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Fallout continues for Andrew Cuomo allies

In this May 2, 2011 file photo, Rich

In this May 2, 2011 file photo, Rich Bamberger, communications director for then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a podium in Albany. Credit: AP/Mike Groll

ALBANY — The fallout continues for allies of former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

A number of former Cuomo aides have lost their jobs in the private sector after an investigation revealed they advised him on how to respond to allegations of sexual harassment.

Inside state government, Gov. Kathy Hochul, who replaced Cuomo on Aug. 24, recently terminated about 20 Cuomo appointees from various posts, sources said.

Those who were let go by Hochul were not as high-profile and not associated with the harassment investigation.

Nonetheless, they included some longtime Cuomo staffers, including Joe Rabito, who filled a variety of posts over the years and had recently been appointed head of the state Environmental Facilities Corp., which helps finance and plan community projects.

The Hochul administration wouldn’t provide a specific number of how many Cuomo officials who have been terminated.

But a Hochul aide confirmed, "changes are being made," saying it was "all part of a transition period as part of a new administration."

Political analysts said more personnel changes are expected.

"She’s letting go enough people so it makes an impact," Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic consultant who worked on campaigns for and against Cuomo, said, referring to Hochul.

"After that, the ones likely to go are the ones who stand out as Cuomo loyalists," Sheinkopf said.

Then there are the Republicans hired by the former governor. "She won’t need the GOP people," Sheinkopf said. "They are likely to go eventually."

Cuomo resigned following an investigation by state Attorney General Letitia James that determined he sexually harassed multiple women.

James' probe accelerated a fast-moving process to impeach Cuomo in the state Assembly.

The Assembly was probing those allegations, as well as assertions he used state personnel and resources to help produce a pandemic memoir that netted him a $5.1 million book deal and undercounted the number of COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes to shield criticism of his policies.

Cuomo served nearly 11 years in office.

On her second day in office, Hochul said she already had removed some Cuomo staffers named in the James investigation as helping the governor respond to the harassment allegations and, in one instance, try to discredit an accuser.

Allies involved with Cuomo’s efforts who were fired or resigned from posts include:

  • Alphonso David, Cuomo’s former counsel, was fired by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group, on Sept. 6.
  • Josh Vlasto and Rich Bamberger, members of Cuomo’s communications team during his first term in office, parted from Kivvit, a politically connected New York-based public relations firm, by mutual agreement.
  • Steve Cohen, a longtime Cuomo adviser and troubleshooter, resigned from the board of Empire State Development Corp., the state’s economic development agency. He remains on the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
  • Linda Lacewell, another longtime Cuomo adviser who filled a variety of positions for him over the past decade, resigned as head of the state Department of Financial Services.

Besides former Cuomo staff members and advisers, two top officials of Time's Up, an organization whose mission is to protect women from harassment, resigned.

Tina Tchen, the group's CEO, and Roberta Kaplan, its board chairman, gave Cuomo staffers feedback on how to respond to one of the governor's initial accusers, according to the attorney general.

Given the circumstances of Cuomo's departure and his bruising political style, George Arzt, a veteran New York campaign strategist, said, "You expect a fallout to leap upon any of his top subordinates and, sometimes, middle subordinates."

Arzt said private and nonprofit entities are concerned that an association with Cuomo allies named in the James investigation could "taint your brand."

"There was a lot of toxicity in what Cuomo did," that at least in the short-term, his allies also will carry, Arzt said.

"Let's face it. Cuomo had a real hard-boiled, my way or the highway kind of approach, and that often rubs off on your team," said Michael Dawidziak, a Long Island political consultant who works primarily with Republicans.

"If you were one of those of involved in that management style, you shouldn’t be surprised," Dawidziak said.

That Hochul will go into October before filling out her top staff isn't surprising either, Dawidziak said, given Cuomo's abrupt departure.

"With a typical election, you have a transition period and you have time to assemble staff and time to do background checks on people," Dawidziak said.

Since that's not the case now, Hochul "has to go with career service people until she can at least get some vetting done," he said.

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