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Cuomo investigation released by Assembly Judiciary Committee finds former governor 'was not fully transparent' on nursing home COVID-19 deaths

"The public had a right to know"
Andrew Cuomo
Posted at 9:36 AM, Nov 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-22 17:42:13-05

ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW) — On Monday morning, the New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee released its findings from its investigation into former Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The investigation, which started before Cuomo's resignation in August, sought to examine allegations of sexual harassment against the former governor. The investigation also looked into whether he had directed his staff to "unlawfully withhold or misrepresent information" on the effects of COVID-19 on state residents, whether Cuomo had knowledge of safety concerns regarding bridges in the state, and whether Cuomo "directed, or had knowledge of, executive personnel attempting to suppress related investigations."

In a letter written to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine shared the following conclusions made in the report to the committee made by investigators:

  • Cuomo "engaged in multiple instances of sexual harassment, including by creating a hostile work environment and engaging in sexual misconduct."
  • Cuomo "utilized state resources and property, including work by Executive Chamber staff, to write, publish, and promote his Book regarding his handling of the COVID-19 crisis— a project for which he was guaranteed at least $5.2 million in personal profit."
  • Cuomo "was not fully transparent regarding the number of nursing home residents who died as a result of COVID-19."

According to the letter, the Committee hired Davis, Polk & Warwell LLP to lead the investigation. Investigators examined 600,000 pages of documents, which included text and email communications, photographs, recorded phone calls, video recordings and other materials. They also interviewed or examined prior interviews from 212 people.

In a statement, Speaker Heastie wrote, "as we have throughout this process, we will continue to cooperate with all relevant investigative bodies to provide them with the evidence we have uncovered.”

Read the report here:

Reaction is being issued from both sides of the political aisle.

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Democratic New York State Assemblymember Monica Wallace responds to report during a Zoom interview.

Democratic New York State Assemblymember Monica Wallace is on Assembly Judiciary Committee Investigation. Wallace issued the following statement in response to the report:

"As detailed in the report of the Assembly Judiciary committee, our committee has concluded that former Governor Cuomo engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment and misconduct and that he also likely violated the public officer's law by enlisting state personnel and resources to work on his for-profit book. The report also concludes that his administration was not fully transparent to the Legislature or the public regarding the number of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19.

"This report is the result of a months-long investigation in which our independent outside counsel reviewed over 600,000 pages of transcripts, emails, texts, records, and other documents, and conducted over 200 interviews. I am proud of the thorough and detailed investigation conducted by our bipartisan committee, and having reviewed much of the materials upon which the report rests, I agree with the conclusions reached in the report.

"To the women who came forward so many months ago to tell their stories, I commend you for your bravery. I am sorry that you had to endure months of victim shaming while you waited for this process to conclude. I hope this report, which supports the conclusions of the Attorney General, provides you with the vindication you deserve.

"I thank Chair Lavine and Speaker Heastie for their leadership during this investigation. As the report makes clear, our committee is fully cooperating with law enforcement officials who have civil and criminal enforcement authority."

Assemblymember Monica Wallace

In a Zoom interview with Wallace Monday afternoon says Cuomo had previously been warned not to use any staffers for his book.

“That, I think, was one of the biggest things we uncovered that I think personally needed to be made public — the public had a right to know,” Wallace stated.

Wallace says it wasn't until state lawmakers started pressing Cuomo on nursing home deaths during the pandemic that it was clear something was not right.

"When we started asking questions there was a lack of transparency and that was very upsetting — very infuriating,” responded Wallace.

State Senator Republican Minority Leader Rob Ortt saying state democratic lawmakers failed to hold Cuomo accountable.

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State Senator Republican Minority Leader Rob Ortt in a Zoom interview Monday.

"It just shows you that there was clearly incredible reasons to impeach the governor had he stayed in office," Ortt remarked.

Ortt says he will continue to fight for passage of a senate bill that would clarify the legislature's constitutional right "to impeach and convict a former public official".

"The real issue here — there was plenty of time to have brought impeachment against the governor when he was in office. It wasn’t done and it wasn’t done intentionally — this process was slow rolled from my opinion from the very beginning," Ortt explained.

Richard Azzpardi, a spokesman for former Governor Cuomo also issuing the following statement disputing all the findings. denying the sexual harassment claims, saying staffers “volunteered” to work on his book and the Department of Health report on COVID transmissions at nursing homes was “accurate”. The statement ends stating “The truth will come out”.

“Any report that uses the Attorney General’s politically biased investigation as a basis is going to be equally flawed. To date we have not been allowed the opportunity to review evidence in the Assembly’s possession, despite requests to do so and due process was certainly not afforded here.

“Once again, the fact that an employee entered and exited the Executive Mansion as part of her job was never in dispute and once again this report offers no evidence to support any allegation. What is interesting is that the Assembly didn’t even try to prove Tish James’ bogus “11 legal violations,” and instead only focused on two. When all the facts are fairly weighed there will be none.

“To be clear, the people who volunteered to work on the book were people mentioned in the book and therefore they were involved to make sure the representations concerning them were accurate. Staff who volunteered took time off, evidencing that they were volunteering and not on state time. Any suggestion to the contrary is Assembly hype. The people who volunteered were senior members in the administration and were highly sophisticated in terms of official activities and volunteer activities and had performed both many times in the past. During the time period in question Robert Mujica, Beth Garvey, James Malatras, Melissa DeRosa, Gareth Rhodes, and Stephanie Benton, all mentioned in the book, reviewed it at no cost to the state. Junior staff working on Covid materials were not helping on the book, but were helping on the state’s Covid response.

“The Assembly report is hypocritical, revisionist and damns themselves as the Assembly effectively forces employees to volunteer on their political partisan campaigns as standard practice and if they want to debate it we welcome it. Let them start by disclosing which staffers also do political work. Will the Judiciary committee members that raised the issue disclose their staff members who volunteer to work on their campaigns and if not why not?

“They apparently couldn’t find a similar distraction from priority testing after we pointed out the hypocrisy that multiple Assembly members, including members of this very committee, along with staff and family members, were provided testing when asked. That’s why the matter was dropped altogether from the report. However, the Assembly’s duplicity must not be allowed to go unanswered. They must disclose what members, staff and family members received priority testing. They were highly critical of priority testing, but are now silent on who in their house received such testing. They must stop their cover-up.

“The conclusions that the DOH report on nursing home COVID transmissions was accurate, that there was no evidence that the March 25 order resulted in additional fatalities and that we received constant reassurances from the Thruway Authority that the bridge was safe by no means suggests that this was a fair and balanced report.

“The truth will come out.”

Statement from Rich Azzopardi