The investigators looking into sexual harassment claims against Gov. Cuomo have wide, sweeping powers and are paid as much as $750 per hour

cuomo scandals
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

  • The investigators reviewing sexual harassment claims against Gov. Andrew Cuomo are being paid as much as $750 per hour.
  • Attorney General Letitia James hired the independent investigators after several women came forward with allegations Cuomo.
  • The Daily News reported that the investigators have wide, sweeping power to conduct the probe freely.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The investigators leading the probe into the numerous sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are being paid as much as $750 an hour.

According to the New York Daily News, which obtained internal documents through FOIA requests, the investigators have wide, sweeping powers to conduct the investigation.

Attorney General Letitia James hired out the independent investigators after several women came forward with allegations that the governor made inappropriate and sexually harassing remarks or advances toward them.

Former Acting US Attorney for New York’s Southern District Joon Kim and employment discrimination attorney Anne Clark are in charge of spearheading the probe.

Their offices are “authorized to utilize any of its resources as it deems appropriate to carry out” the investigation, the documents say, according to the Daily News.

Both firms have been retained for a period of at least six months, the Daily News reported. But James is able to extend the contracts as she deems necessary.

Their work comes at a hefty cost, documents obtained by the Daily News reveal. Top-level partners working on the investigation receive as much as $750 per hour. Even mid- and lower-level partners are raking in large sums of money to carry out the probe. Mid-level partners, for example, get $575 per hour, and junior-level partners $500. Senior associates will receive $450 per hour and junior associates $325, the Daily News reported.

The investigators will prepare and deliver weekly progress reports to First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy. At the end of their investigation, they will produce a written report with all their findings and conclusions, the Daily News reported.

The investigation was prompted in part by state and federal lawmakers coming out in support of one.

Since December, Cuomo has faced several sexual harassment accusations. The first one was from a former aide who in December said she had been sexually harassed by the governor “for years.” At the time, Lindsey Boylan, who worked for the governor between 2015 and 2018, did not divulge specific information about the circumstances and declined to speak to journalists.

But in February, Boylan broke her silence in a Medium post, said Cuomo had touched her inappropriately and kissed her without her consent.

Cuomo’s office has repeatedly denied her claims. “As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” press secretary Caitlin Girouard said in a statement.

Since Boylan’s accusations surfaced, at least 10 other women have come forward with similar allegations of their own against the governor.

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How NY Gov. Cuomo’s ‘apologies’ fail to recognize that power imbalances are at the root of sexual harassment

andrew cuomo
New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

  • Andrew Cuomo has issued denials, defenses, and apologies in response to misconduct accusations.
  • His “I never intended” responses miss the point – that power is at the heart of sexual harassment.
  • Ending sexual harassment will require a critical rethinking of the distribution of workplace power.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In recent weeks, multiple women have reported demeaning and sexualized workplace behavior by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In response, Cuomo has issued a combination of denials, defenses, and apologies.

Much of the public analysis of his statements has focused on the adequacy of these apologies – whether he took sufficient responsibility or expressed sufficient remorse.

Apologies deserve attention. They can help right wrongs and heal relationships.

Yet in the focus on apologies, an opportunity is missed to learn something about power. Power, after all, is at the heart of sexual harassment.

‘Unwanted imposition’

As Catharine MacKinnon, the architect of modern sexual harassment law, has argued, sexual misconduct at work can be defined as “the unwanted imposition of sexual requirements in the context of a relationship of unequal power.”

If responses like Cuomo’s are viewed through a power-informed lens, different patterns emerge. In my own study of over 200 such statements, I found many references to the accused’s own long careers, to their many professional accomplishments, and to their excellent reputations. In short, when challenged, the men in my study (and all but three were men) did what came naturally: They reached for their power.

This pattern is connected to another theme that I discovered in the statements I studied: repetition of explanations and defenses centered on the accused person’s own subjective intent and perceptions.

It’s me being funny. I’m not trying to sexually harass people,” for example, or “I come from a very different culture,” or “I remember trying to kiss [her] as part of what I thought was a consensual seduction ritual.”

However, the accused’s intentions, thoughts, or beliefs – so central in the statements I studied – are only peripheral under sexual harassment law.

Not a joke

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the main federal law that covers workplace discrimination and harassment, an employee may sue her employer when she has experienced severe or pervasive workplace harassment.

