Bad press drives aide to step down

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BOSTON (AP) – An aide to Republican Mitt Romney resigned from the campaign on Friday, while denying allegations he used fake badges so he and other members of Romney’s advance staff could gain access to closed areas and, in one instance, avoid paying a highway toll.

“I have resigned from the Mitt Romney for President campaign so that the media attention on me will not become a distraction to the campaign’s efforts,” Jay Garrity said in a statement released by his spokeswoman Nancy Sterling.

“I am completely confident that I will be cleared of any wrongdoing because the allegations being made against me are demonstrably false,” the statement said.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom confirmed the campaign had accepted Garrity’s resignation.

Garrity had been on leave for allegedly impersonating a law enforcement officer in two states.

The Boston Herald reported Friday, quoting unnamed campaign sources, that Garrity manufactured the silver badges with a Massachusetts state seal while Romney was still governor. Garrity then gave them to at least two fellow logistics aides, both of whom remain with Romney’s presidential campaign, the report said.

Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to use a badge without authority, an offense punishable with a fine up to $50.

“No one on the Mitt Romney for President campaign is authorized to use a badge, nor has the campaign provided anyone with a badge,” Fehrnstrom told The Associated Press.

Asked if staffers who remain with the campaign, Mark Glanville and Will Ritter, ever received a badge from Garrity, Fehrnstrom referred questions to Garrity’s attorney.

Sterling, also a spokeswoman for Robert Popeo, the Boston attorney retained by Garrity, said Garrity, Glanville and Ritter did not have badges, but “a round metal disc with the seal of the governor’s office.” Sterling said the disc was held in a leather portfolio that also held the aides’ state identification cards on the opposite side.

Fehrnstrom later said Glanville never had one of the ID badges, while Ritter was given an ID badge but never carried it and did not use it.

Sterling said the portfolio was designed in consultation with other gubernatorial aides and manufactured by an outside contractor.

“What these people were doing was strategic advance for a sitting governor. They would pull out their official business cards and people would say, “That’s nice, but don’t you have something different?”‘ Sterling said.

She said Garrity never used the ID to avoid paying a toll. She said he most usually rode in an official state vehicle equipped with a free-toll pass. She also said the IDs expired Jan. 4, the day Romney’s term ended.

Garrity was an ever-present Romney aide, serving as his director of operations both in the Statehouse and on the campaign trail. He facilitated the presidential contender’s travels and the public’s access to him.

AP-ES-07-20-07 1959EDT

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