A government watchdog group is calling on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s new top aide to disclose any conflicts of interest, saying her family’s deep ties in the New York lobbying industry raise “serious questions.”
Common Cause noted that the family of Melissa DeRosa, who was promoted Monday from chief of staff to secretary to the governor, has “extensive business interests before the state.”
Meanwhile, Cuomo sought to dismiss the criticism while the verbal sparring over DeRosa’s rise from chief of staff to secretary to the governor grows nastier over Twitter between critics and the governor’s allies.
Cuomo announced Monday that Bill Mulrow, who had served as secretary since January 2015, was leaving to head the Cuomo 2018 re-election campaign, and that DeRosa, who also previously served as the governor’s communications director was moving up.
DeRosa’s father is Giorgio DeRosa, a longtime lobbyist at Bolton St. John’s, one of the most well-known New York lobbying firms. He is married to Maureen DeRosa, who worked for state Senate Democrats and Cuomo before joining CGI, a computer company with extensive state contracts. Melissa DeRosa is married to Matt Wing, a former Cuomo press secretary who works for Uber, which recently has been lobbying to legalize ride hailing throughout the state.
Bolton St. John’s is routinely one of the top earning lobbying firms in New York. It ranked No. 4 in 2015 with $8.3 million earned representing 145 clients in a wide range of some of the biggest issues before state government.
Common Cause said Melissa DeRosa should detail which specific issues she would avoid contact with and provide a list of “all relevant meetings she has, and will recuse herself from.”
“For example: New Yorkers need to know her role in the ride hailing expansion, any meetings she avoided/attended, and those who attended in her stead. She should also disclose whether any changes in the equity valuation of Uber would personally benefit her husband and their joint assets,” the group said.
Cuomo sought to brush aside the criticism, calling DeRosa “an extraordinary talent.”
“Her father is a longtime, well-known lobbyist. Everyone knows it,” Cuomo said at an event Wednesday in Hauppauge. “So I don’t see the issue whatsoever.”
The governor said DeRosa “recuses herself” from issues that pose potential conflicts.
“It’s very common to have recusals. . . . Recusals tend to be the rule, rather than the exception,” Cuomo said. “So it’s no issue at all.”
On Twitter this week, state Republican chairman Ed Cox called DeRosa a “petty thug.” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi accused Cox of drinking “too many Bloody Marys after morning squash.”
Cox then blasted Azzopardi for “petty lies.”