Despite the many scandals that have besieged him this year, or rather, the many impeachment-worthy things he did, Andrew Cuomo is staying strong. Sexual harassment, lying about COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, making medical professionals prioritize his friends for COVID tests, or using his governmental staff to do significant work on his self-mythologizing book, American Crisis, for which he received a $5.1 million dollar advance—Cuomo isn’t apologizing for any of it, and according to him, he’s “not going anywhere.” In order to make sure he doesn’t go anywhere, he’s refusing to release documents about his misuse of governmental staff labor on his book.
Last Friday, Cuomo’s office refused to release public records regarding American Crisis to the Albany Times Union, who requested them back in April. The Times Union previously released an extensive report, counter to Cuomo’s claims, staffers were given tasks related to American Crisis as part of their government duties, violating state law. It’s obvious why Cuomo’s team doesn’t want the Times Union to have documents regarding American Crisis; that reasoning just doesn’t have legal standing.
According to the Times Union, they requested the timesheets showing the governmental work hours for Cuomo aides who did extensive work on American Crisis (Melissa DeRosa and Stephanie Benton); the records Cuomo’s office provided to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics when requesting approval to publish the book; and copies of any recent investigative letters ethics regulators may have sent to Cuomo’s office.
Cuomo’s office refused to provide the timesheets, claiming the timesheets were “compiled for law enforcement purposes and . . . if disclosed, would . . . interfere with law enforcement investigations.” Cuomo’s office didn’t explain further. The Times Union speculates that this line of logic refers to the impeachment probe into Cuomo, which is investigating whether Cuomo’s use of his staff constitutes misuse of taxpayer resources, as well as his misleading claims about the COVID-19 death toll in nursing homes, the numerous sexual harassment allegations against him, and other COVID-related corruption.
Cuomo’s office also claimed it doesn’t have to provide the records Cuomo’s office sent to JCOPE, as well as any letters recently sent from JCOPE to Cuomo’s office, because of a state law exempting JCOPE’s records from the Freedom of Information Law. But this isn’t true; that law applies only to internal JCOPE records, and Cuomo’s team released In fact, JCOPE Commissioner Gary Lavine called Cuomo’s legal argument “absurd.”
This isn’t the only instance of Cuomo’s team stalling on releasing sensitive documents; Cuomo’s team refused to release JCOPE’s letter with the conditions for authorizing the American Crisis book deal to Buffalo News for almost an entire year, claiming they were having a hard time finding the documents as staffers were working from home. Cuomo’s team finally released the documents to Buffalo News just ninety minutes before an explosive New York Times story revealing Cuomo’s book-related use of his staff went public. It seems that Cuomo’s team’s strategy on pretty much everything is to hang tight, assuming the news cycle moves so fast that he’ll be let off the hook. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty good bet.