The head of the New York State Police on Tuesday announced his abrupt retirement, becoming the second public safety official to depart amid an unfolding scandal threatening Gov. David Paterson and his administration.
Harry Corbitt, who retired before and went back into service two years ago at Paterson's request, gave no reason for his departure. In February he acknowledged a state police official had contact with a woman who had accused a top aide to Gov. David Paterson of assaulting her on Halloween in New York City's Bronx borough. Soon after, the woman dropped the domestic violence complaint against the aide, David Johnson.
Corbitt's boss, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise O'Donnell, resigned a week ago saying that direct contact by the governor and troopers with the woman was "unacceptable" regardless of their intent. At the time, she said Corbitt had assured her that state police were not involved in the investigation.
Paterson refused to comment when asked whether he had asked Corbitt to step down.
"I think that we'll move forward now and we will look to see who will be the best person to lead the state police," Paterson told reporters. "I think he worked very hard and he was helpful at this period."
There was no formal announcement. Corbitt told a reporter on the Capital News 9 cable station that he was stepping down.
Calls to resign
Corbitt's return to retirement came on a day when Paterson faced the most damaging press reports yet. Also Tuesday, the National Organization for Women called for his resignation even as he got some rare support by lawmakers. He also hinted that he will soon tell his side of the story in the scandal, which is being investigated by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs drove from Long Island on Tuesday to meet in the governor's mansion with Paterson and later said Paterson's account of his contact with the woman, along with the state police and staff members "explains an awful lot." He declined to divulge details.
"I did not get the sense that the governor is considering resignation, that resignation is pending," said Jacobs, a longtime friend of Paterson who owes his job to the governor. "There shouldn't be any more shoes to drop. The sense I got from him is there won't be."