Photos by Julie Bolcer
Governor David Paterson showed some support for his embattled secretary, Charles J. O’Byrne, acknowledging him as “my dear friend” in remarks to a statewide gay rights group on Monday night.
O’Byrne, a former Jesuit priest who is openly gay, was among many hundreds in attendance at the Empire State Pride Agenda’s fall dinner. Whoopi Goldberg was the MC and Paterson delivered the keynote address.
O’Byrne, the highest-ranking member of Paterson’s cabinet, acknowledged on Saturday that he had neither filed nor paid his state and federal taxes from 2001 to 2005. He attributed the delinquency to depression. The back taxes and penalties, which he says he has since paid, amounted to over $200,000.
Governor Paterson was asked whether he would accept O’Byrne’s resignation if the latter were to offer it. The governor replied, “I think if anyone offered their resignation to me, if they wanted to leave service, I imagine I would accept it — but I haven’t asked for it.”
Republican calls for an investigation and resignation followed O’Byrne’s announcement, just two weeks before an election in which Democrats could wrest control of the State Senate.
In addition to the governor, ESPA’s annual fall dinner drew political heavyweights like Congressman Jerry Nadler, State Controller Thomas DiNapoli, Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Quinn, whose support for Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to extend term limits for elected officials has stirred the ire of some in the gay community, did not address the dinner.
An estimated ten openly gay candidates had been expected to run for open Council seats next year, an unprecedented competition that could now be thwarted because of the change in term limits.
Ken Diamondstone, an openly gay candidate for City Council in the 33rd District in Brooklyn, said he found the process troubling, although he is in principle opposed to term limits.
“I think that for someone like me,” he said, “who never voted for term limits because I don’t believe in them, and who doesn’t believe in referenda on them because we have a republican form of government, it still stinks.” Goldberg kept her commentary pitched toward national politics — in particular, the Republican response to former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
From the way critics went after him, “Baby, you’d of thought he had boned Barbara Bush,” she told the laughing audience.