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NY lawmakers begin reading findings from Cuomo probe

November 19, 2021 Marina Villeneuve, Associated Press
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Members of the New York Assembly’s Judiciary Committee began reading copies of a report on Thursday that delves into allegations against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The report is expected to lay out the committee’s findings into allegations the Democrat sexually harassed aides, understated the toll of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, unethically used state resources for a book deal and prioritized virus testing for members of his inner circle.

Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine said members will be reviewing the report Thursday and Friday.

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Lavine again promised that the report would be released “soon,” although it’s unclear when, or whether the Judiciary Committee will hold a meeting first.

Cuomo’s attorney Rita Glavin argued the committee shouldn’t release its findings before sharing all the underlying evidence with Cuomo.

But Lavine told reporters Thursday the ex-governor’s team isn’t entitled to see what’s in the report first, WNYT-TV reported.

In March, the New York Assembly hired the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP to lead its wide-ranging impeachment investigation of the former governor. State contract records show Davis Polk & Wardwell received a $5.1 million contract to lead the committee’s investigation.

Cuomo resigned in August and avoided a likely impeachment trial amid findings that he sexually harassed at least 11 women. Cuomo has said he never intended to touch anyone inappropriately or make inappropriate remarks.

Assemblymember Mike Montesano, a Republican, said the report finds Cuomo created a hostile work environment, and substantiated allegations made by a female state trooper as well as a former Cuomo executive assistant Brittany Commisso.

The trooper called Cuomo’s behavior “creepy” and said he subjected her to sexually suggestive remarks, an unwanted kiss and unwanted touching on her stomach and back. Commisso said Cuomo groped her breasts and made unwanted sexual remarks to her.

“Sexual harassment was part of the everyday workplace in the executive chamber,” Montesano said.

Pushing back against allegations he misused state resources, Cuomo has said staff volunteered their time on his book, similar to how legislative employees may help at a campaign event at night.

But Montesano said the report found Cuomo used state resources and employees to produce his book in violation of the state’s public officer’s law.

Montesano said investigators looked at timesheets and testimony from Cuomo aides. He said the report is based on 600,000 pages of documentary evidence and the law firm’s own interviews with 165 people, and is about 45 pages long.

“When he says it’s political, it’s all fact-based,” Montesano said. Cuomo has said the investigation was politically motivated.

Regarding the investigation into deaths in New York’s nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuomo says his administration for months excluded certain deaths from the state’s toll of nursing home residents who died of the virus because it needed time to verify that data.

He’s also said his administration provided priority testing to anyone who came in contact with Cuomo, not just his inner circle.

Assemblymember Tom Abinanti, a Democrat, reviewed the report Thursday but said he couldn’t discuss any details.

“There’s nothing in here that people will be surprised at,” Abinanti said. He called it “succinct,” “readable” and free of “legalese.”

He expects Lavine, the judiciary committee chair, to announce next steps for the committee sometime Friday, after all members have reviewed the report.

Lavine told reporters Thursday that Cuomo didn’t sit down with investigators to provide testimony for the investigation, and Glavin said the governor provided a written response.

Some lawmakers on the Assembly Judiciary Committee said Thursday they wouldn’t comment until the report is public.

Lavine has previously said Davis Polk lawyers spoke with attorneys representing about 75 people and entities for the investigation, and reviewed “tens of thousands of pages of documents” ranging from emails and texts to photographs, personnel records, training materials and policies.

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