The sexual harassment investigation against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has widened in scope, as the state AG's office has begun looking into whether a top Cuomo adviser linked access to COVID-19 vaccines with political support for the governor, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter.
At least three Democratic county executives who say they were surprised at phone calls from Larry Schwartz, a volunteer adviser who oversaw vaccine distribution for the state - who asked the top Democrats whether they would call for Cuomo's resignation. Schwartz contacted over a half-dozen executives in early March as Cuomo faced mounting calls for his resignation from members of his own party - and had been personally contacting state lawmakers to affirm their support.
One county executive filed a complaint in March over a call from Schwartz, according to people familiar with the matter.
"Right at the time that every county was working, and desperately needed more vaccines, to receive a call from the person who was responsible for allocating those doses gauging political loyalty to the governor was an obvious conflict, and at best ethically gray," said the executive.
The executives said that at the time of Mr. Schwartz’s calls they were typically speaking with him about the allocation of vaccine supplies, not politics.
Mr. Schwartz has said he didn’t link vaccine distribution to political considerations. On Friday, he referred questions to his lawyer, Guy Petrillo, who declined to comment.
Mr. Schwartz, an executive at an airport-concession company, resigned from his post as the state’s vaccine czar last week after state lawmakers changed lobbying rules for nonpaid state advisers. Under the new rules, Mr. Schwartz would have been banned for two years from lobbying the governor’s office if he had stayed on in the role. -Wall Street Journal
The AG's investigation is one of several ongoing probes into Cuomo and his administration. Most notably, the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York is looking into the Governor's COVID-19 policies - including nursing home deaths during the pandemic after Cuomo ordered COVID-positive patients to be housed alongside the most vulnerable population.
Cuomo, meanwhile, is also under investigation over accusations of sexual misconduct by multiple women.
"I’ve already told New Yorkers where I am. I did nothing wrong, period. And I‘m not resigning, and I’m doing my job every day," said Cuomo.