Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo Administration Nixes Email Policy

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration announced on Friday it is ending a highly criticized email retention policy that required unsaved messages be deleted after 90 days.

In its place, state officials pledged to develop a “uniform” policy for state agencies and departments that would provide specific guidance on which emails should be retained as official records and be maintained.

The announcement came at a meeting on open government and records retention featuring top Cuomo aide Bill Mulrow and the governor’s counsel, Alphonso David. Representatives of the attorney general’s office and comptroller’s office were also present.

The sole lawmaker who participated by phone was Republican Assemblyman Andy Goodell.

“The 90-day policy is being eliminated as of today,” David said at the meeting. “The administration is looking forward to creating a uniformed policy that’s consistent with the best practices across the country.”

Details of what emails and documents would be maintained by the new policy were yet to be made official, but David indicated the administration would rely on the existing retention laws. At the same time, he suggested that retention of email may be up to individual users to determine whether an email should be deleted.

The new policy, he said, will be “governed by the user and it’s going to be manual more than anything else.”

Meanwhile, the governor’s office plans to introduce legislation that would subject the state Legislature to the same open government requirements as the rest of state government.

The Legislature is largely exempt from the existing FOIL laws, but does make a few documents public, such as bills and finalized reports. Such a measure would mean legislators’ emails and meetings with lobbyists could become required disclosure.

David said the Legislature currently does not have a “presumption of producing documents” that the rest of state government, including the administration, falls under.

It is unlikely the Legislature will pass such a measure before the end of the session on June 17. Mulrow, Cuomo’s secretary, knocked the legislative conferences for not appearing at the meeting today in New York City.

Cuomo since taking office has come under criticism for his transparency record despite promising one of the most open administrations in state history.

Cuomo did open the second floor to the public, which had been closed since George Pataki’s time in office. He has produced sanitized versions of his daily schedules online and push lawmakers to disclose more details on their outside income.

But reporters have complained the administration has been slow to respond to FOIL requests. Daily schedules of where the governor will be are often left vague or blasted out with little moments’ notice before an event.

The state budget negotiations, too, have remained mostly out of public view.

Debate Continues Over Campus Sexual Assault Bill

From the Morning Memo:

A top priority for Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the post-budget legislative session has been an effort to curtail rape and sexual assault at private college campuses, but state lawmakers continue to have questions over the proposal’s potential consequences.

The measure would codify what has already been in place last year for the SUNY system and be expanded to impact private-college campuses and, supporters say, make New York one of the most stringent states when it comes to handling rape and assault at institutions of higher education.

Law enforcement, including the State Police, would have a greater role in investigating allegations of rape and assault.

But with 12 days to go in the legislative session, lawmakers continue to press their concerns over the details of the proposal first made by Cuomo at the beginning of the year.

“Definitions are very important,” said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, the chairwoman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. “If things are too vague and not specific enough, that certainly leaves things open for misunderstanding, miscommunication and perhaps litigation. So, some of the concerns are around definitions.”

At the heart of the measure is provision that would require affirmative consent in sexual encounters. In an interview, Glick said the definitions of sexual encounters and interactions needs to be made as concise as possible.

“We want to make certain it’s fully understood what that means,” she said.

Along with the education investment tax credit and a plan to increase the age of criminal responsbility, the Enough Is Enough campaign has been a top, end-of-session priority for the governor after the passage of the state budget.

But working through the legal particulars of the plan has been a complicated task for state lawmakers already swamped with a number of nettlesome end-of-session issues.

Then there are concerns over whether the legislation would protect encounters involving those who gay, lesbian and transgender (Cuomo, a father of three teenage daughters, has frequently cited them when discussing the topic).

“We have to think broadly enough,” Glick said. “We want to make certain that people understand it’s also applied even handily to people who are LGBT — especially transgender youngsters.”

And there’s the issue of involving law enforcement — a provision included in the legislation so that college officials aren’t the only redress.

“Not everybody wants to proceed with a criminal case and we certainly don’t want to have young people live and repeat their story many, many times,” Glick said.

After Capital Tonight contacted Cuomo’s office to discuss the issues being raised, special advisor to the governor Christine Quinn in a phone interview responded the concerns.

Quinn said in the interview that she agrees “100 percent” with the concerns that if the legislation isn’t frame properly, sexual assault and rape will continue to plague campuses.

