ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB)– Members of the New York State Assembly have sent a letter to their assembly colleagues urging their fellow members to support a bill stripping Governor Cuomo of his emergency executive powers.

The letter, signed by nine members of the Assembly, outlines the recent New York Post report claiming the Cuomo administration withheld state nursing home death data.

“In an attempt to circumvent a United States Department of Justice probe, and despite a
joint hearing held by the State Legislature last August in which representatives of the
Cuomo administration were compelled to testify and answer crucial questions to our
body, it is now unambiguously clear that this governor has engaged in an intentional
obstruction of justice, as outlined in Title 18, Chapter 73 of the United States Code.”

Assemblymembers Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Harvey Epstein, Yuh-Line Niou, Ron Kim, Emily Gallagher, Marcela Mitaynes, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Zohran Mamdani, Robert Carroll

Assemblymembers Ron Kim and Senator Biaggi are introducing the bill that repeals certain 2020 amendments to the Executive Law which expanded the governor’s authority. The assemblymembers in the letter say the governor has engaged in a “criminal use of power.”

The assemblymembers say this bill is a “necessary first step in beginning to right the criminal wrongs” of the Cuomo administration.

“Most consequentially, if this Legislature fails to take collective action in stripping the
Governor of his emergency powers and engage in additional measures to seek the
realization of justice, including overriding an eventual executive veto and potentially
the commencement of impeaching proceedings against Governor Cuomo, per the
powers vested in the Assembly as articulated in Article VI, §24 of the State
Constitution, then we too shall be complicit along with this administration in the
obstruction of justice and conscious omission of nursing home deaths data.”

Assemblymembers Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Harvey Epstein, Yuh-Line Niou, Ron Kim, Emily Gallagher, Marcela Mitaynes, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Zohran Mamdani, Robert Carroll

In the letter’s conclusion, the assemblymembers ask their colleagues to divest their loyalties to the governor and consider signing onto the bill and “resolutely pursue justice.”

Below is a list of those in the legislature that signed the letter:

  • Ron Kim, Member of the Assembly
  • Harvey Epstein, Member of Assembly
  • Emily Gallagher, Member of Assembly
  • Phara Souffrant Forrest, Member of Assembly
  • Robert Carroll, Member of Assembly
  • Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Member of Assembly
  • Yuh-Line Niou, Member of Assembly
  • Marcela Mitaynes, Member of Assembly
  • Zohran Mamdani, Member of Assembly

In response to the assemblymembers’ proposed legislation, Governor Cuomo’s Senior Advisor Rich Azzopardi released the following statement.

“Mr. Kim is lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo Thursday night. I know because I was one of three other people in the room when the phone call occurred. At no time did anyone threaten to ‘destroy’ anyone with their ‘wrath’ nor engage in a ‘coverup.’ That’s beyond the pale and is unfortunately part of a years-long pattern of lies by Mr. Kim against this administration. We did ask for Mr. Kim to do the honorable thing and put out a truthful statement after he told the Governor he was misquoted in a news article, which he said he tried to correct but the reporter refused.  Kim said he would correct the story and then broke his word. No surprise.  Instead over the last six days he has baselessly accused this administration of pay to play and obstruction of justice. These continued falsehoods are why the Governor chose to speak out today.  We will not allow an unscrupulous politician to deceive New Yorkers or distort the truth.  Mr. Kim’s current statements do not even align with the comments he made at the meeting (see below).  He is without credibility as his own words demonstrate.  Lies have caused families grieving from COVID enough pain.  We understand it is our obligation to correct misstatements so families understand the true facts during COVID.

“Mr. Kim and the Governor’s office have had a long, hostile relationship.  The animosity initiated when Mr. Kim supported a bill protecting nail salon workers only to do a 180 degree reversal after he received significant funding from the owners of the nail salons.  He was criticized by good government groups at the time and the Governor’s office called his actions into question.  Mr. Kim continues to receive funding from nail salon owners and continues his attempts to remove the protections for nail salon workers.  It is an ongoing unethical situation with Kim receiving funding from owners attempting to stop our efforts to protect victimized nail salon workers.  We believe Kim’s continuing pay-to-play actions are at a minimum unethical and when and if investigated will prove to be illegal.  To be clear, neither the Governor nor his aides threatened any legislators and in fact, the meeting in questions was considered positive by those who attended.  It is the distortions of the meeting by those with different agendas that we object to.

“On the merits Mr. Kim and the NY Post and republicans argue that the state’s March 25th order on nursing homes was bad policy.  What they fail to mention is the state was following federal policy and if the Post and republicans want to play a political blame game, they should blame Donald Trump and they should have blamed Donald Trump’s since last March 25th when they promulgated the guidance.  We will stick to the facts.

“Dr. Zucker does not believe the March 25th order was wrong.  Even with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, health experts do not believe it was wrong.  We believe it saved lives and the facts demonstrate that.  If, with the advantage of hindsight, we concluded the March 25th order was wrong, Commissioner Howard Zucker would admit that and we would take action against the federal government for malpractice in issuing flawed guidance. COVID was already in the nursing homes by the time March 25th arrived.  That is a proven fact.  Hospital beds were critical.  And that is a proven fact.  People needed hospital beds with ventilators and critical care nursing staff to save their lives.  We provided that.  Unlike other states and countries our hospital system was not overwhelmed and we went from the highest infect rate to the lowest and saved lives.  That is the irrefutable truth. 

“We do agree that we did not provide enough public information quickly enough which created a void for conspiracy theories to flourish.  We accept responsibility for creating the void and in a perfect world, the conspiracy theorists would accept responsibility also.  In a more perfect world the conspiracy theorists would stop playing politics and negatively effecting the grieving families who lost loved ones in nursing homes.  Obviously in this toxic political environment, it is not a perfect world.”

Rich Azzopardi, Senior Advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo

Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.