Cuomo aide, who is accused of helping cover up nursing-home death tolls, was once a professor of ethics in government

linda lacewell cuomo
Linda Lacewell, right, after testifying at a bribery trial in Manhattan on January 24, 2018.

  • Linda Lacewell, a top Cuomo aide, is accused of covering up the number of New York’s nursing-home deaths.
  • Lacewell was previously Cuomo’s Chief of Staff and oversaw “ethics and law enforcement matters.”
  • She also taught classes on ethics in government at New York University’s School of Law.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

One of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s senior aides who faces allegations involving the nursing-home death toll cover-up previously taught classes on ethics in government, legal news website Law & Crime reported.

Linda Lacewell, the head of New York’s Department of Financial Services, is one of the three top aides accused of changing a report to conceal the real number of deaths in the state’s nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The New York Times.

The Cuomo administration publicly cited figures that were roughly 50% lower than the real death toll, The Times reported.

Lacewell, who formerly served as Cuomo’s Chief of Staff, is one of the officials who is alleged to have directed the removal of COVID-19 deaths from the report, the New York Post reported.

The allegations are at odds with Lacewell’s background in ethics. She oversaw “ethics and law enforcement matters” while acting as Cuomo’s Chief of Staff, according to her biography on the New York State website.

Lacewell was also a professor of ethics for several years. While serving as an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law, Lacewell taught a class called “Ethics in Government: Investigation and Enforcement.”

In response to questions from Law & Crime about Lacewell’s involvement in rewriting the report, the website was directed to two statements that assert that the true number of deaths in nursing homes was omitted due to verification issues.

“The out-of-facility data was omitted after Department of Health could not confirm it had been adequately verified,” Special Counsel and Senior Advisor to Cuomo, Beth Garvey, said in the statement.

“Task Force Members, knowing the report needed to withstand rigorous public scrutiny were very cautious to not overstate the statistical analysis presented in the report,” Garvey added.

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Cuomo’s advisers covered up high nursing home death tolls by pushing NY health officials to alter reports

andrew cuomo
New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference on September 08, 2020 in New York City.

  • Advisers to Cuomo tried to conceal COVID-19 nursing home deaths as early as last year, reports say.
  • They successfully pressured state health officials to undercount deaths in a July report.
  • Cuomo has been criticized recently for his pandemic response and allegations of sexual assault.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s advisers pressed state health officials to change a report last summer to hide the true count of COVID-19-related deaths at nursing homes, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

The report, compiled by the New York State Health Department, was released in July and looked at virus transmission in nursing homes. It was a response to criticism the state received over a March 25 directive that said people could not be denied access to nursing homes based on a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

Sources told The Journal the report initially included data on COVID-19 deaths that occurred in nursing homes, as well as those that occurred at hospitals after a person became infected at a nursing home. However, Cuomo’s top advisers successfully pushed state officials to leave out the hospital deaths.

According to the New York Times, Cuomo’s most senior aides rewrote the report, resulting in a tense confrontation with health officials that led to top-level departures from the Health Department.

The result was a significant undercounting of nursing home deaths, known to officials as early as July of last year. The report counted a total of 6,432 nursing home deaths, The Journal reported. The number is now higher than 15,000.

Cuomo has previously said he withheld data because he feared a politically-motivated inquiry from President Donald Trump. But the recent revelations show Cuomo’s team was concealing nursing home deaths before the federal government requested data, The Times reported.

In a statement provided to Insider by Cuomo’s office, Department of Health Spokesman Gary Holmes said the July report was intended to show how coronavirus entered nursing homes at the height of the pandemic. He said the report showed transmission from nursing home staff was the primary driver, rather than Cuomo’s March 25 directive.

“While early versions of the report included out-of-facility deaths, the COVID task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in-facility deaths,” the statement said, adding that the report was updated in February to include out-of-facility deaths.

The New York attorney general accused Cuomo in January of undercounting nursing home deaths by 50%.

In February, the New York Post reported a leaked call during which a top Cuomo aide said the team had withheld data on nursing home deaths. As a result, Democrats and Republicans called for Cuomo’s pandemic emergency powers to be stripped, with some calling for his resignation.

In addition to scrutiny over his coronavirus response, multiple women have come forward to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment, again prompting some lawmakers to call on him to resign.

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The tide has turned against NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo as federal investigators scrutinize his handling of the COVID-19 crisis

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

  • In the early days of the pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was hailed by many as a hero.
  • Now, the FBI and a US attorney’s office is investigating Cuomo over his handling of nursing homes.
  • New York Democrats are also working to strip Cuomo of the emergency powers he received last spring.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

After being hailed as a hero in the early days of the pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is now facing an investigation by federal prosecutors and an attempt by his fellow Democrat state lawmakers to strip him of his emergency powers.

Cuomo has faced increasing scrutiny from lawmakers  after recent reports that his administration withheld data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, as well as severely under counted nursing home deaths. The fallout is connected to an executive order issued by Cuomo in March 2020, when hospitals were directed to release coronavirus-positive patients back to their nursing homes.

Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York are investigating Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, the Times Union reported. The US attorney’s office investigation is part of a probe into the top members of Cuomo’s coronavirus task force.

The Justice Department did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

“As we publicly said, DOJ (Department of Justice) has been looking into this for months,” Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, told the Times Union. “We have been cooperating with them and we will continue to.”

Lawmakers in New York from Cuomo’s own party are also pushing back against the governor. Top Democrats in the New York State Senate are trying to remove Cuomo’s emergency powers that he was granted in the early days of the pandemic, The New York Times reported.

The measure, which could come to a vote next week, emerged over a report that Cuomo lashed out at a local lawmaker for criticizing his pandemic response.

Assemblyman Ron Kim, who is one of the Democrats supporting the effort to strip Cuomo’s emergency powers, said Cuomo threatened to “destroy” him if he did not “cover up” for the governor, CNN reported. Cuomo’s adviser denied Kim’s accusation.

Cuomo has been dismissive of the criticism lobbied against him. In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, the governor accused former President Donald Trump, Fox News, and the New York Post of conspiring against him, Insider reported.

He also defended his actions on nursing homes, saying his decisions were based on federal guidance, a claim that Politifact has rated “mostly false.”

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