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Legislature’s Time to Act on Cuomo

Wed, 03/31/2021 - 17:53

Editorial

As more women go public with accounts of harassment by New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the other big scandal — nursing home deaths from Covid-19 — risks becoming overshadowed. The governor has insisted that he would not resign, as many have called for. This increases pressure on the State Legislature to begin impeachment proceedings because the isolated and embattled governor has lost the capacity to lead.

Last spring when Covid-19 numbers were soaring upward, the state ordered that nursing homes had to take back residents who had been hospitalized with the virus and recovered. The explanation at the time was that hospitals could otherwise have become overwhelmed.

It is thought that thousands of nursing residents died as a result of the policy. But as early as June, when as many as 9,200 nursing home residents were dead, the governor’s senior aides covered it up. Mr. Cuomo continued to hide nursing home deaths as the pandemic wore on, in part by not counting residents who died of Covid-19 outside nursing homes.

By excluding nursing home residents who died in hospitals, Mr. Cuomo apparently believed he could obscure the suspected effect of the earlier policy. He agreed to release the information only after the state attorney general exposed the deliberate undercount and a court ordered it released. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now probing the matter and the question of whether nursing home operators were improperly given protection from lawsuits.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James’s office is also trying to determine whether one of Mr. Cuomo’s senior advisers tried to pressure Democratic county executives about their loyalty, perhaps dangling vaccine distribution as an incentive to stick by him.

To summarize what is now known about Mr. Cuomo’s treatment of women, it is clear that he crossed boundaries specifically prohibited by a new state law that he himself signed regarding workplace harassment. As of this week, nine women had come forward to speak about their treatment by the governor. Mr. Cuomo’s responses have shifted from “simply not true” when the first report was made public, to “I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm.”

In addition, the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics has had difficulty getting relevant details from the governor about his recent seven-figure book deal. And now we know that the governor hustled to get Covid-19 tests for family members and close allies early in the pandemic, when tests were largely unavailable to public.

In an impeachment, two-thirds of the State Senate would have to vote to remove the governor from office after his indictment in the Assembly. Mr. Cuomo has said he hoped New Yorkers would reserve judgment until the investigations played out. This is the same strategy that he followed the last time his tenure was seriously threatened in the Moreland anti-corruption commission, disbanding as it drew closer to his inner circle. An investigation concluded then that there was not sufficient evidence to convict the governor, and he went back to work. But, given the multiple issues involving Mr. Cuomo, his future rightly belongs in the hands of elected legislators, as laid out in the State Constitution.

Mr. Cuomo’s patterns of abuse of power and sexual bullying of women are becoming clearer every day. His own staff has described the efforts in the nursing home cover-up. It is difficult to envision what else lawmakers would need to initiate his impeachment.

 


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