Severity and pervasiveness are judged subjectively, from the harassed person’s point of view, and objectively, in the view of a theoretical “reasonable person.” The law also requires that the conduct be unwelcomed by the harassed person.

Though different courts have interpreted these requirements differently around the edges, sexual harassment cases do not turn on whether the harasser thought his conduct was a joke, or culturally acceptable, or ritualized seduction.

Instead, the law’s subjectivity and “welcomeness” requirements ask a superior – like Cuomo – to evaluate his own conduct from his subordinate’s point of view. Superiors who want to avoid committing harassment to begin with (before anything gets to a judge, jury, or media story) need to step outside their own perspective.

This requires empathy. And the more power that a person wields in the workplace, the more difficult it may be to step outside one’s own position and consider the circumstances from another person’s perspective.

‘I never intended’

Here’s where Cuomo’s responses are revealing.

In his first official statement, released on Feb. 28, 2021, out of 18 “I” statements, over half were versions of “I never intended,” “I was being playful,” or “I do, on occasion, tease people.”

Cuomo followed suit in his press conference on March 3, repeating over and over variations on the “I never intended” or “I never knew” or “I didn’t mean it that way” theme.

These statements suggest that, over his long career, Cuomo did not pay attention to the effects of his words and actions on his subordinates, and that the power of his position may have reinforced his heedlessness.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warns about just this type of scenario in its list of harassment risk factors: “High value employees may perceive themselves as exempt from workplace rules or immune from consequences of their misconduct.” Workplaces with significant power imbalances, too, make the risk factor list.

If the movement sparked by #MeToo focuses only on taking down individual bad actors, it will leave intact the workplace structures that enable and protect the powerful – and that produce statements like Cuomo’s. Ending sexual harassment requires a critical rethinking of workplace power, whether it flows from ownership of a company, management of an office, supervision of a shop floor, or the office of the governor.

Charlotte Alexander, associate professor of law and analytics, Georgia State University

The Conversation
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Taxpayers spent nearly $650K on Gov. Cuomo’s ‘King One’ state-owned plane, where a former aide said the governor asked her to play strip poker

cuomo airplane travel
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a 2015 flight headed to Puerto Rico for hurricane relief.

  • Gov. Cuomo flew in a state-owned private plane over 460 times in a 5-year span, costing taxpayers nearly $650,000.
  • A former female aide said the governor asked her to play strip poker with him on the plane.
  • Cuomo has denied that allegation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo frequently uses a state-owned airplane and helicopter to reach the far corners of the state for official business, costing taxpayers nearly $650,000 from 2015 through April 2020, an Insider analysis found.

Cuomo faces multiple ongoing scandals and a months-long impeachment probe spurred by allegations of sexual misconduct from 10 women.

One of the allegations against him involved the governor’s official state airplane, known as King One. Former economic development aide Lindsey Boylan wrote in an essay that during a flight in November 2017, Cuomo asked her to play strip poker. Cuomo has denied that allegation, and his office disputed her claim that she was alone with the governor, a state trooper, and a press staffer.

Boylan, who is currently running for Manhattan borough president, did not return Insider’s request for comment.

The governor also uses a private plane for non-governmental travel that’s paid for by in-kind donations, a former aide familiar with his travel patterns and logistics told Insider.

Insider used a list of state police planes and helicopters from the New York State Trooper’s website and tail wing numbers registered as New York State Police aircraft to identify the passenger aircraft model used by Cuomo.

By reviewing five years of the governor’s monthly public schedules, Insider identified that Cuomo flew in this state plane over 460 times accruing some 400 hours of total flight time over 5 years.

The Cuomo administration has not yet responded to Insider in its Freedom of Information Law request for financial records detailing his air travel expenses. A Cuomo spokesperson referred Insider’s list of questions to New York State Police.

Nel Stubbs, Vice President at Conklin & de Decker, an aircraft market intelligence and consulting company, estimates that this plane model costs $1,616 per hour to operate, according to her company’s database. This figure is calculated using estimated fuel cost, plane maintenance, landing fees, and crew incidental expenses not including salary.

Flight crew salary, insurance, or the cost to maintain the plane in its Albany hangar, however, are not included.

‘It is crazy old. Terrifying to fly on it.’

The twin propeller plane used by Cuomo has had several safety scares, with the governor’s office pushing in recent years for an updated fleet of aircrafts they share with New York State Police.

“It’s crazy old,” the former aide told Insider, recalling dicey flights that left newcomers on King One thoroughly spooked. “Terrifying to fly on it.”

