The state Assembly will issue a public report of the findings resulting from its impeachment probe into disgraced Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Speaker Carl Heastie said Monday.
Heastie’s statement comes after facing an avalanche of criticism over the weekend for ruling on Friday the Assembly would suspend impeachment proceeding after the scandal-scarred Cuomo announced his intention to resign.
Heastie’s decision outraged Cuomo’s sexual harassment victims and blindsided members of his own Judiciary Committee, which was conducting the probe of Cuomo. The speaker short-circuited a committee hearing that was scheduled for today.
“The Assembly Judiciary Committee will continue to review evidence and issue a final report on its investigation of Governor Cuomo,” Heastie (D-Bronx) said.
“In doing so, the committee will take all appropriate steps to ensure that this effort does not interfere with various ongoing investigations by the United States Attorney concerning nursing home data; the attorney general concerning the governor’s memoir; and local law enforcement authorities in five jurisdictions — Manhattan, Albany, Westchester, Nassau and Oswego — regarding possible criminal incidents of sexual misconduct.” he said.
In addition to the harassment allegations, the Assembly’s impeachment probe was examining allegations that Cuomo used taxpayer resources to draft his $5 million COVID memoir, misled the public about nursing home deaths during the pandemic and covered up safety issues at the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, which replaced the Tappan Zee.
Charlotte Bennett, one of Cuomo’s sex-harass accusers, ripped Heastie on Sunday for taking the “coward’s way out” by ending the impeachment probe and failing to hold Cuomo accountable.
The three-term Democratic incumbent governor stunned the state by announcing last week that he would resign from office instead of battling for his political survival following the publication of a bombshell 168-page report from Attorney General Letitia James, which alleges he sexually harassed or groped 11 women, including several state employees, which he has repeatedly denied.
The Assembly had the votes to impeach Cuomo and the Senate had the votes to toss him from office after a trial, legislative sources said.
“We took enormous risk of speaking out about the abuse and harassment we experienced, and the AG’s independent investigation that followed corroborated our allegations and determined that the governor broke state and federal law,” said Bennett, a 25-year-old former Cuomo staffer.
“Still, the speaker can’t muster enough courage to do his job,” she claimed.
“After spending millions in taxpayer dollars and issuing lofty statements, he’s failed to lift a finger to make clear that New York rejects Cuomo’s behavior.”
The Assembly’s attorneys concluded that New York’s state constitution did not allow them to move to impeach an official who had already stepped down from office, Heastie said.
At the very least, Judiciary Committee members said the ongoing investigation into alleged Cuomo misconduct on a host of issues must continue and a report of its findings must be published after spending millions of dollars.
“We owe this to the 11 brave women whose stories of gubernatorial misconduct were detailed in the devastating report of the NYS attorney general,” said Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright (D-Manhattan), a member of the Judiciary Committee.
“We owe this to the taxpayers of New York who are entitled to restitution of improperly utilized state resources. We owe a full accounting to the people of New York, to help serve as the basis for assuring that new safeguards going forward are subsequently adopted. There are far too many unanswered questions that need addressing in the public record.”
Said Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens), “This is what I’ve been saying all along. We must do a public report on Cuomo.”
The six Republican members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Friday said in a statement that they were “outraged” by Heastie’s decision to halt impeachment but also called for the panel to release a full report of what it had uncovered so far.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will take over as governor on Aug. 25 after Cuomo exits, vowing to end Albany’s “legacy of sleaze.”