March 11, 2008— -- In New York state, even as cabinet-level officials began to prepare an orderly transition by briefing Lt. Gov. David Paterson on key details of their components of the government in anticipation of Gov. Eliot Spitzer stepping down, criminal justice officials launched a preliminary inquiry into how the disgraced governor slipped his security detail while traveling, state sources told ABC News.
ABC News has learned that Spitzer routinely tried to push off the one or two state police officers who accompanied him out of town, suggesting to the troopers that they didn't need to accompany him as he went to the gym or telling them he was going to turn in early.
Currently, senior officials have asked the New York State Police to take a hard look to determine what, if anything, members of the security detail could or should have known. So far, it does not appear those troopers "looked the other way" and turned a blind eye to the governor's alleged trysts.
According to senior law enforcement officials, Eliot Spitzer, "going back to when he was attorney general," at times kept his security detail at a distance and had been known to tell troopers to stay behind with the car while he walked to his office, a restaurant or a function. Sources said that even at its tightest, the Spitzer public security detail was far smaller than the full phalanx that his predecessor, former Gov. George Pataki, employed at large public functions.
"The Spitzers were more privacy conscious than the Patakis," said one official. It was too early to determine what changes Paterson might want made when any transition took place.
Paterson and his chief of staff meanwhile spent the morning reviewing organizational charts, assessing which members of the current administration make a good fit in the long haul and preparing for what one senior official described as the "inevitable" resignation of Spitzer.
"It is inevitable; it is just a question of when," said one cabinet-level New York State official.
But no time for Spitzer's stepping aside appeared firm, and two sources said that at the moment Spitzer's lawyers are in discussions with federal prosecutors concerning which charges the governor might face. According to lawyers close to the federal investigation, a key charge around which any prosecution or more likely pre-prosecution plea deal revolves is a money laundering one: the transfer of money to fund an unlawful activity, in this case, prostitution.
No such charge -- or any other charge -- has been unsealed against Spitzer. The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan had no comment on any aspect of the investigation.
Asked to comment on the allegations against Spitzer, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "I did talk to Gov. Spitzer this morning, and I told him my thoughts are with him and wished him all the best, and said if he ever wanted to talk, wanted my advice, I'd be happy to give it to him," the mayor said. "But any conversations I would have with the governor are just between the governor and me. That's always been the case. It was the case with Gov. Pataki and the case with Gov. Spitzer. These are private conversations. But I did wish him all the best and told him that I was thinking about him and his family."