- Larry Schwartz, the man leading New York’s vaccination strategy, called county leaders to inquire about their support of Cuomo.
- Cuomo has faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate workplace behavior.
- Schwartz told The Washington Post he made the calls as Cuomo’s friend and didn’t mention the vaccine.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Larry Schwartz, a longtime aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who has led the state’s vaccine rollout strategy, called local officials in New York to determine whether they supported the governor amid multiple scandals, The Washington Post reported.
Schwartz worked in the governor’s office from 2011 until 2015, serving as secretary to Cuomo. He returned last year in a volunteer capacity to help Cuomo handle the pandemic and has been responsible for its vaccine rollout, The Washington Post reported.
According to the Sunday report, his calls to local officials, in which he asked county officials if they planned to publicly support Cuomo and stressed the importance of the ongoing state investigation, raise ethical questions about his role in the vaccine rollout.
When asked if Cuomo directed the calls, Schwartz told the outlet it was his choice to make them.
Cuomo’s attorney Beth Garvey in a statement to Insider on Sunday denied any allegations of wrongdoing.
“Larry answered our call to volunteer in March and has since then worked night and day to help New York through this pandemic, first managing surge capacity, and procuring necessary supplies for the state, setting up the contact tracing efforts, and now assisting with vaccine distribution,” Garvey said.
“Any suggestion that he acted in any way unethically or in any way other than in the best interest of the New Yorkers that he selflessly served is patently false,” she added.
Following his call with Schwartz, one Democratic official not identified in the Post report filed an ethics complaint with the public integrity unit of the state Attorney General’s office.
“I did nothing wrong,” Schwartz told The Washington Post, adding that he did not talk about the vaccines during the calls. “I have always conducted myself in a manner commensurate to a high ethical standard.”
“I did have conversations with a number of County Executives from across the State to ascertain if they were maintaining their public position that there is an ongoing investigation by the State Attorney General and that we should wait for the findings of that investigation before drawing any conclusions,” he told The Washington Post in an email, adding that no one seemed “uncomfortable” or unwilling to speak with him.
Several women who have worked with or near Cuomo have levied a range of accusations against him, ranging from inappropriate behavior to sexual harassment. Other former Cuomo staffers, including men and women, have claimed working under Cuomo was toxic. Cuomo has apologized for making women feel uncomfortable but has denied he acted inappropriately.
Cuomo is also embroiled in a scandal involving his handling of COVID-19 cases in New York nursing homes. A report from The Wall Street Journal earlier in March revealed that Cuomo staffers last year altered a state report to scrub data indicating thousands of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes — statistics that hadn’t been publicly available.
Cuomo has defied growing calls from members of his own party to resign, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, claiming that resigning amid an ongoing investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James would be “anti-Democratic.”
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