Ethics complaint filed against Gov. Cuomo over preferential COVID testing

The Republican leader of the state Senate filed a formal complaint urging the ethics watchdog to open a probe into whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo broke the law by allegedly improperly arranging coronavirus tests for his relatives and connected officials and pals.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt (R-Lockport) cited reports that alleged Cuomo used state Health Department officials to administer the COVID-19 swab tests to his brother, CNN anchor Chris, and his 89-year-old mother, Matilda.

Tests were also allegedly given to a pharmaceutical executive in March 2022 before they were widely available to the public. The reports also claimed state police were used to transport the specimens to the Wadsworth laboratory upstate to speed up obtaining the results.

“I write to file a formal complaint against Governor Andrew M. Cuomo regarding what appears to be a very clear, straightforward violation of the public officer’s Code of Ethics,” Ortt said in a letter sent to 14 commissioners who serve on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

New York Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt (R-Lockport) cited reports that alleged Cuomo used state Health Department officials to administer the COVID-19 swab tests to his brother, CNN anchor Chris, and his 89-year-old mother, Matilda.
New York Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt (R-Lockport) cited reports that alleged Cuomo used state Health Department officials to administer the COVID-19 swab tests to his brother, CNN anchor Chris, and his 89-year-old mother, Matilda.
Hans Pennink

Ortt cited sections of the Public Officers Law that says a “no officer or employee” should use his or her position “to secure unwarranted privileges” to himself or others and not engage in “misappropriation to himself or others “the property, services or other resources of the state for private business or other compensated non-governmental purposes.”

The law also states that a public official should not use his or her position to provide preferential treatment and be “engaged in acts that are in violation of his or her trust.”

Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt, R-Lockport voices his negative opinion while standing with Senate Republicans as state Legislators vote to keep Gov. Andrew Cuomo's pandemic-era powers on March 5, 2022.
Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt, R-Lockport voices his negative opinion while standing with Senate Republicans as state Legislators vote to keep Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pandemic-era powers on March 5, 2022.
Hans Pennink

“It appears that Governor Cuomo clearly violated these provisions, when, according to media reports from the Times Union and the Washington Post, he provided special, preferential access to state-administered COVID-19 testing to members of his family and other well-connected individuals,” Ortt said.

“The reports also allege that the governor dispatched a top state doctor and other state health officials to these individuals’ homes and penthouse apartments, and then used state troopers to rush the specimens to Wadsworth Center. At Wadsworth, the specimens were reportedly then pushed to the front of the line and tested immediately.”

In the letter to JCOPE, Ortt noted that neither Cuomo or his press office have denied the allegations in the stories.

“It does not take a stretch of the imagination to see a clear connection between Governor Cuomo using his official position as the head of state government and the unwarranted privileges provided to his own family members and close associates,” Ortt said.

“Obviously, while these actions would be egregious during normal times, they are particularly unconscionable because they occurred early on during the pandemic, at a time when testing was in short supply and high demand.”

Ortt concluded, “In view of these explosive, deeply troubling revelations, I urge the Commission to call for an immediate meeting in order to formally commence a full and comprehensive investigation into whether the Governor has broken the law and committed an ethics violation.”

Critics have long complained that JCOPE is not the appropriate body to investigate the governor.

Cuomo’s appointees at JCOPE have blocked any major probes that would cast a negative light on him or his inner circle, they said.

George Yancopoulos, president of Regeneron, was reportedly given special access to COVID-19 tests in 2022.
George Yancopoulos, president of Regeneron, was reportedly given special access to COVID-19 tests in 2022.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

A case in point is that JCOPE has not taken any action against former top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco, who was convicted in a federal corruption scandal for soliciting bribes from a company doing business with the state.

During his bribery trial, it was revealed that Percoco, then Cuomo’s 2014 re-election campaign chairman and former deputy secretary, was using the governor’s office in Manhattan to conduct campaign business, including making hundreds of phone calls.

He wasn’t charged with any federal crimes relating to the phone calls. But misusing government resources for campaign purpose is illegal — a violation of the state Public Officers Law.

Credit: NYPOST

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