ALBANY, N.Y. — The replacement for the New York State Police superintendent who retired amid the scandal enveloping Gov. David Paterson announced his own retirement Tuesday after just a week in the top job.
Acting Superintendent Pedro Perez said he was stepping down after 28 years in the agency, following former Superintendent Harry Corbitt out the door.
Perez automatically succeeded Corbitt under the agency's strict rules of succession by rank, but Paterson chose Field Commander John Melville, who the governor felt would be best for the morale of the department, according to a Paterson administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly for Paterson.
The decision wasn't to demean Perez or his solid career, but Paterson favored Melville as the best one to restore leadership to the department and confidence to the public.
In his resignation letter, Perez said his departure was "not premised on the current investigation by the attorney general," who is looking into whether troopers from Paterson's security detail and the governor made improper contact with a woman who had accused a Paterson aide of abuse. Perez was not part of the detail.
"My decisions over time, combined with the indication that you are seeking a new superintendent and the labor unions' perception of my ability to lead the agency, have led me to the conclusion that continuing in my position as acting superintendent may be an obstacle to progress of the New York State Police, an agency I love," Perez wrote to the governor.
Thomas Mungeer, president of the union that represents uniformed troopers, including those in the governor's security detail, had said they needed fresh leadership. Perez was Corbitt's hand-picked No. 2, also responsible for doling out trooper discipline, which caused some union issues, he said.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had criticized management of the security detail around then Gov. Eliot Spitzer, following an earlier investigation, but few changes were apparently made, Mungeer said. "I'm asking the governor to get some competent progressive leadership in there," he said.
Melville will take over as acting superintendent Friday, the agency said.
Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise O'Donnell was first to quit, on Feb. 25, saying the contact with the woman in the domestic case was "unacceptable" and that Corbitt hadn't told her about it when she asked in January about his agency's role in the investigation.
Corbitt responded that the State Police were not involved in the investigation, and what he told O'Donnell was "factually correct." He retired a week later, saying it was the right thing to do for his own health and sanity. A career trooper, he had come out of retirement at Paterson's request to run the agency.
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"It's very difficult, but when your character is being attacked every day and you really don't have a recourse to defend yourself," Corbitt said in a television interview.