One of the helicopters had to make an emergency landing in 2017 after the cockpit began filling with smoke, according to local news reports at the time.

As a general practice, Cuomo uses the chopper for trips downstate to New York City, Long Island, or the Hudson Valley, according to the former staffer. If an event is outside of those regions or within driving distance in the Capital Region surrounding Albany, the governor takes King One.

However, the flight records obtained by Insider show some flights as short as 15 minutes without a return trip. King One’s return to the hangar from those trips were not factored into Insider’s cost estimate analysis.

The time saving of air travel in a state as big as New York is significant, particularly when it comes to the far flung cities and towns across the Upstate region.

Cuomo’s flights from Albany to New York City were usually around 40 to 45 minutes, while driving a motorcade into the city would take between two and a half to three hours. For a trip west to Buffalo, flying takes a little over an hour, while the one way trip by car would take at least four hours.

The governor’s travel sometimes came in bursts, such as on April 21, 2020, when he flew from Albany to Buffalo, then from Buffalo to Washington D.C., and then back from the nation’s capital to Albany.

If the main chopper known as Sikorsky is undergoing maintenance or repairs, an older helicopter called Bell 430 is used instead, the former aide said.

“I swore never to fly on that helicopter again,” Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide who has been implicated in allegedly manipulating data on COVID-19 nursing home deaths, told the Wall Street Journal in 2017 when she was serving as his chief of staff.

“Unfortunately, given the demanding schedule we keep, it’s not really an option.”

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Millionaire New Yorkers are now set to pay the highest taxes in the country

wealthy new yorkers
The wealthiest New Yorkers might see their tax rates increase to the highest in the country.

New York City millionaires will soon be subject to the highest tax rate in the country.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders finalized a $212 billion budget proposal for 2022 on Tuesday that’s set to raise an extra $4.3 billion a year by raising income and corporate taxes, The New York Times’ Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Jesse McKinley reported. The proposal calls for two new personal income-tax brackets, set to expire by the end of 2027, per exclusive details given to the Times earlier this week.

Those earning between $5 million and $25 million will be taxed on 10.3% of their income. That increases to 10.9% for those earning more than $25 million. And individuals raking in over $1 million and couples bringing in over $2 million will see tax rates climb from 8.82% to 9.65%.

These tax rates hit especially hard for New York City’s highest earners. The city already has a top income-tax rate of 3.88%, which means they’ll now be shelling out between 13.5% and 14.8% in both state and city taxes. That exceeds the highest top marginal income tax rate in the country: 13.3% for top earners in California.

However, they may not be the highest taxed for long if Hawaii’s legislature passes a bill imposing a 16% tax on residents earning over $200,000.

New York is dealing with economic pain

Cuomo said in January he planned on raising taxes if the White House didn’t help the state recover from its $15 billion deficit, Insider’s Grace Dean reported. It’s the highest deficit in New York’s history, exceeding the previous high of $10 billion, which Cuomo said was “very, very hard” to manage.

In an address, Cuomo attributed New York’s deficit to the state being “assaulted by the federal government” in recent years as well as to the cost of COVID-19, which caused the state’s revenues to fall by $5.1 billion.

As the epicenter of the US’ first wave of COVID-19, New York City was slammed with small-business closures and saw many of its top-earning residents move to take advantage of lower taxes in other states. Urbanism expert Richard Florida told Insider the flight of the wealthy caused a lot of financial pain for superstar cities like New York.

Cuomo called for the federal government to provide New York with emergency pandemic relief. He said that if Washington gave the state only $6 billion in a “worst-case scenario,” he would hike taxes to cover the difference.

“We have a plan in place, a strength that we have not had before and I believe our future is bright, but Washington must act fairly if we are to emerge on the other side of this crisis,” he said.

While Democrats considered raising more than $7 billion in new revenue for the state, The Times reported, such discussions fell to the side when President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package was approved, which included $12.9 billion in direct aid for New York state. It also included $5.6 billion for New York City, which Insider’s Juliana Kaplan reported might have saved catastrophic cuts to the city budget.

Cuomo has resisted raising taxes for years out of fear it would drive businesses and the wealthy to other states. If all of the wealthiest New Yorkers fled the city, they could take more than $133 billion with them. That’s how much the top 1% of New Yorkers earned in income in 2018, a report from Bloomberg found.

