Assembly Judiciary Committee report finds Cuomo created ‘hostile’ work environment, used state resources for book
ALBANY, N.Y. (WHEC) – The New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee Monday released its report on former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The report concludes Cuomo committed multiple instances of sexual harassment, utilized state resources to write his book, and was not transparent in reporting nursing home deaths.
The investigation was conducted by Davis Polk & Wardwell on behalf of the committee to consider articles of impeachment against Andrew Cuomo when he was still governor. The Assembly decided to go ahead with the report and release its findings even after Cuomo resigned.
As mentioned before, the 63- page report concluded with three key findings and said it found "overwhelming" evidence Cuomo engaged in sexual harassment.
The sexual harassment allegations were the focus of a separate investigation by Attorney General Letitia James, which found that Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women in and out of state government and worked to retaliate against one of his accusers. A 168-page report based on the findings was released in August.
Cuomo resigned soon after.
The report analyzes the accusations from the women, including a woman known as "New York State Trooper #1", and Brittany Commisso, the latter of the two allegations led to a criminal summons charging Cuomo with misdemeanor forcible touching that was filed in the City of Albany Court.
Both the AG’s and Assembly investigations drew criticism from Cuomo’s camp, including spokesman Rich Azzopardi who complained “The Assembly Judiciary Committee has chosen not to review their findings with us which is their prerogative, but it may once again result in a one-sided report.”
The committee report responded to those comments.
"We have reviewed the former Governor’s challenges to the allegations, and nothing in his voluminous submissions can overcome the overwhelming evidence of his misconduct," the report said.
The committee says it gave Cuomo due process throughout the investigation, including the ability to make submissions, and he had access to documents, including statements made to investigators by state employees.
In the face of an impeachment trial, the former Governor chose to resign, not to contest the available evidence and confront witnesses in that legal forum," the report said. "Having foregone that opportunity, he is not entitled to the production of any further evidence from this Committee."
The #NYS Assembly judiciary committed released its report into the impeachment investigation of former Governor Andrew Cuomo. I’m going through the 63 page report but here are a few key findings: pic.twitter.com/XalEZAGdoa— Jennifer Lewke (@WHEC_JLewke) November 22, 2021
Book work was not "voluntary"
In its review of the work behind Cuomo’s book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic", the committee said it found junior members of the ex-governors staff worked on the book, and it was not voluntary.
The report found those junior members were often asked to do book-related tasks as part of their regular work. Staffers interviewed by investigators said if the work was truly meant to be voluntary, they were never formally asked to volunteer.
"Whether the work on the Book by state officials was voluntary or not, the time and effort spent on the Book by both the then-Governor and other state officials necessarily detracted from their state duties during the intense period when the then Governor, Executive Chamber employees, and other state officials were continuously engaged in the pandemic response," the report concluded.
Again, this differed from Cuomo’s camp pushed back on, as his attorney, Rita Glavin, claimed the work was done on staffers’ "own time."
Last week, the State Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted to rescind its prior approval of the $5.2 million book deal. Cuomo had been paid more than $3 million by the time the book was published, with another $2 million to come in segments between October of this year, and 2022.
His administration said he donated $500,000 of his profits from the book to the United Way of New York State.
Nursing Home numbers ‘accurate’, but not fully transparent
In March 2020, Cuomo issued a directive prohibiting nursing homes from denying admission to residents who had been hospitalized with COVID-19. On top of that, families weren’t allowed to see their loved ones in person.
It wasn’t until January of this year, that we learned about the discrepancies in the reporting of nursing home COVID-19 deaths when a report from New York’s Attorney General found the Department of Health’s published nursing home death data may have been undercounted by as much as 50%. The report said it did not find evidence Cuomo’s order increased the number of deaths in nursing homes, but did find his Executive Chamber delayed providing information that was requested by the state’s Legislature.
The committee says Depart of Health Officials who worked on a report related to nursing home death numbers expressed "concern" over what they viewed as an "oversimplified" draft that used data that couldn’t be independently verified by the DOH. It also found DOH officials shared concerns Cuomo’s COVID-19 response team was made up mostly of "non-medical experts" and felt decisions were not always made based on scientific or medical advice.
Cuomo, and his top medical mind, Dr. Howard Zucker drew intense questioning from lawmakers several times over the administration’s lack of transparency regarding COVID outbreaks at nursing homes. Zucker said the state was following CDC guidelines, they were attempting not to discriminate against people positive with COVID-19.
He announced his resignation earlier this year as Kathy Hochul took over the governor role.
"We note that many of the decisions regarding the pandemic and related policies were made in the context of a once-in-a-century event that was fast-moving and presented a significant challenge," the report said.
"The truth will come out"
As mentioned, Cuomo’s camp has continued to dispute and deny the findings of both the AG’s report, and the Assembly’s investigation. Just hours after Monday’s report was released, Azzorpardi released a multi-paragraph statement repeating claims of a "politically-biased" investigation. Azzopardi also says Cuomo was not allowed and still has not been allowed, to review the evidence the Assembly has.
"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," Azzopardi wrote. "And if they want to debate it we welcome it."
He ended the statement by writing "the truth will come out."
Debra S. Katz, attorney for Cuomo accuser Charlotte Bennett, released the following statement on the report:
“Once again, independent investigators who examined extensive evidence and conducted dozens of interviews reached the undeniable conclusion that then-Governor Andrew Cuomo used his office to sexually harass staffers, including Ms. Bennett and her former colleagues. His desperate, shameful attempts to smear our client in an effort to silence and discredit her did not work.
We assume that Rita Glavin, on behalf of Andrew Cuomo, will be holding a press conference to accuse the Judiciary Committee and its independent investigators of launching a politically motivated attack against her client. Such attempts to evade the truth are petty and will not work. The Judiciary Committee’s findings are clear: Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed staffers, used state resources to line his pockets at the expense of New Yorkers’ lives, and doctored COVID-19 numbers to hide his egregious shortcomings.
We don’t need another press conference from Rita Glavin or her client. Andrew Cuomo is a corrupt sexual harasser, and he’s been caught. Rather than funding more PR spins and calculating future opportunities in New York State politics, he should use his campaign funds to demonstrate his remorse — assuming he’s capable of such a feeling. Of this, we’ve yet to see any evidence.”
News10NBC is working through the report. Stay tuned for more coverage on News10NBC at 5, and on WHEC.com