Cuomo to be stripped of pandemic-linked emergency powers as scandals deepen

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Saturday, March 6, 2021
Cuomo to be stripped of emergency pandemic powers
Dave Evans has the latest on the controversy surrounding Governor Cuomo, including state Legislature repealing his emergency pandemic powers.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The Democratic-controlled state Legislature repealed Gov Cuomo's emergency pandemic power on Friday night but approved a bill that allowed him to continue to modify existing restrictions.

The Assembly voted for the measure 107-43 after the measure was approved in the state Senate 43-20.

Cuomo now cannot issue new statewide directives without legislative consent, although he can still issue executive orders.

Existing orders will remain in effect, such as mask wearing requirements, and Cuomo can modify existing restrictions, such as limits on public gatherings and capacity.

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie released a statement Friday night saying,

"A year ago, as New York was being ravaged by COVID-19, we passed legislation to give the governor temporary emergency powers that would allow the state to nimbly react to a constantly evolving, deadly situation. These temporary emergency powers were always meant to be that - temporary.

Now, New Yorkers are getting vaccinated and we are beginning to look toward a return to normalcy. And with that, our government must return to regular order. By immediately repealing the temporary emergency powers, allowing no new directives to be issued and bringing transparency and oversight to the standing directives, we can establish better communication and collaboration with our local communities and help preserve the health and wellbeing of New Yorkers as we see the light at the end of the tunnel of this devastating and deadly healthcare crisis."

"I think everyone understands where we were back in March and where we are now. We certainly see the need for a quick response but also want to move toward a system of increased oversight and review. The public deserves to have checks and balances," Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in an earlier statement.

The state assembly debated the measure on Friday.

New York Democrats are expected to pass a bill that would repeal some of Governor Andrew Cuomo's executive powers.

Outside of the state capitol building, the governor is taking fire from multiple fronts.

On Friday afternoon, attorney Debra Katz, representing Charlotte Bennett, sent a new letter to Attorney General Letitia James asking her to ensure evidence related to Bennett's report of sexual harassment would be preserved by the governor's office and senior staff.

The urgency of Katz's request was heightened by recent news reports that the governor's staff modified government reports related to other matters.

A source told ABC News that Attorney General James did indeed send a document preservation request to Gov. Cuomo's office, instructing staff and aides to preserve electronic and written communications that relates to the investigation into sexual harassment allegations.

Rich Azzopardi, Senior Advisor to the Governor on Twitter by saying, "We received this request March 1 and our counsel's office acted promptly and notified all chamber staff of their obligations associated with that."

This was in addition to reports that dropped Thursday night regarding the governor's handling of data on nursing home deaths.

The Wall Street Journal and New York Times are reporting that the governor's top advisors, got state health officials to remove data on a public report showing how many nursing home residents died from COVID-19.

The report from last summer only reported numbers of residents who actually died in the nursing homes and it did not including those residents who died at hospitals.

It's a reporting difference that State Attorney General Letitia James has said under-reported the nursing home death toll by as much as 50%.

Candace McCowan reports on the controversy.

She added that Cuomo's directive requiring nursing homes to take in patients no matter their COVID status contributed to the spread.

The governor's office responded to the report saying, "The out-of-facility data was omitted after DOH could not confirm it had been adequately verified - this did not change the conclusion of the report."

Cuomo is also facing more heat on sexual harassment claims after one of his accusers spoke on camera last night on the CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell.

Charlotte Bennett, one of three women accusing the governor right now, said inappropriate interactions with Cuomo came last spring during the heat of the pandemic while she was working at the governor's office.

She was 25 years old and said it was clear the governor was propositioning her for sex.

"I thought, he's trying to sleep with me, the governor is trying to sleep with me and I'm very uncomfortable," Bennett said during the interview on the CBS Evening News. "He asked me if age difference matters... I'm 25. Without explicitly saying it, he implied... he was lonely."

Bennet said she was uncomfortable and got out of his office as soon as possible.

She said that the governor only apologized for her feelings and not for the act of sexually harassing her.

WATCH | Gov. Cuomo apologizes to victims:

Gov. Cuomo is apologizing for making his accusers feel uncomfortable.

Former Cuomo adviser Lindsey Boylan told Harper's Bazaar in an article published Thursday that she woke up one day in December, and saw Cuomo "being floated for attorney general, the highest law enforcement position in the U.S."

She had tweeted earlier about an abusive workplace environment in the administration, but after an unnamed woman reached out to her with a story of being harassed by Cuomo and seeing the possibility of him in the Biden administration being raised, she said, "I didn't think about it at all. ... I began tweeting about my experience."

The 36-year-old Boylan worked for Cuomo's team from March 2015 to October 2018 and recounted her story of sexual harassment in the series of Twitter posts. Boylan elaborated on her accusations in a Feb. 24 Medium post in which she said Cuomo once suggested a game of strip poker and on another occasion kissed her without her consent.

Cuomo has pledged his full cooperation with the investigation and pubicly apologized on Wednesday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday said, "No, I don't think it changes anything," of the governor's apology.

WATCH | Local politicians react to Cuomo sexual harassment allegations

Joe Torres has more on the reaction of New Yorkers and local politicians on the sexual harassment allegations against Governor Cuomo.


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