The Times attributed Cuomo’s change of mind to the economic fallout of the pandemic, a growing progressive influence in the legislature, and the governor’s own “waning influence.”

The budget proposal is finalized as Biden reportedly gets even more serious about taxing the wealthy. He’s said that Americans making over $400,000 will see a “small to significant” tax increase and high-earning Americans could see their top income-tax rate increase to 39%.

If Biden’s tax proposal is enacted now that Cuomo’s has been, that means some of the richest New York City dwellers could be paying out more than half of their earnings in taxes.

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Andrew Cuomo stood in front of a ‘No Excuses’ banner at an event he banned reporters from attending

cuomo no excuses banner
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a closed press event at the Javits Center in Manhattan.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo picked a “no excuses” backdrop for his latest event.
  • The Cuomo announcement was closed press, with the governor’s office citing “COVID restrictions.”
  • Mired in multiple scandals, Cuomo has offered several excuses for his alleged behavior.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Flanked by military personnel and top union brass, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke in front of a “no excuses” banner at an event on Tuesday at the Javits Center in Manhattan.

Like all of his recent public appearances as he combats several scandals – including a looming impeachment investigation, a federal investigation, and calls to resign over his alleged sexually inappropriate behavior – this Cuomo event was closed to the press because of “COVID protocols.”

When Cuomo has taken questions from reporters over the past few weeks, it has been on a conference call where his team can pick who gets to ask questions and cut the line to quash any followup questions.

On those calls, Cuomo has offered several excuses for his alleged misconduct.

The governor accused Democratic lawmakers calling for his resignation of “bowing to cancel culture” in his refusal to resign.

“People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture, and the truth,” Cuomo said on the mid-March call.

Cuomo explained that his “playful” office behavior could be “misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation,” but that it was all “good natured.” Former aides have accused Cuomo of inquiring about their relationships and sexual history as well as, in some instances, groping them.

While Cuomo has touted his efforts to empower women, former aides say he would call them in for assistance with his iPhone as a pretext for further advances behind closed doors.

The Albany Times Union reported that Cuomo had a penchant for hiring “attractive young women” who mostly performed “minimal clerical duties,” including dictation, and were “often given assignments that require one-on-one encounters with him.”

The sexual harassment scandal is not the only controversey Cuomo has made excuses for. At a February press briefing, Cuomo accused Donald Trump, Fox News, and the New York Post of conspiring against him to turn his administration’s handling of COVID-19 nursing home deaths into a scandal.

Cuomo did not mention New York Attorney General Tish James as part of that conspiracy, with her office accusing the administration of undercounting nursing home-related deaths from the virus.

James now oversees the independent investigation into Cuomo’s alleged sexual misconduct.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Millionaire New Yorkers could soon be paying the highest taxes in the country

wealthy new yorkers
The wealthiest New Yorkers might see their tax rates increase to the highest in the country.

New York City millionaires are about to fall under the highest tax rate in the country.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders are coming close to agreeing on a 2022 budget proposal that would create an extra $4.3 billion a year by raising income and corporate taxes, The New York Times’ Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Jesse McKinley reported. The proposal calls for two new personal income tax brackets set to expire by the end of 2027, per exclusive details given to the Times.

Those earning between $5 million and $25 million would be taxed on 10.3% of their income. That increases to 10.9% for those earning over $25 million. And individuals raking in over $1 million and couples bringing in over $2 million would see tax rates climb from 8.82% to 9.65%.

These tax rates hit especially hard for New York City’s highest earners. The city already has a top income tax rate of 3.88%. If the budget proposal is approved, they would be shelling out between 13.5% and 14.8% in both state and city taxes, per the Times. That exceeds the country’s current marginal income tax rate high: 13.3% for top earners in California.

New York is dealing with economic pain

Cuomo said in January he planned on raising taxes if the White House didn’t help the state recover from its $15 billion deficit, Insider’s Grace Dean reported. It’s the highest deficit in New York’s history, she wrote. The state’s biggest deficit prior to this was $10 billion, which Cuomo said was “very very hard” to manage.

In an address, Cuomo attributed New York’s deficit to the state being “assaulted by the federal government” over recent years as well as to the cost of COVID-19, which caused the state’s revenues to fall by $5.1 billion.

As the epicenter of the US’ first wave of COVID-19, New York City was slammed with small business closures and saw many of its top-earning residents move to take advantage of taxes in other states. Urbanism expert Richard Florida told Insider the flight of the wealthy caused a lot of financial pain for superstar cities like New York.