That being said, Quinn insisted the language is written so it is “completely inclusive” for all involved, including members of the LGBT community.

“Every unwanted sexual encounter, as is the case at SUNY, is covered,” Quinn said. “There are not particular sex acts that are not covered and sex acts that are covered — that is not the legislative case at all.”

Meanwhile, involving law enforcement remains an option, just not for the college administration.

“It is a survivor’s choice to go to the police,” Quinn said. “It is never government’s choice to mandate that. That does not take the power or the voice away from survivors. They have the right if they so choose to go to college police, local police or the state police. That decision rests with them 100 percent.”

As for the definition of affirmative consent in the legislation, Quinn said the language, which was already in place at large university centers like SUNY Albany, have been effective.

“We have seen it be a much more effective set of definitions than other college campuses that we have seen at other college campuses,” she said.

Though time is short with the legislative session ending on June 17, Quinn said she is “extraordinarily optimistic” the bill will be approved.

“This will be the toughest rape and sexual assault campus law in the country,” she said. “When we do it, we’ll get the rest of the states in the union to do and bring a greater level of safety to our college campuses.”

An Open Government Meeting, Sparsely Attended

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office today is moving forward with a meeting led by Counsel Alphonso David to discuss email and record retention policy as well as a review of open-government laws.

Only, attendance at the event, to be held at the governor’s Manhattan office at 10 a.m., will be sparsely attended.

Confirmed attendees include the attorney general’s office, the state comptroller’s office and an Assembly Republican lawmaker from western New York who is appear by video conference.

Cuomo’s office did invite the legislative leadership in both chambers to attend the event as well as Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. All declined (The Senate Democratic press office and the Cuomo press team had a lively back and forth over the Stewart-Cousins invite).

“We are disappointed the Senate and Assembly majorities, both with new leadership, have expressed no willingness to reform longstanding inequities in New York’s Freedom of Information laws, or adopt uniform email and document retention policies,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “We are hopeful that they reconsider.”

Also not attending is the state’s foremost expert on open-government issues: Robert Freeman.

The executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government who reporters and members of the public frequently turn to for his encyclopedic knowledge on freedom of information laws told the Capital Tonight team he’s on vacation.

Even if he wasn’t, Freeman said he did not receive an invitation for the event.

The event was first announced in March after Cuomo took criticism for the state moving forward with an email retention policy that deletes messages after 90-days that are not saved.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office had a similar policy in place, which he announced would go under review hours before Cuomo distanced himself from the retention policy.

Lawmakers Call On Cuomo To Ban Travel To Louisiana

As Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal moves to enact a religious freedom measure through executive order, state lawmakers are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ban state travel there.

“It’s time to instate a travel ban on Louisiana. Following the failure of legislation there that would have enabled state-sponsored discrimination against LGBT citizens under the guise of religious freedom, Governor Bobby Jindal has issued an executive order seeking the same despicable ends as the bill,” Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell wrote in a letter to Cuomo sent today.

Democratic Sen. Michael Gianaris made a similar push as well to put a ban in place.

“We took swift action as a state to combat Indiana’s discriminatory law last month, but we did not go far enough in asserting that New York would stand opposed to any new such laws in the future,” Gianaris said. “Clearly other states did not get the message that discrimination will not be tolerated by the Empire State. I urge Governor Cuomo and my fellow legislators to pass my bill immediately and make clear that we will not stand for discrimination against our fellow citizens.”

The request is a similar one made after Indiana approved a religious freedom law that some saw as discriminatory toward gays and lesbians.

In response to the Indiana law, Cuomo enacted a ban on non-essential state travel to that state, which was ultimately lifted after the law was changed.

Unlike the Indiana law, the Louisiana measure was enacted through an act by Jindal, a potential Republican presidential contender in 2016, after the state’s legislature rejected a religious freedom bill in committee.

“When the state of Indiana passed legislation which similarly targeted its LGBT citizens, I was very proud and appreciative that you banned non-essential travel to the Hoosier state,” O’Donnell wrote. “It was a strong statement demonstrating New York’s progressive leadership on human rights and the belief that all citizens deserve to be treated equally—as our country’s Constitution guarantees and founding fathers intended.”

