Pediatric Nurse Suspended in Connection With Paterson/Johnson Case

Categories: Wayne Barrett

The NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation has suspended a pediatric nurse in connection with the investigation of the domestic violence case involving Governor Paterson and his onetime top aide, David Johnson.

The nurse, whose name is not being released, was suspended without pay last week, when former chief judge Judith Kaye released a report on the incident and, in an unnoticed footnote, referred information involving the nurse to HHC Inspector General Norman Dion.

The footnote said that "likely unauthorized access" was made of the medical records of the victim of the incident, Sherr-una Booker, on February 5, and that the access "was made at a computer terminal at Lincoln Hospital, using the log-in of a pediatric nurse." Booker, who works at Lincoln, went to the hospital after the incident.

Kaye, who was appointed by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to conduct this probe, "reviewed telephone records of, and interviewed, the pediatric nurse and determined that this access was not made by her." After "all reasonable investigative efforts" were exhausted," the footnote concluded, "it is not known who accessed" the records, or whether the effort was "deliberate or accidental."

This spin-off of the probe began when Dion informed Kaye that his office had discovered this attempt to access these records. Dion told the Voice that he agreed to "stand down" on his own probe of the incident until Kaye finished her report and Kaye has now referred it back to him. He declined to answer questions about it, saying it was "a pending matter."

HHC spokeswoman Evelyn Hernandez told the Voice that HHC has a "zero-tolerance policy for employees who access a patient's medical records without authorization," noting that the records are protected by state and federal confidentiality laws. "Ultimately, each employee is responsible for safeguarding their login information and for making sure that his or her login is not used inappropriately," said Hernandez. Lincoln Hospital staff first discovered the breach, says Hernandez, and notified HHC legal officials.

It appears highly unlikely that the accessing of Booker's records was accidental since February 5 is the day that Liz Benjamin, the Albany Times Union, New York Magazine and others first reported that the Times was preparing "a bombshell story" about Paterson's "inner circle," prompting a firestorm of rumor and headlines that convulsed the state. Paterson reached out to Booker on February 7 and had him call her during the lead-up to the Super Bowl that day.

The Voice has also learned that Deneane Brown, a critical witness called by Kaye in the probe of the incident who refused to testify, has received $5,596 in recent raises in her state job at the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. Brown initially did testify when Cuomo himself launched the probe, but another footnote in Kaye's report indicates that she "thereafter declined to give further testimony." Brown also appears to have granted an "unsworn interview" to investigators.

Dennis Tompkins from the state comptroller's office confirms that Brown received a performance advance on April 1, three weeks after Kaye took over the probe, raising her salary from $78,741 to $80,997. On May 13, she got a mass salary increase to $84,237, retroactive to April 29. Then on July 22, the increase was made retroactive to April 1.

The Kaye report places Brown at the very center of the scandal again and again. It says Johnson "directed" her to go to Booker's house immediately after he left the apartment when he knew that Booker had called the police. Paterson, Johnson and Clemmie Harris, another top Paterson aide, repeatedly used Brown as their conduit to Booker. Indeed, she set up Booker's Super Bowl Day call.

Research assistance by: Gavin Aronsen, Michael Cohen, Adam Schwartzman, and Jenny Tai.

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