ALBANY, NY (AP) — The New York Assembly investigation into former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s conduct during his term in office concluded that the Democrat administration was misrepresenting the number of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19, according to a lawmaker who reviewed the committee’s still-secret report.
Assembly member Phil Steck was among the members of the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee who were able to view a copy of the roughly 45-page report on Thursday and Friday before it was made public, possibly as early as next week.
The report, prepared by New York City law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, covers a wide range of allegations of misconduct by Cuomo, including allegations of sexual harassment and the participation of his staff in writing his book on the coronavirus pandemic.
Other topics include the Cuomo administration’s manipulation of data on deaths from COVID-19 as presented to the public.
The Associated Press and other news organizations reported gaps in state statistical accounting of fatalities, including the government’s decision to rule out the deaths of thousands of nursing home patients who died after being transferred to hospitals.
The Davis Polk researchers confirmed press reports that the Department of Health wanted to include those deaths in hospitals in the number of deaths from nursing homes in the state.
“The investigation showed that while they were considering these matters, the book deal was going on, there is a chapter in the book on nursing homes,” said Steck, a Democrat who represents part of the Albany region. “They tried to make it as what they thought was the least harmful to the governor rather than just telling the truth.”
Cuomo’s resignation in August hampered the law firm’s efforts to interview witnesses about misrepresentation of nursing home data, said Mary Beth Walsh, a Republican MP.
“I believe the timing of the governor’s resignation has actually somewhat curtailed the investigation and the ability to investigate that,” said Walsh, whose district includes parts of Saratoga and Schenectady counties. “Several individuals who were to be subpoenaed did not cooperate after the governor’s resignation.”
Cuomo administration officials at the time acknowledged that the number of deaths in the nursing home was incomplete, but said it was only because it would take time to verify the data. Health officials insisted it was not an attempt to make the state’s death toll look better or protect Cuomo’s reputation.
Cuomo’s spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, said Friday that the former governor and his team had still not been allowed to see a copy of the Assembly’s report or all of the investigators’ evidence.
“The Assembly Judiciary Committee has chosen not to discuss their findings with us, which is their prerogative, but again it could lead to a one-sided report,” Azzopardi said.
Cuomo resigned in August to avoid a likely impeachment trial in the wake of another investigation that revealed he had sexually harassed 11 women. That investigation was led by two independent investigators hired by the state’s attorney general.
Walsh said the report contained “overwhelming evidence” that Cuomo harassed the women who came forward.
Cuomo, now charged with groping an assistant’s chest, has denied touching anyone inappropriately.
As for Cuomo’s $5.1 million book deal, Steck said the report makes “very clear” that the then governor violated terms set forth by the state’s ethics committee, which had said Cuomo would not use state resources or personnel for could use the project.
Investigators found that Cuomo assigned some state employees to work on the book, and while some said they gave up their free time for that, Steck said, “there wasn’t enough time in the day to volunteer and for them to still be able to do it.” to work on official affairs of state.”
Ethics commissioners withdrew their approval of Cuomo’s book deal this week.
Walsh, a former Saratoga assistant attorney, said this could open the door to an ethical fine.