As reports surfaced over the weekend that the state’s vaccine czar, Larry Schwartz called county executives across the state to gauge their allegiance to Governor Andrew Cuomo, some questioned why they hadn’t heard much about the position until now.
The governor first outlined the state's COVID-19 vaccine plan in October and Schwartz is rarely a part of those briefings.
Cuomo is being investigated by the state for allegations of sexual harassment. The Department of Justice is also investigating his administration over its handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes. The state legislature is also conducting an impeachment investigation.
According to the governor’s website, Schwartz was previously a Senior Advisor to Cuomo, before being appointed to Secretary in 2011. He left the administration in 2015 but has served on the MTA Board since then.
Schwartz graduated with a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Binghamton University.
According to a 2014 article in the New York Times, Schwartz helped hinder the 2013 Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption when inquiries got too close to the governor’s office.
A spokesman for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he didn't receive any questionable phone calls from Schwartz.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello released a statement on Monday indicating he did receive a call from Schwartz and also called for the governor to resign.
"On Sunday March 7th, the day after I again publicly called for an investigation into the allegations against Governor Cuomo, I received a phone call from Larry Schwartz. During that call, Mr. Schwartz asked about my position, and I pointed him to my statement. That was the end of the conversation. At no time did I feel any pressure and the topic of vaccines never came up.
Over the past 12 months, I have been laser focused on our community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the health and safety of Monroe County residents. Unfortunately, the growing number of strong, credible women coming forward to detail troubling allegations of a toxic workplace and sexual harassment and abuse against Governor Cuomo has become a distraction from our important work. I believe the time has come for Governor Cuomo to resign. Doing so is the only way to put the people of New York first and allow our state to begin the challenging work of rebuilding the trust that has been lost in state government. While the path ahead is not easy, I have complete confidence that Lieutenant Governor Hochul has the integrity and skill necessary to lead us forward," Bello's statement read.
"Vaccine distribution in New York is based on objective criteria to ensure it matches eligible populations, ensure equity, and ability to rapidly administer shots in arms," Acting Counsel to the Governor, Beth Garvey said in a statement. "To be clear, Larry's conversations did not bring up vaccine distribution -- he would never link political support to public health decisions. Distorting Larry's role or intentions for headlines maligns a decades long public servant who has done nothing but volunteer around the clock since March to help New York get through the COVID pandemic. Any suggestion that Larry acted in any way unethically or in any way other than in the best interest of the New Yorkers that he selflessly served is patently false."