ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - Republicans called Friday for a ‘law enforcement’ investigation of Governor Cuomo and his administration.
They were reacting to the latest revelation in the ongoing controversy surrounding Cuomo’s response to COVID deaths in the state’s nursing homes.
In this case, Cuomo’s top aide admitted to Democratic lawmakers that the administration took months to release data on the coronavirus death toll among nursing home residents because officials “froze” over worries the information was “going to be used against us.”
The aide, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, apologized to the group of Democratic lawmakers.
Cuomo’s critics believe thousands of New Yorkers died unnecessarily in the state’s nursing homes, because of a flawed Cuomo administration COVID 19 policy.
“To think that the secretary to the governor, the top aide to the governor, is apologizing to politicians but not to the people of New York for a policy that was flawed and tragic is just appalling,” said Joe Griffo, a Republican state senator from the Utica area who represents part of St. Lawrence and Lewis counties.
Several Republicans said either Attorney General Letitia James or - failing in that - a bi-partisan group of district attorneys should investigate both the Cuomo administration’s directive last March that COVID positive patients be admitted to nursing homes capable of caring for them, and the administration’s subsequent handling of data about the number of nursing home residents who died from COVID.
The administration had claimed the number of deaths to be fewer than 9,000, but they were not counting as nursing home deaths residents who got sick, went to the hospital and died. Under pressure from the attorney general, that number has now been revised to more than 15,000, if you include nursing homes and other long term care facilities.
DeRosa’s acknowledgement and apology fueled Republican anger Friday.
“Our conference members are very, very upset,” said Will Barclay, the state assemblyman from Pulaski who leads the Republicans in the assembly.
Nick Langworthy, the head of the Republican Party in New York, said Cuomo should be impeached.
“That is the only justice that can be done. He cannot be trusted to resign, this can’t be about one staffer quitting over the matter. There needs to be justice done in this state if the state is going to have any faith from its citizens once again,” he said.
7 News asked several Republicans that - assuming the worst for the Cuomo administration, that they had a failed policy which resulted in COVID deaths and then tried to hide the extent of the damage, what the crime would be.
No one we spoke with was sure.
Robert Ortt, the Republican leader in the state senate, said “That’s why we need a full investigation to determine if there was a crime. When I read this story, it sounds to me like there’s potential obstruction of justice.”
Still, even if they can’t say what - exactly - is legally wrong, Republicans insisted Friday that the Cuomo administration has broken trust with the public.
“I think people want to believe everything was done right. They want to believe everybody was trying and doing the best thing. But they also want to believe they’re getting the truth,” Ortt said.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.