Governor Paterson ‘Would Accept’ O’Byrne Resignation

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Governor Awesome! Photo: Getty Images

Last night at the Empire State Pride Agenda's Fall Dinner for New York City's gay elite, keynote speaker Governor David Paterson thanked his embattled chief of staff, Charles O'Byrne, for attending the gala, adding that the former Jesuit priest "brought his own minstrel corps this evening," to a round of guffaws from the dandyish crowd. (We didn't see any Kennedys in his entourage, but apparently they've been bailing him out lately.) During his fifteen minutes on the podium, Paterson spoke cheerfully of his adventures fighting for gay marriage in Albany: "We thought it was very important to pass a marriage-equality act in the Assembly," he said, "so I left my role as acting president of the Senate because there was nothing going on over there that was interesting." While the Democrat-led Assembly passed the bill 85–61, Paterson acknowledged after his speech that he thinks queer New Yorkers will only be able to tie the knot here at home with help from his colleagues across the aisle, saying "If the bill were to pass in the Senate, I think we'd have bipartisan support regardless of who was in the majority."

On the O'Byrne depression and tax evasion, the governor kept a pragmatic tone, telling reporters: "I knew that he suffered from an illness. We hired him in 2004, he was not in charge, he was a speechwriter in the press office." Paterson said they weren't always as close as they are now. "I actually did not have a conversation with Charles O'Byrne in the whole calendar year in 2005," the governor explained. "It was in 2007 when I chose him to become my chief of staff when I became lieutenant governor, it was then that he told me about his illness and his succeeding tax problems and that he was addressing them, and I think the record will show he was addressing them and that he inevitably paid off the old taxes."

But ultimately, the governor would not rule out letting O'Byrne pack his bags. "I think if anyone were to offer their resignation to me, they wanted to leave service," he said. "I imagine I would accept it."