The New York Times' David Paterson story centered on his drug-dealing, allegedly abusive staffer David Johnson. But Paterson also employs Clemmie Harris, an adviser who collects $30,000 a year on disability and doesn't appear to live in New York.
Adrian has heard that the Times is working on another story that's going to be the actual bombshell. But today's story, which is eliciting yawns from Albany's chattering class, was focused on Johnson's troubled past and aired concerns that he has accumulated an inordinate amount of power in Albany:
[M]ore than four current or former officials expressed concern that Mr. Johnson and another aide, a former state trooper, had become the governor's innermost circle and were simply not best equipped to help him tackle the multiple challenges facing him.
That "former state trooper" is Harris—whose full, and awesome, first name is Clementine—whom people familiar with Paterson's office describe as Johnson's equal in terms of power over policy and control over access to Paterson (that's Harris in the middle above). And like Johnson, Harris had a nontraditional rise to power—he spent 14 years as a New York state trooper before attending the University of Albany as an adult, and was Paterson's roommate in the early 1990s. Harris and Johnson's special relationship with Paterson—they both frequently spend nights at the governor's mansion—has inspired suspicion and jealousy among the rest of his staff.
According to an Albany Times-Union story in September, Harris left the state police force in 1997 due to an "undisclosed medical issue," and still receives annual disability payments totaling $29,500. Given the fact that he works full-time for the state of New York, and is well enough to rack up travel bills totaling $29,000 in 2008 and 2009, it's unclear what his disability is.
The Times-Union also reported that Harris doesn't seem to live in New York, despite a state law requiring that powerful officials live in the state. As of September, Harris was registered to vote in Pennsylvania, where he is pursuing a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, and didn't have a car registered in New York. And Harris had listed a Philadelphia address on his University of Albany alumni profile as recently as August of 2009. All of which may have explained the $15,500 in hotel bills—mostly at a Westchester hotel—that Harris paid with a state credit card in 2008 and 2009. When he's in Albany, he frequently stays at the governor's mansion.
Sure, it's not drug-dealing and wife-beating, but we hope the attention focused on Johnson doesn't overshadow the guy who appears to be running disability scams and living in hotels on the state dime because he refuses to rent or buy a place of his own.