The Cuomo coverup continues

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

It would appear that we’re adding yet another scandal to the lengthy list of allegations involving New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. But this time, instead of additional sexual harassment claims or fibbing about the number of nursing home deaths, we’re seeing a blast from the past. This story deals with an accusation against Cuomo that dates back to early 2019 which had supposedly been investigated and dismissed. In January of that year, the state Inspector General’s office was asked to investigate whether or not confidential administrative information had been illegally leaked to Cuomo. It involved a closed meeting of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), where a meeting and a vote were taking place involving an investigation into one of Cuomo’s former top aides, Joseph Percoco.

The commission has members appointed by both the Democratic Assembly Speaker, Carl Heastie, and the Republican Minority Leader. Despite the proceedings of the meeting supposedly being secret, after the vote was held, Governor Cuomo allegedly called to bitterly complain about the way that Heastie’s appointees had voted. This would indicate that information about the closed-door meeting had been leaked to Cuomo in violation of the rules. But after a nine-month investigation, the Inspector General’s office determined that there was no proof that such a leak had happened and the investigation was closed.

Fast forward to last week when Speaker Heastie, during an interview with the Albany Times-Union, seemed to forget who he was talking to and admitted that Cuomo had called him after the commission meeting in question and complained about the vote. The Republican-appointed members of the commission immediately called for the Inspector General’s office to reopen the investigation. But the IG was having none of it. They are standing by their original investigation and telling the public that there’s nothing to see here so everyone should just move along. (Times-Union)

Despite recent statements appearing to confirm that information was illegally leaked to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the state inspector general’s office is declining a request by commissioners on a state ethics panel to reopen an investigation into the matter…

“The speaker’s acknowledgment that the leak actually occurred is incontrovertible evidence that there was a cover-up by the office of the inspector general,” the three Republican-appointed JCOPE commissioners said on Tuesday.

But Lee Park, a spokesman for the inspector general’s office, said on Wednesday that the office “will not be bullied or badgered by partisans regarding how it performs its statutorily mandated duties. The office stands by this investigation.”

One of the members of Congress from New York, Elise Stefanik, quickly responded with what was perhaps a bit less restraint than Cuomo might have expected.

As the reporters covering the story learned over the course of their investigation, the original IG investigation wasn’t exactly thorough. When trying to determine if Heastie’s appointees to the commission had illegally leaked information about the vote out to either Heastie or Cuomo, the IG failed to interview some key potential witnesses, including… Heastie and Cuomo. And now reporters have Heastie on the record saying that Cuomo had called him to complain, so there was obviously a leak. And yet they’re just going to let the matter drop.

And what was the original issue that the JCOPE was exploring when all of this started? They were looking into possible corruption charges against top Cuomo Aide Joseph Percoco. That’s the man that Andrew Cuomo previously said on multiple occasions was closer to him than his own brother. Of course, Percoco is a bit harder to reach for comment these days since in 2018 he was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of corruption charges involving public funds drained out of what became known as “the Buffalo Billion.”

Honestly, how much more proof did they need that the guy might merit some investigation? But miraculously, no investigations ever found Cuomo to be guilty of any of the shenanigans going on between his staff and some of his major donors and aides. And if we have to rely on the Inspector General’s office for the truth, it sounds like things are going to stay that way.