The New York State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee released a 63-page report Monday that not only corroborated previous allegations of sexual harassment against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo but also found that the governor used state resources to write a book on managing the COVID-19 crisis that paid him more than $5 million and “was not fully transparent” regarding COVID-19 deaths related to nursing homes.
The report was released just days after members of the committee reviewed the report authored by Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP, the firm committee members tasked to lead the investigation, which initially began eight months ago after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie directed the committee to determine if Cuomo committed any acts that would have warranted impeachment.
The firm reviewed about 600,000 pages of evidence that was derived from more than 200 witnesses. Investigators also looked over statements made by the former governor and his attorneys, although Davis Polk noted that Cuomo “refused to comply” with subpoenas and request even as he publicly said he would.
Cuomo resigned in August after an independent investigation overseen by the state Attorney General’s office substantiated sexual harassment claims made by 11 women.
In a statement, Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine said the report shows Cuomo’s conduct “is extremely disturbing and is indicative of someone who is not fit for office.”
Among the items in the report is a detailed timeline of Cuomo’s actions on Dec. 7, 2020. That’s the day he’s alleged to have groped Brittany Commisso, a former executive assistant in his office. Cuomo now faces a misdemeanor forcible touching charge in Albany as a result.
The independent investigation initially listed the incident as occurring nearly a month earlier, a point that Cuomo and his lawyer have attacked in his defense against the allegation.
However, the Davis Polk report said it was able to create the timeline based on Commisso recalling what Cuomo wore, his itinerary, her conversation with another state employee and records of her entering and exiting the Executive Mansion, where the incident allegedly occurred.
“The contemporaneous evidence collected establishes that the date Ms. Commisso described to us was December 7, 2020,” the report states.
Investigators have submitted its evidence regarding Commisso’s claims to law enforcement.
The report also provides details about claims made by a state trooper who served on the then-governor’s security detail. Certain identifiable information was left out as she wished to remain anonymous.
“We also note that Trooper #1 did not plan to come forward, but was identified to the (attorney general) by another Trooper as someone who had relevant information regarding the former governor’s behavior,” the report stated.
Only those two harassment cases were detailed as the report indicates they “establish sufficient evidence” Cuomo committed harassment, which was “sufficient” for the report. It added that it does not mean it found the other cases not credible as there is “overwhelming support” of numerous cases.
Regarding the book deal, the report states that Penguin Random House reached out to an agent representing the then-governor on March 19, 2020. On July 1, the agent told a representative of the publishing company that 70,000 words were already written about the first six months of the crisis.
An auction for the rights to the book commenced a week later. Three publishers participated. Random Penguin House initially bid $750,000 before eventually winning several rounds later. The firm promised at least $5.2 million, with additional bonuses possible.
When Cuomo received permission from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, the agency gave nine stipulations regarding that approval. One of those was that state resources, including equipment and personnel, could be used in any part of the book.
The committee’s investigation found that lower-level staffers were given assignments related to the book and that senior officials within the administration worked on it as well.
Regarding the administration’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic, investigators said they did not find any information that the March 25, 2020, order that required nursing homes to take in COVID-positive patients led to an increase in deaths at nursing homes.
However, investigators found the administration “could have been more transparent” about the number of nursing home residents who died because of COVID-19.
For months, the state broke down COVID deaths by those that occurred at hospitals and those that happened at nursing homes. An attorney general’s report determined that while the number of deaths was accurate, it undercounted the nursing home-related fatalities by about 50 percent.
In the report released Monday, investigators said that state health officials noted that Cuomo’s response team contained mostly non-medical personnel. That meant that science was not always followed when decisions were being made.
The report notes that during an August 2020 Senate hearing regarding the pandemic, a senior administration official was in the room, off-camera, with a senior Department of Health official who was testifying. During the hearing, the administration official “wrote a message on a whiteboard suggesting that the senior DOH official testify in effect that the March 25 Directive was authored by DOH and that the Executive Chamber was not involved. This statement was not true, and the senior DOH official did not make such a statement in the testimony.”
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera tweeted Monday that he believed it was former Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa “coaching” former Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker “to lie to us in real time” during a Health Committee hearing.
“I swear EVERY senior member of the @andrewcuomo staff including him shameless ghouls,” tweeted Rivera, who chairs the committee.
The Judiciary Committee also considered looking into allegations that the administration withheld information about the integrity of the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. However, the report stated that the investigation found administration officials talked with the New York Thruway Authority regarding the claims about defective bolts, but after Cuomo stepped down, committee members told them to stop looking into that matter.
After Cuomo announced his resignation, the Judiciary Committee counsel advised Assembly leaders that the state Constitution did not allow for lawmakers to continue impeachment proceedings against someone who was no longer in office. The report concurred with that opinion.
That does not mean the evidence investigators found will get shelved.
“As we have throughout this process, we will continue to cooperate with all relevant investigative bodies to provide them with the evidence we have uncovered,” Heastie said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Cuomo condemned the report in a statement saying that the truth will eventually come out. Among the issues the former governor and his team have with the report was that lawmakers were hypocritical in accusing Cuomo of using public resources for his book.
“Will the Judiciary Committee members that raised the issue disclose their staff members who volunteer to work on their campaigns, and if not, why not?” Rich Azzopardi said in a statement.