Cuomo called for the federal government to provide New York with emergency pandemic relief. He said that if Washington only gave the state $6 billion in a “worst-case scenario,” he would hike taxes to cover the difference.

“We have a plan in place, a strength that we have not had before and I believe our future is bright, but Washington must act fairly if we are to emerge on the other side of this crisis,” he said.

While Democrats considered raising more than $7 billion in new revenue for the state, the Times reported, such discussions fell to the side when President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package was approved, which included $12.9 billion in direct aid for New York state. It also included $5.6 billion for New York City, which Insider’s Juliana Kaplan reported may have saved catastrophic cuts to the city budget.

Cuomo has resisted raising taxes for years out of fear it would drive businesses and the wealthy to other states. If all of the wealthiest New Yorkers fled the city, they could take more than $133 billion with them. That’s how much the top 1% of New Yorkers earned in income in 2018, a report from Bloomberg found.

The Times attributed Cuomo’s change of mind to the economic fallout of the pandemic, a growing progressive influence in the legislature, and the governor’s own “waning influence.”

The budget proposal is due to be finalized as Biden reportedly gets even more serious about taxing the wealthy. He’s said that Americans making over $400,000 will see a “small to significant” tax increase and high-earning Americans could see their top income-tax rate increase to 39%.

If both Biden and Cuomo’s tax proposals are enacted, that means the richest New York City dwellers could be paying out more than half of their earnings in taxes.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Cuomo claimed he’s done more ‘than any governor in modern history’ in initial draft of his pandemic book

andrew cuomo vintage car thumbs up
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

  • An initial draft of Andrew Cuomo’s pandemic book included a bold claim on his accomplishments.
  • “I have accomplished by any objective standard more than any governor in modern history,” he wrote.
  • The boast was discovered by The New York Times in a report on Cuomo getting staff help on the book.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo initially had a line in his most recent book about being the most accomplished governor in “modern history,” according to the New York Times.

The Times report centered around Cuomo using his staff for help on the book, despite being told by an ethics board to not use any state resources in the process. The governor also got at least a $4 million advance for the book, which he was writing around the same time his administration was covering up COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents.

In the initial draft, Cuomo accused New York City Bill de Blasio of suffering from “obvious ego driven narcissism” before getting to a passage about how good he was in comparison.

“I have experience and a skill set that qualifies me as a good governor,” Cuomo wrote in the draft, according to The Times. “I have accomplished by any objective standard more than any governor in modern history. But I am not a superhero.”

Cuomo is facing multiple scandals simultaneously, but has remained in office as the state Assembly inches along with an impeachment investigation that will take months to get going in earnest.

While he is also under investigation from New York’s attorney general for alleged sexual misconduct in the workplace, Cuomo has refused to resign and continues to deny any wrongdoing.

“Andrew Cuomo writing about ego-driven narcissism sounds like the pot calling the kettle black,” a de Blasio spokesman told The Times.

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New York Legislature legalizes recreational marijuana for adults

ny capitol albany empire plaza egg
The New York State Capitol and Empire State Plaza in Albany, N.Y.

  • The New York Legislature passed a bill to legalize marijuana for adults on Tuesday.
  • It allows for for home growing, dispensary sales, and “consumption lounges.”
  • Gov. Cuomo has said that if passed he would sign it into law.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The New York State Senate and Assembly passed a bill legalizing marijuana for those over 21 years of age on Tuesday, bringing the Empire State into the recreational cannabis market along with several of its neighbors.

The New York Senate passed the bill to legalize recreational marijuana earlier Tuesday in a 40-23 vote. Late into the night, the Assembly passed adult-use cannabis in a 100-49. The legislation is now en route to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk. He has said he would sign the bill and reiterated his support again on Tuesday after the bill passed both chambers of New York’s state legislature.

With the April 1 budget deadline looming, lawmakers were swift to coalesce around the final language that was only released on Saturday.

Medical cannabis is already legal in a limited capacity in New York, but the recreational provisions in this bill most likely won’t take effect until 2022. Norman Birenbaum told Insider in February that he expects sales to begin around 12-18 months after the bill passes, in accordance with most other states that have made the transition from medical to recreational in recent years.

Cannabis companies have been pouring over the details of the bill, with licenses up for grabs in what could become a $5 billion market by 2025, according to analysts from Cantor Fitzgerald and Stifel.

