OPINION

OPINION: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano: ‘Resignation does not equal accountability’

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

When Andrew Cuomo announced he would be resigning, I made clear my belief that the numerous investigations surrounding the actions of the governor and his administration must be continued to completion to provide answers, truth, transparency and accountability. This was especially important and true for the family members who lost loved ones in nursing homes, the brave women who came forward to share their experiences and for all New Yorkers who have endured the cover ups and illegal activity of this governor. 

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

My Republican colleagues on the Assembly Judiciary Committee, who were tasked with conducting the impeachment investigation over the past five months, immediately and rightfully put out a statement stressing the importance of, and their commitment to, continuing their investigation to provide these answers and accountability for the victims, their families and providing all New Yorkers full disclosure of the details of this critical investigation. Unfortunately, in a late Friday afternoon news dump, the Assembly Democrat Majority leadership, without a vote and consultation with the full Judiciary Committee, outrageously and unilaterally made the decision they knew what was best and the victims, family members and the public did not deserve answers, truth, transparency and accountability. They were suspending the investigation. In doing so, they did a great disservice to New Yorkers while adding insult to injury and victimizing the injured parties all over again. 

Andrew Cuomo made the right decision to resign, but let's be very clear, resignation does not equal accountability. The Assembly Judiciary Committee was not just investigating the sexual harassment and toxic work environment claims. They were also investigating the tragic nursing home scandal which saw 15,000 seniors lose their lives, the disgusting $5.1 million book deal profit and the use of staff and state resources to negotiate and complete the book. All this, while at the same time covering up the actual nursing home deaths from families, the Legislature, the media and the public. And, let's not forget about the priority COVID testing for family members and other VIPs to the governor and the non-disclosure of structural safety issues surrounding the Mario Cuomo Bridge so Andrew Cuomo could get his photo-op driving over the bridge just two months before the election for governor in 2018.

The governor, in a recent interview in New York Magazine, claimed he would have beat impeachment and made the Legislature look like a "ship of fools." This egregious statement is certainly not a surprise, but just goes to show how arrogant and completely out of touch Andrew Cuomo truly is. How he continues to point fingers and blame at everyone else while failing to take responsibility for his actions. He pointed fingers and blamed visitors and staff for the deaths of the more than 15,000 seniors in nursing homes. According to Gov. Cuomo, these deaths had nothing to do with his directive requiring nursing homes to admit more than 9,000 COVID-19 positive patients and even prohibiting them from being tested for COVID-19 before admission. The governor, his staff and attorneys also pointed blame at the 11 women who bravely came forward, saying it was cultural and generational misunderstanding and just friendly joking.

Completion of the impeachment investigation could have ensured that Andrew Cuomo would never be able to run for statewide office in New York again. Completion of the impeachment investigation would have helped to bring needed and wanted answers, truth, transparency and accountability for victims, families and the public to provide some level of justice and closure. Unfortunately, the Assembly Democrat Majority leadership took that away with their wrong and shortsighted decision.

At a minimum, the Assembly needs to release all the findings and results of their investigation, which the public paid for. I also urge the US attorney's office, the FBI, the attorney general and several district attorneys to not follow the unfortunate and erroneous lead of the Assembly Democrat Majority leadership and see their investigations to completion. Completion will provide the answers, truth, transparency and accountability New Yorkers need and deserve. Anything less will add insult to injury and again victimize those who were hurt or impacted by the governor’s actions, just as the Assembly Democrat Majority leadership outrageously did late on Friday afternoon. The victims, their families and all New Yorkers deserve better.

New York State Assemblyman Phil Palmesano represents the 132nd District, which includes Yates and Schuyler counties, and parts of Steuben, Seneca and Chemung counties.