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.
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.”
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.”