Under the framework set forward by lawmakers, adults over the age of 21 in New York would be able to legally purchase and possess cannabis.

They’ll also be allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants at home, with a maximum of three mature and three immature plants per adult, and partake in marijuana on-site at various “consumption lounges.”

The legislation expands New York’s existing medical program. The list of qualifying medical conditions for medical cannabis could be expanded, along with product options. Flower products, which are not allowed under New York’s medical program, may be permitted under the expansions.

The 10 cannabis companies that currently operate in New York’s medical market are expected to have a big leg up over new entrants into the space because they already have dispensaries and cultivation in place in the state. However, the bill emphasizes social equity and outlines a goal of 50% of licenses going to social equity applicants, or individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

The bill also earmarks 40% of tax revenue from cannabis sales for a new fund to support economic and social-equity programs. Another 40% would go to the state education fund, and the remaining 20% would go to drug-education program – a structure that marks a huge win for Democrats who had pushed for social equity to be a key component of legalization.

The tax revenues that would come in from a legal market were a point of debate between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers the past two times New York tried – and failed – to legalize cannabis. But with the myriad scandals facing Gov. Cuomo, lawmakers were able to wield more control than they otherwise would have during budget season.

Details such as how many dispensaries will be allowed in total in New York still need to be worked out. The bill would create an Office of Cannabis Management and a Cannabis Control Board to regulate the industry and fine-tune these details.

Individuals who want to take part in New York’s legal market would have the choice of either owning dispensaries or becoming a cultivator under the bill. The exceptions to this are existing medical operators wishing to transition to adult-use and “microbusinesses,” or smaller social equity operators who can control multiple parts of their own supply chain. Incumbent medical operators will be allowed to keep their cultivation, distribution, and retail capabilities even if they choose to take part in the recreational market.

New retail operators would be allowed a maximum of three dispensaries. There is not yet a cap on the total number of licenses allowed in New York. This number of licenses may be left up to the Cannabis Control Board, the bill said.

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New York coronavirus testing sites were told to prioritize Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s inner circle, who were ‘treated like royalty,’ report says

Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

  • Gov. Cuomo’s friends and family reportedly received preferential COVID-19 testing early in the pandemic.
  • The Washington Post spoke to seven sources who explained how the priority system worked.
  • “Inner circle” members had their samples rushed to a lab by a state trooper and got faster results.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

New details are coming to light about how New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s friends and family reportedly received special treatment early in the coronavirus pandemic, when tests were scarce and took a long time for the general public.

Multiple sources told The Washington Post that people in the governor’s “inner circle” had their samples rushed by state troopers to the lab, where they were put on the top of the pile, and received results in a matter of hours, as opposed to the weeklong waiting times that the general public endured at the time.

“There is no reason why state testing teams should have been diverted to these people,” a person with knowledge of the priority list told The Post.

A nurse also described the frenzy that occurred when site leaders told workers that Cuomo’s extended family were arriving at their testing site in late spring 2020.

“I remember them being like, ‘They’re coming, they’re coming,’ ” the nurse said. “And they would say, ‘Have the state trooper ready … have it ready to go to Wadsworth [a state lab].’ There was a lot of anxiety over those samples getting to the right place.”

coronavirus testing
A nurse administers a COVID-19 test at a testing site in Suffolk County, New York, on December 18, 2020.

“They were treated like royalty,” the nurse added. “I didn’t understand why they were able to jump the line.”

Among those who received this kind of special treatment was the clothing and footwear designer Kenneth Cole, who is married to the governor’s sister Maria, one nurse told The Post.

The Post reported that Department of Health physician Eleanor Adams was also sent multiple times out to the Hamptons to test the governor’s brother, the CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who announced last March he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

These visits to Chris Cuomo’s house sometimes lasted hours, at a time when Adams was in charge of coordinating testing issues for high-risk settings like nursing homes, two people familiar with the visits told The Post.

andrew cuomo kenneth cole
A 2005 photo of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (right) and his brother-in-law, the fashion designer Kenneth Cole.

Cuomo’s administration has denied that the governor secured priority treatment for his friends and family.

“There was no ‘VIP’ program as the Washington Post describes – when priority was given, it was to nurses, guardsmen, state workers and other government officials central to the pandemic response and those they were in direct contact with, as well as individuals believed to have been exposed to COVID who had the capability to spread it further and impact vital operations,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told The Post.

