking joint custody.

Besides finances, the other unresolved issue is whether McGreevey committed fraud by marrying Matos McGreevey.

She claims she was duped into marrying a gay man who needed the cover of a wife to advance his political career. He said she knew their union was "a contrivance on both our parts."