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Cuomo report a call for change

Former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo so far has

Former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo so far has not sufficiently refuted the sexual harassment claims. Credit: Office of the Governor

Much of the Assembly Judiciary Committee's report released Monday reiterates, highlights and expands upon egregious allegations against former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. But some of it requires additional investigation and analysis, and policy changes to prevent future abuses.

The details, not only regarding sexual harassment but also troubling new conclusions regarding the misuse of state resources in the writing of Cuomo's book "American Crisis," and his controversial handling of data regarding nursing home COVID-19 deaths, illustrate a disturbing pattern of bad behavior along with potential violations of state ethics rules.

The report by law firm Davis, Polk & Wardwell confirms facts and accounts outlined by Attorney General Letitia James and points to "overwhelming evidence that the former Governor engaged in sexual harassment." The analysis reinforces what we knew: that a dozen women, mostly state employees, are accusing Cuomo of varying degrees of unwelcome sexual advances. It highlights the cases of two as violations of the state's sexual harassment law. So far, Cuomo has not sufficiently refuted those claims.

Despite Cuomo's promises to cooperate, the report says he didn't comply with the committee's requests. On Monday, however, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi pushed back, saying "none" of the accusations would stand after facts are "fairly weighted."

Beyond the sexual harassment claims, the Assembly report tackles Cuomo's apparent mishandling of both his $5.2 million book deal and the incomplete reporting of nursing home deaths. The report's description of the extent to which gubernatorial staff worked on the book is alarming, certainly seeming to violate guidelines of the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics and, possibly, state ethics laws.

Both junior and senior staff allegedly worked on the book as part of their "normal" work days, in ways that "detracted from their state duties" during the pandemic. If that weren't enough, the publisher apparently suggested the book's acknowledgment section refrain from mentioning gubernatorial staff to avoid questions about their involvement — a suggestion that was followed.

Azzopardi denied some of those allegations, too, saying only senior staffers worked on the book and only as volunteers.

The report also indicated a connection between Cuomo's book and his handling of the nursing home crisis. It noted that on July 6 — the day Cuomo released incomplete state Department of Health data on nursing home deaths that included only deaths inside homes, hiding the extent of the pandemic's impact on our most vulnerable residents — Cuomo and a senior official also met with the book publisher.

The questions raised by the book and nursing home allegations, in particular, require closer examination.

Azzopardi promised Monday: "The truth will come out."

But if the truth is as Assembly investigators presented, Cuomo will have to be held accountable. And the State Legislature should tighten ethics rules regarding the use of state employees for political and personal gain.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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