The clock is ticking on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tenure, but it is moving too slowly for some critics who are concerned about how he will use his remaining time in office.
Cuomo announced his resignation on Tuesday, following a blistering report by the state attorney general that found he had sexually harassed 11 women, but said he would not leave office until August 24th.
Cuomo stated that the two weeks are required to ensure a smooth transition for his successor, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. Hochul told reporters on Wednesday that the delay was “not what she asked for” and that she was ready to be sworn in right away, but Cuomo said the extra time was necessary. David Paterson, Cuomo’s predecessor as governor, said on Thursday that Cuomo’s position was “suspicious.”
“It was just a little perplexing that they wanted that amount of time,” said Paterson, who was lieutenant governor when then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation in 2008 due to a prostitution scandal. Spitzer, according to Paterson, was prepared to resign immediately but stayed on for five days at the request of the stunned Paterson so he could have a proper swearing-in ceremony.
He believes Hochul is already prepared to take over as governor, given the harassment allegations that have dogged Cuomo for months. “She’s ready,” he said, implying that Cuomo may not be. “I just think the governor hasn’t resolved what’s actually going on in his mind yet, and his self-awareness just doesn’t seem to be particularly helpful to him at this particular time,” Paterson said.
Former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office investigated the Cuomo administration, said on a podcast this week that Cuomo is capable of “mischief” and that the two-week lag “hopefully isn’t nefarious.”
Cuomo, according to Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, is taking advantage of the opportunity to do the right thing for Hochul and the state.
“It is to ensure an orderly transition at this critical time when key decisions on Covid, the Delta variant, and other significant challenges confronting the state remain,” he explained.
According to Susan Lerner, executive director of the watchdog group Common Cause New York, any major decisions should be made by Hochul rather than Cuomo.
“There are still open investigations into the governor,” Lerner said, referring to the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s investigation into the administration’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic and state Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into whether Cuomo used state funds to publish his book on leadership during the coronavirus crisis. Cuomo has not been charged with any crimes and has categorically denied any wrongdoing in those cases, as well as in the sexual harassment investigation.
The state Assembly Judiciary Committee has been investigating all of the allegations as part of its impeachment investigation, and Lerner is concerned that Cuomo will use the time to stymie the investigation.
Given Cuomo’s resignation, it’s unclear whether the Assembly will continue with the impeachment proceedings, but Lerner believes it should.
“A resignation in and of itself does not constitute accountability,” she explained.
Cuomo was given until Friday to provide additional evidence, and the judiciary committee is expected to announce its next steps after its meeting on Monday. Cuomo has made no public appearances since returning to Albany after delivering his resignation speech in New York City, but has posted written coronavirus updates on the state’s website.
According to a Cuomo administration official, the governor has been focused on combating the virus and has been “taking steps” to ensure Hochul’s team is up to date on covid issues and “upcoming decision points.” Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, also resigned this week but plans to stay until Cuomo formally departs. According to the official, DeRosa has met with Hochul’s chief of staff, and Cuomo has directed state agencies to prepare transition memos and that staff make themselves available to Hochul and her team for full briefings.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a frequent target and critic of Cuomo, told reporters that the governor doesn’t need to stay.