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N.J. poll shows voters link governor, corruption

Most agree with his decision to resign

TRENTON, N.J. -- Many New Jersey voters think there is more to the resignation of Governor James E. McGreevey than what he has told them, and it has little to do with his sexual activities, according to a poll released yesterday.

Nearly half of those surveyed said they believed McGreevey resigned because of corruption in his administration, while just 8 percent said they think he is leaving because he is gay. Another 11 percent said he was quitting because of the extramarital affair.

One in four said it was for other reasons; 10 percent said they did not know, the Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll found.

The poll was released as new details about the saga emerged. The lawyer for a man accusing McGreevey of sexual harassment said he thought McGreevey would pay to stop his client from suing -- right up until five minutes before the governor announced his resignation.

Attorney Allen Lowy, who represents Golan Cipel -- the former administration official identified by McGreevey aides as the governor's sexual partner -- said a verbal deal to stop a suit by Cipel had been struck.

''We had a deal," Lowy said. ''The next thing I know my secretary told me he's in the process of resigning. I was very surprised. I understood that they were satisfied and it was over."

Kathy Ellis, a spokeswoman for McGreevey, called Lowy's version of the minutes leading up to the announcement ''absolutely incorrect."

McGreevey returned to work yesterday for the first time since his speech Thursday, in which he proclaimed: ''My truth is that I am a gay American." He said staying on the job would leave the governor's office ''vulnerable to rumors, false allegations, and threats of disclosure."

McGreevey said his resignation would be effective Nov. 15.

In the poll, 48 percent of respondents said McGreevey should resign immediately, while 41 percent said Nov. 15 is the right date.

A spokeswoman for the governor, Ellen Mellody, said McGreevey ''has never governed by polls."

''The governor is going to continue to ensure that there is a smooth transition and continuity of government and spend the next three months finishing the job the McGreevey administration started," she said.

McGreevey does not face any corruption charges, but several associates have been connected to scandals, including his first chief of staff and former counsel, a top Democratic fund-raiser and his biggest campaign contributor.

The poll of 500 registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In an interview published Sunday by the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot, Cipel maintained he is not gay and said McGreevey repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances.

''It doesn't bother me that it is said I am gay, but I really am not. I'm straight," Cipel told the paper. ''On the other hand, to accuse me of being an extortionist? Someone here has lost his mind."

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