With just one week to go until his resignation is supposed to take effect, lawmakers want to know where Gov. Andrew Cuomo's formal resignation letter is.
The governor's current state of limbo with one foot out the door — while still making big decisions and no resignation letter known of — is not sitting right with some members of the state assembly who do not trust Cuomo.
"One of the things that I’m really, really concerned about is that there’s nothing in writing to date … aside from his very strange press conference where he victim blamed'," said Queens Assembly member Khaleel Anderson. "The reason we don’t trust the governor is because for over 10 years, he has not kept his word."
Some assembly members suspect Cuomo is looking for a deal that helps him avoid prosecution or enables him to run for governor again in the future.
"Gov. Cuomo plays chess all the time. So if he had the motivation to not submit a resignation letter…I don't know what his motivations are, maybe he's trying to get something in exchange for it because he is a deal maker," said Assembly member Harvey Epstein.
There is also concern within the state legislature that assembly leaders initially said they would suspend their ongoing investigation. That was before reversing course this week to assure New Yorkers that they will issue a final report on what they’ve uncovered regarding allegations of sexual harassment, a nursing home coverup, and whether Cuomo misused state employees to work on his $5 million-dollar book deal.
Assemblymember Marjorie Byrnes, a Republican on the committee, said Tuesday that she and other committee members are poring over the documents “in a room that is being guarded by the sergeant of arms.”
“If this material is never released to the public, then the people of this state and in my district are never going to know the truth,” she said.
The governor's spokesman declined to comment on why Cuomo has yet to put his plans to resign into writing. But it was confirmed Tuesday that the governor has filed retirement papers in writing with the New York State Comptroller's Office. The papers show that Cuomo has filed for retirement effective Sept. 1
It's unclear how much his pension will be — he has 14.56 years of service credit, according to the state Comptroller's office.
As his remaining days in office dwindle, the governor continues to make major decisions while still in power. On Tuesday, the governor granted clemency to 10 people, among them a man whose unsuccessful campaign for exoneration in a 1998 killing was championed by actor Martin Sheen.
Cuomo fully pardoned five people and commuted the sentences of another five, including Jon-Adrian Velazquez. A pardon wipes away a conviction, while a commutation shortens a sentence but lets the conviction stand.
Velazquez, 45, has been serving 25 years to life on a murder conviction in the shooting of long-retired police officer Albert Ward. He was killed during a robbery in an underground betting parlor in Harlem.
Velazquez and his mother have said he was on the phone with her from his Bronx home at the time. The case against him hinged on four eyewitnesses, two of whom later recanted their identifications of him, although prosecutors said one later changed his mind again.
After reviewing Velazquez’s innocence claim, the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.‘s office decided in 2013 to stand by the conviction. Prosecutors said that the recantations didn’t merit overturning the conviction and that a lead to another potential suspect didn’t go anywhere.
Sheen got involved in the case after learning about it from his lawyer, a friend of Velazquez’ attorney. The “West Wing” and “Apocalypse Now” star held a 2011 press conference to spotlight the case and continued backing Velazquez after the DA’s decision. NBC’S “Dateline” examined the case in 2012.
A release from Cuomo’s office didn’t address the court fight, pointing instead to Velazquez’ accomplishments behind bars. He earned a bachelor’s degree, has worked from behind bars as a teaching fellow for a Columbia University professor and established programs that enlist inmates to counter gun violence and talk to prison officials and the public, leading to gun buyback, youth mentorship and other programs, according to Cuomo’s office.
Velazquez’ lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, said he was working to confirm when his client would be released.
“I am thrilled for a wonderful man who should never have been convicted and remained locked up for years because DA Vance looked the other way in the face of an injustice,” Gottlieb said.
A request for comment was sent to the DA’s office.
Cuomo has issued pardons and clemencies on several occasions in recent years, with many of the pardons going to immigrants facing deportation, where a pardon could be beneficial to their attempts to be allowed to remain in the country.
The governor's office said all five people pardoned Tuesday were in that position. The other four people receiving commutations in addition to Velazquez were also cited for what they accomplished while in prison.
Meanwhile, the state's next leader met behind closed doors today with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said Cuomo's ouster will hopefully lead to a return to "normalcy" and will have "elected officials work together" again.
De Blasio did not stop taking shots at his longtime nemesis as the embattled governor heads for the door, with the mayor saying that he is looking forward to a less dysfunctional relationship with New York’s soon-to-be-next-governor, Kathy Hochul.
"I keep saying to people: Andrew Cuomo was really abhorrent, but people got used to it. He was not normal, he is not normal … to bully and harass people all day long, and to spend endless hours on the phone attacking reporters or elected officials," de Blasio said before meeting with Hochul at an undisclosed location in the city Tuesday.
The incoming governor spent Tuesday taking meetings in the city to narrow down her selection for her successor as lieutenant governor.
In a joint statement after their meeting, Hochul and de Blasio called it a "productive conversation" that addressed a variety of topics, from "fighting the Delta variant to getting our kids back to school safely this fall to keeping our communities safe. We look forward to working with each other to continue New York City's recovery and end the fight against COVID."
The mayor is predicting better relations with Hochul, even though he has refused to rule out running against her for governor next year. Hochul is preparing to take office on Tuesday, Aug. 24, at the stroke of midnight.
Details of how the transfer of power to Hochul from Cuomo — whose resignation is set to take effect at 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 23, according Hochul spokesperson Haley Viccaro — will take place weren't immediately available. It's likely Hochul, the lieutenant governor, will address the public sometime Tuesday for the first time as the state's new governor.