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Cuomo's conduct in office was 'extremely disturbing,' N.Y. Assembly finds

The report concluded that Cuomo used state employees to produce his book and downplayed Covid nursing home deaths. It also found "overwhelming" evidence for sexual harassment allegations.
Then Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at his Midtown Manhattan office on Sept. 14, 2018.
Andrew Cuomo, then the governor of New York, at a news conference at his New York City office on Sept. 14, 2018.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo used state employees to help write, edit and promote a book he was paid more than $5 million for and was not "fully transparent" about Covid nursing home deaths, the state Assembly's Judiciary Committee found in a report made public Monday.

The report also found "overwhelming evidence" in support of allegations that Cuomo sexually harassed numerous women.

"The former governor’s conduct — as shown in this report — is extremely disturbing and is indicative of someone who is not fit for office," Judiciary Chair Charles Lavine, a Democrat, said in a statement.

The 46-page report by a law firm hired by the committee is the result of an impeachment investigation into Cuomo earlier this year. The committee said investigators reviewed "hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, including photographs, texts messages, BlackBerry PIN messages, emails, recordings of phone calls (and) social media accounts," as well as interviews or statements from over 200 people.

Cuomo resigned in August after a report by state Attorney General Letitia James found he'd sexually harassed numerous women, allegations Cuomo has repeatedly denied. The Judiciary Committee came to a similar conclusion as James, saying its probe found "that there is overwhelming evidence that the former governor engaged in sexual harassment."

Cuomo engaged in "multiple instances of sexual harassment, including by creating a hostile work environment and engaging in sexual misconduct," it found, echoing James' findings.

Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately, but has acknowledged that he may have acted in ways that made people feel uncomfortable. When he resigned, Cuomo apologized for his behavior and thanked the women who came forward, but insisted that he had not intended to harass any of his accusers.

"The Assembly’s report simply parrots the attorney general's flawed report, failing to engage with the many errors and omissions in the AG’s report and her one-sided, biased investigation," said Cuomo's attorney, Rita Glavin.

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, said, “Any report that uses the attorney general’s politically biased investigation as a basis is going to be equally flawed."

James announced last month that she is running for Cuomo's old job.

Covid response memoir

The report sheds new light on the amount of state resources Cuomo used to write and promote his book "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic."

"Our investigation evidences that the book was the product of significant work performed by executive chamber staff during a time of a global pandemic requiring an around-the-clock response," the report said.

When Cuomo received permission from a state ethics commission last year to write the book, he agreed to a requirement that “[n]o state property, personnel or other resources may be utilized for activities associated with the book."

The agreement didn't even last the day, according to the report.

On July 16, the same date he was granted permission to proceed with the book, "Metadata in the electronic agreement shows that a senior executive chamber official signed the former governor’s name on the contract on his behalf," the report says.

"Related documentation, such as payment processing information, included the email address of another senior executive chamber official, rather than the former governor’s own email," the report said.

Despite the pandemic that was raging through his state, Cuomo had numerous state employees tasked to help with the book, including at least one member of the state's Covid task force.

"Certain senior members of the former governor’s executive chamber and other senior New York State officials worked extensively on the book," the report said. "These senior officials attended meetings with agents and publishers, transcribed and drafted portions of the book, coordinated the production and promotion of the book, and participated in working sessions to review and finalize the book."

The report noted that one of those officials "sent or received over 1,000 emails regarding the book, from July to December 2020."

Further, the report found that "evidence obtained in our investigation demonstrates that junior members of the executive chamber worked on the book and that work was not voluntary. Junior staff members were asked by senior executive chamber officials to perform tasks that were related to the book as part of their regular course of work."

Cuomo has insisted that any work by state employees on the book was voluntary, while allowing that some minor work may have been "incidental." Azzopardi said Monday that "staff who volunteered took time off, evidencing that they were volunteering and not on state time. Any suggestion to the contrary is Assembly hype."

Nursing home deaths

The report also suggests, but doesn't find, that the promotion of the book might have been tied to how the state reported the number of Covid-related nursing home deaths. In a report this year, the state attorney general found the Cuomo administration had undercounted nursing home deaths due to Covid by as much as 50 percent.

Those allegations are the subject of a probe by the Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office.

The Assembly investigation focused on a state Department of Health report in July on nursing home deaths that had been ordered up by the governor's office — and which the administration had asked to be altered.

"A debate arose regarding whether to include a figure that included all deaths of nursing home facility residents (approximately 10,000 deaths), or a lower figure that included only deaths that occurred within nursing home facilities (approximately 6,500 deaths)," the Assembly report noted.

The Health Department report, prepared while Cuomo was working on his book deal, ultimately went with the lower number, which did not count nursing home residents who died in hospitals or elsewhere.

"The published DOH report disclosed only in-facility deaths, and did not explain the population of nursing home fatalities included in the report, nor did it explain why out-of-facility deaths were not disclosed," the Assembly found.

"Although the description of the data was technically accurate, the DOH report could have been more transparent," the Assembly report concluded. It noted that witnesses said "the same senior executive chamber official who served as the key point person for the book made the decision that only in-facility deaths would be included."

The report said the Judiciary Committee "is cooperating with law enforcement" investigating the nursing home deaths.

Azzopardi complained that Cuomo's camp was not allowed to review the Assembly's evidence "despite requests to do so, and due process was certainly not afforded here."

The Assembly report noted that while Cuomo and his team had publicly pronounced that they were cooperating with the probe, "at no time has the former governor meaningfully complied with the committee’s requests or cooperated with its investigation," producing only "limited documents over the course of almost six months."

"The former governor resigned on August 10, 2021, without having complied with the committee’s subpoenas in any meaningful way, and subsequently, counsel for former Governor Cuomo made clear that they did not intend to comply with the committee’s subpoenas (questioning their legality in light of the former governor’s resignation)," the report said.

The findings did contain some good news for the former governor, concluding that because of his resignation, he could no longer be impeached. Several lawmakers had called for the Judiciary Committee to proceed on impeachment despite the resignation.