Fitzpatrick Acknowledges Schwartz’s Role In Moreland, Insists Panel Was Independent
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick released a lengthy statement on Monday insisting the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption made decisions independent of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, though he confirmed a top aide to the governor sought input on the panel.
In the same four-page statement released on his office’s letterhead, Fitzpatrick said the commission “was not an independent prosecutorial agency” that couldn’t make arrests or convene grand juries.
The statement comes as Cuomo continues to face questions stemming from his office’s involvement in the commission’s work and the efforts to block subpoenas from the panel to politically sensitive areas for the governor.
Interest in the commission was sparked again last week by an extensive New York Times story that detailed the extent of the role Cuomo’s office, along with that of his top aide, Larry Schwartz, played in shaping the direction of the anti-corruption body.
Fitzpatrick, a co-chair on the commission and a Cuomo appointee, reiterated as he has in previous public statements about his work that the panel was composed of independent-minded prosecutors, law professors and judges.
“We had total investigatory decision making authority and we used it,” Fitzpatrick added.
He acknowledged, too, the role Schwartz played in attempting to have the commission not issue a subpoena to a media-buying firm that counts the governor among its clients.
As the Times revealed last week, Schwartz wrote in an email, “This is not right. Pull it back.”
But Fitzpatrick contends that while Schwartz concerns were initially considered, the subpoena was eventually issued anyway.
“I am not a rigid person,” Fitzpatrick wrote, “and I prefer to absorb as much advice as I can before making major decisions.”
Fitzpatrick called any implication that the commission was compromised because it considered Schwartz’s concerns “absurd” to anyone who knows him.
Nevertheless, Cuomo’s 13-page response to the Times story suggests the commission wasn’t as independent as Fitzpatrick claims or thought.
Cuomo’s office insisted in its response to written questions from the newspaper that the commission needed a guiding hand from Schwartz because of its lack of knowledge of state government.
At the same time, Cuomo, who had previous declared the commission could investigate him or any other statewide elected official, now says the panel’s investigation of his office would not have passed the “laugh test.”
The statement from Fitzpatrick today come as Cuomo is due to appear in Buffalo this morning to make an unrelated economic-development announcement.
The appearance by Cuomo in public is the first the governor has made since The Times story broke last week.
Republican Rob Astorino, meanwhile, will be touring upstate cities with his running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss, to call on Cuomo to make a public explanation of his office’s role in the commission.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on July 28, 2014 at 9:20 am, and is filed under Andrew Cuomo. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|