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Questions keep mounting about governor's top aide

   Day five of the controversy over the tax problems of Gov. David A. Paterson's top aide was meant to quell some of the firestorm and unanswered media questions.

   But, by nightfall, holes were getting dug deeper.

   First, lawyers for Charles O'Byrne, whose job as secretary to Paterson makes him the most powerful staffer in all of state government, explained that his tab to the state and IRS -- in back taxes, penalties and interested -- totaled $293,000. That's only about $93,000 more than the "about" $200,000 that the administration had been claiming he had owed.

   Then reporters were told over the weekend that all of O'Byrne's past tax bills had been paid. On Wednesday, documents showed that a final payment was not logged in by the state tax department until Wednesday.

   Next came the theory promoted by one of O'Byrne's lawyers for his failure to pay taxes from 2001 to 2005 -- even though he made nearly $700,000 in income during the period. He called it "non-filers syndrome" made worse by depression.

   Hours later, the Paterson administration rushed out a statement saying the lawyer didn't mean to say O'Byrne suffered from such a syndrome.

   The whole affair underscores how an administration can be brought to a standstill when the top adviser to the governor comes under a cloud. It is made even more true in this case because few at the Capitol can remember a more powerful gatekeeper to the governor in recent decades than O'Byrne.

   So far, the administration has offered up its chief spokeswoman, the governor, two lawyers and a psychiatrist. The only person not talking beyond the early hours of the controversy is O'Byrne himself.

   For the Capitol, it has been a year of years when it comes to scandals and controversies.
The state has seen a governor brought down by prostitution. It had its current governor admit
to extramarital affairs. There have been sex and corruption scandals in the Legislature. And
now this.

  -- Tom Precious


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