Friday, April 12, 2024

ACCUSER: IG Who Was Supposed to Watchdog Cuomo Instead Was His ‘Rubber-Stamp’

BOYLAN: 'I’d say it’s embarrassing if it weren’t such shameless corruption...'

(Steve Bittenbender, The Center SquareNew York Gov. Kathy Hochul again called for patience Monday as she looks to implement ethics reforms in state government and fill a position vacated by an ally of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

On Friday, City & State reported that Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro submitted her resignation to Hochul. Robyn Adair, currently the chief deputy inspector general, will serve as the acting inspector general until the governor appoints a new one.

Cuomo tabbed Tagliafierro for the watchdog role in 2019. She served more than 20 years in New York state government roles, including as the executive director of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). She also held various positions within the executive chamber during her career in Albany.

In a Twitter post Friday night retweeting the City & State article, Lindsey Boylan, whose sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo helped spur the investigation leading to his downfall, said that it was “shocking” Tagliafierro had such longevity in state government.

“Her sole purpose in every job she had working in the Cuomo administration was to rubber stamp everything he did,” Boylan said. “I’d say it’s embarrassing if it weren’t such shameless corruption.”

Tagliafierro was the inspector general at the time a case alleging an illegal leak of a confidential vote was investigated. In January 2019, a commissioner appointed by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie reported that she was contacted by a speaker’s aide, who told her that Cuomo was upset with how she voted in a closed session discussion.

While Tagliafierro had recused herself because of her past connection to the commission, questions arose after the OIG found no illegal leak yet also never interviewed Cuomo or Heastie about the matter.

Last month, JCOPE requested Attorney General Letitia James review the OIG’s investigation for possible criminal activity. However, James refused to take on the matter, noting that while eight members voted for the referral, none of the governor’s appointees did. That meant, under JCOPE’s complex rules, it was not a valid referral.

An attempt to resubmit the referral at a JCOPE meeting last week failed.

On Sunday, the Albany Times-Union posted an in-depth article that focused on how the inspector general position became a scrutinized one under Cuomo. It also noted that Tagliafierro resigned one day after the paper asked the governor if the inspector general would remain in that position.

In a tweet Monday that highlighted the article, Rob Astorino, a former Westchester County executive now seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination next year, laid out how he’d handle public ethics.

“My plan calls for the governor to appoint an IG to a 5-yr term but they would report to a new and empowered bipartisan ethics commission – not the governor,” he wrote.

When Hochul took over last month for Cuomo, she vowed to clean up state politics from corruption. However, she also said she was going to need 45 days to put that vision in place.

The 45-day window ends next month.

During a brief news conference Monday after a photo opportunity with Ireland Prime Minister Micheál Martin, she told reporters that the changes will likely be significant.

“We’ll be changing personnel in all these offices, and I know everyone understands; I need a little bit of time,” she said. “Because in order to get the right people in, I have to sometimes bring up subordinates to fill vacant roles while we do proper vetting. And I want to get the vetting right, to make sure that no one has any issues that’ll come back later and make us regret a decision.”

Some legislators and public watchdog have questioned whether individuals appointed by state leaders can really monitor ethics issues. And after Hochul chose a Cuomo appointee to serve as the JCOPE acting chair at last week’s meeting, which also featured a failed public vote to retract approval of Cuomo’s controversial book deal, some of those individuals questioned her commitment to the cause.

After that JCOPE meeting, Hochul said she remained committed, and she doubled down on that Monday. Besides bringing in new people, Hochul added she’s also weighing how JCOPE commissioners and inspector generals are appointed.

“All those are questions on the table, as I’m really rethinking how we conduct ethics investigations and internal investigations in our state government,” she said. “And I believe there needs to be more independence than there has been historically.”…Original Source

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