Dina Matos McGreevey takes the stand

May 28, 2008 5:06:04 PM PDT
The estranged wife of New Jersey's gay former governor said she depleted her savings to pay for their $30,000 wedding, even reluctantly agreeing to add dozens of his political cronies to the guest list. Dina Matos McGreevey testified about her meeting and subsequent courtship with former Gov. James McGreevey for about an hour Wednesday as their bitter divorce trial continued, painting a picture of herself as a dutiful and supportive girlfriend-turned-spouse who devoted herself to his goal of being elected governor.

"Once we became engaged, I was a full partner," Matos McGreevey said.

The McGreeveys wed in 2000, but their marriage unraveled four years later after he proclaimed himself "a gay American," announced he'd had an affair with a male staffer and resigned as governor. The staffer denies the affair and says he was sexually harassed by McGreevey.

Matos McGreevey, 41, wants compensation for losing out on the perks of his job - state police transportation and a 24/7 security detail, a household staff and use of two beach houses - because he resigned 13 months shy of completing his first term.

McGreevey maintains that perks of the governor's office are not a marital asset.

Her accountant placed the value of their so-called gubernatorial lifestyle at $51,000 a month, but acknowledged under an intense cross-examination that he relied mostly on guesswork to derive the estimate.

McGreevey's accountant has put the value of maintaining that lifestyle at a far more modest $16,000 a month.

Matos McGreevey testified Wednesday that she and McGreevey maintained separate checking accounts even after being married and that she was never privy to how he spent his paycheck. He enjoyed many perks as mayor of Woodbridge, including a township car, free gasoline, a cell phone and an expense account, she testified.

She said she paid for her own car, insurance and clothes out of her salary, estimated at $55,000 a year as a hospital executive.

She said being on the arm of a politician sometimes required three changes of clothes in a single day.

Neither Matos McGreevey nor her husband could recall who paid for their 10-day honeymoon to Italy, although Matos McGreevey said she drained her savings account for their opulent Washington wedding because her parents didn't have the means.

Earlier, McGreevey said his wife made all their honeymoon arrangements, but Matos McGreevey said his secretary booked the trip.

Matos McGreevey returns to the witness stand Thursday.

Earlier Wednesday, her accountant, Kalman Barson, underwent a second day of cross-examination as McGreevey lawyer Stephen Haller challenged every assumption he used to ascertain the cost of maintaining her lifestyle as first lady.

For example, Barson said he never asked Matos McGreevey for receipts or bank statements to document travel, day care or entertainment expenses, yet included those expenses in his report on the McGreeveys' marital lifestyle.

Under questioning by Haller, Barson acknowledged knowing little about the actual habits and lifestyle of the former first couple.

He acknowledged having calculated an estimate of how much it would cost to live in a house similar to the governor's mansion - $8,000 a month - without ever having been inside the mansion.

Haller later asked Union County Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy to disqualify Barson's testimony as unreliable, but Cassidy deferred, saying she would rule on the motion as part of an overall finding in the case.

Cassidy is hearing financial testimony to determine how much McGreevey should pay in alimony and child support.

The couple earlier agreed on custody of their only child, 6-year-old Jacqueline, but their arrangement remains under seal.

McGreevey was seeking joint custody.

Besides finances, the other unresolved issue is whether the now openly gay McGreevey committed fraud by marrying Matos McGreevey.

She claims she was duped into marrying a gay man who needed the cover of a wife to advance his political career.

He said she knew their union was "a contrivance on both our parts."

A former campaign aide who claims to have been a regular sex partner of the McGreeveys could be called as a witness to help settle the fraud claim.