Nursing home advocates and Assemblyman Ron Kim ripped into state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for “slow walking” a request to initiate a probe into Gov. Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
The group Voices for Seniors sent a March 19 letter to DiNapoli urging him to make a referral to state Attorney General Letitia James to conduct a joint probe into Cuomo’s undercounting of COVID-19 nursing home deaths — as well as the state Health Department’s order forcing nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients, and the law shielding medical facilities from malpractice suits during the pandemic.
“Where is Tom DiNapoli? Silence is consent,” said Voices for Seniors co-founder Vivian Zayas, whose mom, Ana Martinez, died from COVID-19 that she contracted while in a Long Island nursing home last year.
Zayas said DiNapoli and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), who directed that body’s judiciary committee to launch an impeachment investigation of Cuomo, are “slow-walking everything.”
Zayas complained that the nursing home scandals are not getting the attention given to the sexual harassment allegations that women have leveled against Cuomo. AG James is investigating the sexual harassment claims.
“I sympathize with them,” Zayas said of the accusers. “But they didn’t die.”
Assemblyman Kim (D-Queens) chimed in: “What good is being the chief auditor of the state of New York if you’re not going to hold the executive accountable.”
Kim, who accused Cuomo of threatening to destroy his career during a phone call, said the governor should be impeached over the nursing home scandals and sexual harassment claims. Cuomo denied he threatened Kim.
The lawmaker said what’s baffling is that Cuomo has used his powers over the years to limit DiNapoli’s office ability to audit state projects.
“DiNapoli should absolutely push back now. So many nursing home residents died,” said Kim.
More than 15,000 residents of nursing homes and other facilities for the aged were killed by COVID-19.
DiNapoli’s office insisted a decision on the request to probe Cuomo is in the works.
“We know the families are concerned. We expect to have a decision soon,” said Jennifer Freeman, a spokesman for the comptroller.
The advocates urged DiNapoli to make a “referral” to Attorney General Letitia James under Section 63(3) of the state’s Executive Law.
The move would permit DiNapoli and James to “use both the audit power of the comptroller’s office and the investigatory and enforcement power of the attorney general” to probe nursing homes.
In the letter, Voices for Seniors also asked, “Who wrote Governor Cuomo’s ‘book’ [American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic] and did they do so on the state’s dime? Are there communications between the governor and the publisher that establish a profit motive for the coverup? If so, can the state re-capture the $1M advance that the governor reportedly received or any other profits from the sales?”
Cuomo has denied wrongdoing in his administration’s handling of nursing homes, though the Justice Department and the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn are looking into the decisions, including claims of hiding the true COVID death tally of nursing home residents from authorities.