Goodell, Borrello Respond To Release Of Cuomo Report
The results of a long-awaited release of a state legislative investigation into former Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t much surprise Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown.
The findings were authored by lawyers from Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP on behalf of the state Assembly Judiciary Committee and found “overewhelming evidence” that Cuomo sexually harassed women and ordered state workers to help produce his book on pandemic leadership during work hours. Goodell wasn’t surprised the report found evidence Cuomo had sexually harassed several women because many of the allegations made against Cuomo had been reported fully by dozens of news organizations over the past several months. But the report’s investigation of the use of state workers to write Cuomo’s book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons on the Pandemic” piqued Goodell’s interest.
“Where this report went further than other reports is the investigation of the governor’s use of state employees, state resources on state time to help write his book for which he was paid a guaranteed $5.1 million regardless of sales,” Goodell said. “What is particularly telling is the height of the governor’s hypocrisy. On the same day he had a staff retreat during state working hours to help draft the book he criticized the Trump Administration, saying, ‘You cannot use government for political exploitation’ and ‘nowhere in your oath of office does it say you can use government resources to advance political purposes.’ At the same time he was using government resources to advance his own personal cash benefits.”
The report comes on the heels of the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ decision last week to revoke its authorization for Cuomo to write the book. JCOPE had placed nine conditions on its approval of the book, including that the book be written on Cuomo’s time and not state time, that no state property, personnel or other resources be used to write the book, that the subject matter be sufficiently unrelated to Cuomo’s official duties so that the book couldn’t be viewed as part of Cuomo’s job and that Cuomo to advertise, promote or endorse the book while performing state duties.
Cuomo could face a fine, since violating the state’s public officers law can result in up to $10,000 in penalties and the value of any compensation or benefit received as a result of the violation. Goodell said the fine could be much greater than $10,000 given the information contained in the Assembly Judiciary Committee report.
“That’s important itself because when JCOPE revoked the authorization it opened the door for JCOPE to fine the governor based on how much personal profit the governor earned in violation of the ethics rules,” Goodell said. “The irony is that the cost of going through thousands of emails and letters and interviews and documents is estimated to be about $5 million, which means it is possible the government might be able to fine Cuomo enough out of his book profits to pay for its own investigation — which would be poetic justice.”
Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, said he would like to see further investigation into both the book deal and the withholding of nursing home statistics. Investigators found Cuomo and his senior staff were not fully transparent with the public regarding the number of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents. Witnesses said the same senior Executive Chamber official who served as the key point person for the governor’s book made the decision that only in-facility deaths would be included in the July state Health Department report. There were several reasons given for counting only in-facility deaths, but some state Health Department officials testified the proper reporting of the nursing home death totals should have included the total number of deaths — both in- facility and out-of-facility — with an explanation of how deaths were calculated, and that such an accounting would have been consistent with the manner in which medical reports of this type were produced.
“Both the book deal and the withholding and altering of nursing home deaths require closer inspection by investigative authorities, both civil and criminal,” Borrello said to The Post-Journal on Monday. “The timeline for the book deal is far too suspect and coincidental with regard to the release of the nursing home data.”
Health Department officials also expressed concern to investigators that Cuomo’s COVID-19 response team was largely comprised of non-medical experts and that decisions were not always made based on scientific or medical advice. There was only one health care professional on the task force, according to the report, and that person told investigators that the Health Department official didn’t have regular meetings with Cuomo during the pandemic and found it difficult to speak directly with Cuomo because senior Executive Chamber officials closely guarded access to Cuomo.
That same official said it was difficult to speak freely to Cuomo or senior staff because advice contrary to the executive chamber’s views were often rejected, and speaking up could lead to even further limited access.
“While the governor was politicizing the COVID emergency as much as possible to attack Trump he was doing exactly the same thing on the flip side by running the COVID response based on a political analysis rather than on allowing the Health Department to use its expertise,” Goodell said. “That was particularly telling when you had statewide mandates that really didn’t make a lot of sense to be on a statewide basis bypassing all the local health departments who already had public health emergency plans in place before the pandemic began. So it was a gross abuse of centralized power at the expense of a more flexible and aprpopriate response by well-trained, well-qualified, well-prepared local health officials.”
The report only delved in-depth into two of the instances of sexual harassment, though it found overwhelming evidence that harassment happened.
“There is a clear and disturbing pattern of the former governor saying one thing to the public while doing another behind closed doors,” Borrello said. “I believe that finally caught up with him and is well outlined by the report.”