Azzopardi said that any priority system that was made, “was built by those in charge of running the sites and the Governor had no knowledge that tests were being prioritized at those sites.”

But one nurse’s account seemed to contradict this denial, saying: “We would always hear, ‘This is coming from the governor’s chamber.'”

chris cuomo andrew cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his brother Chris Cuomo in 2015.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on Tuesday morning.

While regarded as a hero for helping lead New York through the worst of the outbreak last year, Gov. Cuomo has now found himself at the center of multiple scandals, with members of his own party calling for him to resign.

In addition to the reports that his friends and family received preferential treatment during the pandemic, Cuomo is facing multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and a federal investigation on his office’s purported undercounting of New York’s nursing-home COVID-19 deaths.

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A billionaire pharma exec close to Andrew Cuomo also got priority access to early COVID-19 tests, report says

cuomo regeneron george yancopoulos
A composite image of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Regeneron president George Yancopoulos.

  • Cuomo is accused of giving relatives and top officials early access to COVID-19 tests last year.
  • The NYT reports that he also gave it to the president of Regeneron, a pharma company, last March.
  • Cuomo already faces accusations over nursing-home deaths, an unsafe bridge, and sexual assault.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office gave a billionaire pharmaceutical executive priority access to coronavirus tests early in the pandemic, The New York Times first reported.

It followed claims that Cuomo had secured access to scarce supplies for members of his family as well.

Regeneron, a biotech company headquartered in New York state, had asked state officials for tests for its president George Yancopoulos and his family after a member of his household got infected with COVID-19, in March 2020, a company representative told Insider in a Friday email.

According to the Times, state officials granted the request and the Yancopoulos family were tested at their home in March – a time when New York was fast becoming the US epicenter of the novel coronavirus, and tests were scarce.

“As an essential worker, he was leading and meeting regularly with his team, and this was to ensure he did not pose a risk to that research team, who were actively working on new COVID-19 treatments,” said the Regeneron spokesperson.

The Office of the Governor of New York state did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment for this story.

On April 1, Cuomo announced that Regeneron was donating 500,000 coronavirus test kits for New York state to help with the shortage of test kits and swabs at the time. Regeneron told the Times that Yancopoulos was not involved in that effort.

The Regeneron spokesperson told Insider that the test-kit donation was conducted by employees to “help their community during a really difficult and scary part of the pandemic,” adding: “It has absolutely nothing to do with Dr. Yancopoulos being tested for COVID after a known exposure, and frankly it is insulting to our team to imply as much.”

This the first known example of somebody with business interests with New York state getting priority access to COVID-19 tests, the Times said.

The story follows accusations this week that Cuomo arranged priority, state-administered coronavirus tests for his family and other top state officials who were working on the pandemic response.

According to the Albany Times Union, members of the governor’s family were tested several times at their homes, with test samples prioritized for processing.

Among the family members who received early coronavirus tests was the CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, the brother of Gov. Cuomo, who announced he had tested positive on March 31 last year.

CNN defended Chris Cuomo’s actions on Wednesday, saying he was “acting as any human would” in reportedly accepting help from his brother.

Top New York authorities reported to have received early coronavirus tests include Port Authority executive director Rick Cotton and Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Patrick Foye, per the Albany Times Union.

Foye and Cotton both announced they tested positive for the coronavirus last March, with Cotton telling The New York Times he was concerned about transmitting the virus to his staff.

It is illegal under New York law for officials or state employees to use their power to “secure unwarranted privileges” for themselves or others.

Cuomo’s office has hit back at this week’s accusations. In statements provided to Insider, officials said some testing was done at people’s homes but did not name them, citing privacy laws.

“We should avoid insincere efforts to rewrite the past,” said Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor to Cuomo, in a statement to Insider’s Kelsey Vlamis.

“In the early days of this pandemic, when there was a heavy emphasis on contact tracing, we were absolutely going above and beyond to get people testing – including in some instances going to people’s homes, and door to door in places like New Rochelle – to take samples from those believed to have been exposed to COVID in order to identify cases and prevent additional ones.”

Cuomo and his office have been mired in scandals this year. His office has been accused of pressuring state health officials to undercount nursing-home coronavirus deaths last summer and operating a bridge deemed to be structurally unsafe. Nine women have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment and misconduct.

The New York State Assembly’s judiciary committee is leading an investigation into Cuomo’s impeachment. On Thursday, the committee said it would also examine the reports that his relatives were given preferential treatment for COVID-19 tests.

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