Nursing Home Controversy Draws Scrutiny

After a high ranking official in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration was caught on tape discussing the state’s Covid response in nursing homes politicians, Republicans and Democrats, are calling for further scrutiny and possibly even impeachment.

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said that she wasn’t sure what to hand over in a Department of Justice inquiry about nursing homes, because she wasn’t sure what “was going to be used against us,” allegations detailed in news reports first appearing in the New York Post.

State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy believes what Governor Cuomo and his administration did was obstruction of justice.

“They made it about politics,” Langworthy said during a news conference at Erie County Republican Headquarters in downtown Buffalo on Friday. “These are laughable excuses. And it’s an insult to the intelligence in the integrity of 19 million New York taxpayers. He has grossly abused his power and he has destroyed the credibility and the trust of the Office of the governor. Andrew Cuomo must be prosecuted, and Andrew Cuomo must be impeached if this evidence exists. The truth is that this entire ordeal starting with that fateful executive order on March 25, was corrupt from the outset.”

A January report from the New York Attorney General’s office found preliminary information that the Department of Health had been undercounting nursing home COVID deaths, and many homes were failing to follow infectious disease control policies. In a statement, DeRosa said her comments on the conference call were about having to shift focus away from a similar request made by the State Senate, to the one made by the DOJ.

“I was explaining that when we received the DOJ inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the Legislature’s request to deal with the federal request first. We informed the houses of this at the time,” DeRosa said in the written statement. “We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ, and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout. As I said on a call with legislators, we could not fulfill their request as quickly as anyone would have liked. But we are committed to being better partners going forward as we share the same goal of keeping New Yorkers as healthy as possible during the pandemic.”

Inquiries and calls for action are also being taken by members of the governor’s own party as well. Tish James, a Democrat, headed the prior nursing home report in her capacity as Attorney General. New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams tweeted that Cuomo’s actions are “Trump-like,” and said the governor only apologizes when he is caught. In what is the largest pushback from Democratic legislators against Cuomo, 14 Democratic State Senators, including Sen. James Skoufis, Chair of the Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, signed onto a statement calling for the rescinding of the governor’s emergency powers as they are “no longer appropriate.”

Senator Skoufis (D-39) was also on the conference call obtained by the New York Post, and DeRosa’s comments about the DOJ inquiry were in response to a question posed by Skoufis asking why it was taking so long for the Department of Health and the governor’s office to respond to a similar inquiry made by both the State Senate and Assembly.

The governor’s emergency powers are set to expire on April 30, but the coalition of Democratic senators are calling for that to happen sooner.

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