TRENTON - Significant payments given by Gov. Corzine before he became governor to a state workers union leader who was a former girlfriend did not violate conduct rules or compromise recent contract talks, Corzine's ethics advisers have found.

In a report released this morning, the advisers found Corzine didn't violate conduct rules because the payments occurred before he was governor. They also found that the gifts didn't compromise contract talks because all negotiations were done through the state's negotiating team, not through Corzine and the union leader, Carla Katz.

Corzine in early April asked the panel to review whether recent contract negotiations with state workers were tainted by his past romantic relationship with Katz.

Corzine and Katz have contended that their past relationship, which involved Corzine giving Katz $470,000 to buy a house and other gifts he has declined to specify, didn't create a conflict during negotiations.

The governor asked for an opinion from the ethics panel that reviews gubernatorial conduct after Republican Steve Lonegan, the mayor of Bogota, asked the panel to review Corzine's actions in negotiations.