ALBANY – The New York State Assembly’s report on its eight-month Supreme Court inquiry supports many of the allegations made about former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and provides fresh insight into his use of state resources to obtain a $ 5 million bookshop in the midst of covid -19 pandemic.
The report focuses on three of the major allegations made against the former governor in recent months, who resigned in August amid the Assembly’s inquiry and other inquiries.
The report, released Monday after a week of previews by Albany lawmakers, reinforces the findings of Attorney General Tish James’ investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, and concludes that “the former governor’s allegations of” accusations “cannot” overcome the overwhelming evidence of his dishonesty “. . ”
It concludes that the Cuomo administration manipulated data on deaths among nursing home residents during the pandemic with the aim of combating criticism of his decision-making.
And the report provides more details in its conclusion that Cuomo’s memoir “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” was dependent on the use of non-voluntary government personnel.
The assembly is not expected to make its investigation, which started in March, the basis for a state court case against Cuomo after resigning. But it says it plans to share its findings with law enforcement officials.
Cuomo’s book: The topic on which the report contains the most new information is the former governor’s book deal. Various reports in recent months have said that state staff were used to help Cuomo write his fall 2020 memoir on the pandemic, for which he signed a contract worth over $ 5.1 million.
His representatives have repeatedly said that all this work was either voluntary or de minimis. But the assembly report claims it was none of the parts.
“The evidence obtained shows that senior officials and the former governor worked on the book during normal work routines,” the report states. “A senior official mentioned that the work on the book was no different from any other task he received from the executive chamber under COVID. The government official explained that book-related tasks were given by superiors and were expected to be performed like any other task. He further explained , that the work was not voluntary as he was never asked to volunteer and was not aware that other officials were asked to volunteer.
A separate senior official said in a text message from August 2020, “that working on the book compromised his ability to work on other COVID-related issues.”
A senior employee “served as the main point of contact” with the publisher, Penguin Random House, “and sent and received at least 1,000 emails regarding the book in the period from July to December 2020.”
This employee – who was not explicitly named, but who is clearly former top assistant Melissa DeRosa based on other descriptions in the report – also helped arrange a full-day meeting with the publisher, governor and top staff on a Friday in July and sent emails during of the work week “to ask public figures to attend events with the then governor to promote the book.”
The report also argues that lower-level employees were also closely involved in the book’s authorship on a non-voluntary basis.
“A junior staff member recalled that late one evening, probably in June or early July, a senior executive in the Executive Chamber instructed junior staff to gather materials related to then-Governor Cuomo’s COVID press briefings on an urgent basis, a task that took approximately five junior employees several hours to complete, “the report states.” In retrospect, the junior employee believes that this work was related to the preparation of the book. In interviews and lawyers, several other younger Executive Chamber staffers described participating in activities that they understood were related to the book – including transcribing dictations, printing and personal delivery of documents and compiling documents, “the report said.
There are at least a few other probes investigating the book deal. Last week, the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics revoked the permission it gave Cuomo to earn from outside to write the memoirs, due to allegations that state employees helped write it. This revocation could eventually lead to an attempt to reclaim his earnings.
Sexual violation: The Assembly’s conclusions further confirm the reports of nearly a dozen women who have come forward to accuse Cuomo of harassment and contradict many of Cuomo’s arguments against the conclusions in James’ August report. Some – but not all – of the women in James’ report gave additional testimony to the congregation.
It specifically highlighted testimony from former assistant Brittany Commisso, who said Cuomo groped for her at the executive mansion last year, leading to charges of crime. It also describes the testimony of a state trooper who said the former governor touched her inappropriately on several occasions and made several inappropriate and offensive comments.
The inclusion of their experiences was not intended to diminish the other reports, but to exemplify the nature of Cuomo’s behavior, the report states, adding, “each [account] independently meets the definition of sexual harassment under New York State law. ”
Moreover, Cuomo was well aware of the definition of sexual harassment – as he confirmed in his affidavit to the Attorney General’s Office.
The Assembly also noted that Commissso’s timeline of events – which Cuomo and his personal lawyer Rita Glavin had questioned as inconsistent across various interviews and records – did not invalidate her report and that Commisso “has been consistent in all material respects in the description. of the former governor’s behavior towards her. “
Cuomo’s denial of some of the charges and his arguments against some of the others – that his intentions were not malicious – do not disprove the evidence that they took place, according to the report. Nor do his staff and former aides question the reputation and motivation of the women who made the allegations, the report adds.
“Such an approach obscures the totality of the former governor’s behavior towards women, not only in the executive chamber, but in the workplace more broadly, and even towards his constituents,” the report said.
“We have reviewed the former governor’s challenges to the charges, and nothing in his voluminous speech can overcome the overwhelming evidence of his dishonesty,” it said.
Deaths in nursing homes: The report also supported the findings of various other studies that the Cuomo administration underestimated the number of deaths in nursing homes in the first months of the pandemic.
The administration included only the number of deaths of persons who died in nursing homes, omitting those who captured Covid while living but who died in other facilities. The count took place at a time when Cuomo was being criticized for his decision to instruct nursing homes to accept Covid-positive patients.
“Evidence obtained during our investigation shows that while it [Department of Health] The report was published under the auspices of the DOH, it was substantially revised by the Executive Chamber and largely intended to combat criticism of former Governor Cuomo’s directive that nursing homes should readmit residents who had been diagnosed with COVID-19, ”the report concludes.
The Assembly’s report did not delve deep into the causes and effects of Cuomo’s nursing home policies, saying it was not within its mandate and would be outside their specific qualifications. It also noted that some of the actions taken at the time were “carried out in the context of an event that, once in a century, was rapid and posed significant challenges.”
What’s next: The leadership of the Assembly has repeatedly made it clear that they have no plans to conduct a state court case against the former governor after his resignation. The report pointed to a 1853 memo from the Judiciary Committee arguing that it did not have the power to continue a formal proceeding.
That note made it clear “from the terms of the Constitution that the person must be in office at the time of the Supreme Court[,]’as the Constitution’ provides only two forms of punishment. . . removal from office, or removal and disqualification from holding office; “In both forms of punishment, the person must be in office, for removal is envisaged in both cases, which can not be accomplished unless the person is in office,” according to the report released Monday.
This note from 1853 in particular is not necessarily binding. Its conclusion on the question of whether a governor could be sued for a violation that took place before he took office was ignored by the Legislature when it removed then-Governor William Sulzer. in 1913.)
But members of the assembly have repeatedly said they plan to share their findings with officials who could take other action against Cuomo.
“The Committee has provided relevant information from its inquiry into law enforcement and will continue to cooperate with any such inquiry,” the report said on the issue of sexual harassment.
The assembly also said it does not plan to share all the underlying evidence with the former governor’s lawyer despite her requests.
“In the light of a trial, the former governor chose to resign so as not to challenge the available evidence and confront witnesses in the legal forum. Having waived this possibility, he is not entitled to present further evidence from this committee,” ”The report states.
Cuomo’s team said it was reviewing the report and did not immediately comment.