Paterson Burned by a Racial ‘Fire’

Fredric U. Dicker, New York Post, May 1, 2009

Gov. Paterson, who raised state taxes by $8 billion last month, just cost state taxpayers $300,000 more.

The state has secretly settled an embarrassing federal racial-discrimination lawsuit, The Post has learned. The suit accused Paterson, back when he was Senate minority leader in 2003, of firing a white Senate photographer in order to replace him with an African-American.

The lawsuit had been scheduled to go to trial in federal court Monday in Syracuse, with Paterson, the state’s first black governor, as a key witness. The case was settled earlier in the week, although a few glitches delayed the final deal until yesterday, legislative sources said.

The settlement ends a civil-rights action first filed in 2005 by Joseph Maioriello, 56, of Schenectady, a 26-year Senate employee who originally sought $1.5 million.

He was fired from his $34,000-a-year job as a photographer two years earlier and replaced by a black employee, El-Wise Noisette. The shakeup happened after Paterson ousted then-Sen. Martin Connor (D-Brooklyn) as the minority leader.

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The settlement was initially delayed when Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), Paterson’s successor and a fellow African-American, refused to give his approval.

Smith had veto power over the settlement since the suit was filed against the Senate. He was in the awkward position of either authorizing a large payment for alleged reverse discrimination or holding out for a trial, which would have forced Paterson to testify under oath.

Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Smith, said he delayed the final settlement to determine if the cost “was acceptable.”

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In the lawsuit, Maioriello claimed he was told by John McPadden, then Paterson’s chief of staff, that he was being fired because a number of minority senators wanted to replace him with “a minority photographer, a black photographer.”

He said he was also told, “You got to remember who Sen. Paterson is. Sen. Paterson is black.”

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