Cohen, Former Top Aide To Cuomo, Nominated For Port Authority

Steve Cohen, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has been nominated for a spot on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s board of commissioners, the governor’s office on Wednesday announced.

The nomination is pending Senate approval.

Cohen is a former secretary to Cuomo, who worked in the administration during the governor’s first year in office and is largely credited with helping shepherd the bill to legalize same-sex marriage through the Legislature.

Prior to his time as a top aide to the governor, Cohen worked for Cuomo in the state attorney general’s office.

Cohen left the administration at the end of 2011 to work for Zuckerman Spaeder LLP. He was replaced by Larry Schwartz, who served as secretary until this year. Schwartz was later hired by OTG, an airport concession company.

Cohen, a genial figure at the Capitol, received a new level of notoriety when it was reported he told an aide to Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy the Cuomo administration has “two speeds: Get along and kill.”

Even out of the public sector, Cohen has always maintained close ties to Team Cuomo and is considered a close adviser outside of government to Cuomo.

Cohen’s nomination was part of several appointments Cuomo announced today.

Jamie Rubin, most recently the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, was appointed commissioner of Homes and Community Renewal.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown was nominated to serve as a trustee at the SUNY Board of Trustees.

Assemblyman Sam Roberts will leave his central New York seat in the Legislature to become commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

And, as previously announced, New York City Councilman Mark Weprin will resign his seat to become the governor’s point person for New York City legislative affairs.

Advocates Counter Cuomo On Criminal Justice Reform

From the Morning Memo:

In recent days, the governor has stepped up his efforts to get the Legislature to pass his criminal justice reform package before the session ends, even going so far as to publicly goad them through a letter published on The Huffington Post.

But lawmakers are getting an entirely different message from progressive advocates and family members who have lost loved ones to police violence.

What Cuomo views as a threat – going his own way if the Legislature doesn’t act by appointing a special prosecutor to handle cases of individuals who die at the hands of police – is exactly what the advocates want, and so they are urging lawmakers to ignore the governor’s call for action.

“What we are telling legislators at the state level is to not act on the independent monitor proposal because what the families are calling for, and what we think the next step should be, is a special prosecutor in these cases,” Jose Lopez, a lead organizer with Make the Road New York, said during a CapTon interview last night.

“We would prefer the legislature to not act so that the governor can act on his promise to the families.”

Lopez said the families don’t like Cuomo’s independent monitor idea, which creates a drawn out process for getting to a special prosecutor – if, in fact, one is appointed at all.

In short, what Cuomo wants to do is have the monitor review cases after they have played out at the local level and come to what might be seen as an unsatisfactory conclusion – likely a “no bill” decision by a grand jury, like we saw in the Eric Garner case.

If the monitor determines that a special prosecutor is warranted, then he or she would make that recommendation.

Lopez said the families and their allies would prefer the immediate appointment of a special prosecutor – preferably the state attorney general – which is what AG Eric Schneiderman himself has advocates.

They made that preference clear during a recent meeting at the Capitol with Cuomo, and received his assurance that their desire would be realized if the Legislature failed to act.

I asked Lopez if he believes Cuomo will indeed keep his word on this issue, noting that in the past, some of the governor’s promises – like a pledge not to sign a politically-driven redistricting plan, or to push hard for campaign finance reform – have not been realized. His response:

“I can only hope that if he sat in the room across the table from eight families who lost their sons and daughters at the hands of police violence who are saying: This is not about our sons and daughters. This is not retroactive. We’re doing this for future New Yorkers who we may lose, and their moms and their dads. If he sat in that room and told those mothers he would act, I would hope that he does.”

Cuomo: Sandra Lee Out Of Surgery

Sandra Lee is out of surgery and beginning the recovery process, her boyfriend Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a statement this afternoon.

Lee on Tuesday morning at around 8 a.m. underwent a double mastectomy for breast cancer, which concluded just before 1 p.m., Cuomo said in the statement.

“I am happy to report that she is doing as well as can be expected and has begun the post-surgery recovery process,” Cuomo said. “On behalf of Sandy and myself, I want to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and prayers over the last few days. Your support has meant the world to us.”

Lee announced last week she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in March and would undergo the operation, which she plans to document in an effort to promote awareness.

Cuomo, who went into the operating room with Lee before the surgery began, said he would take some time to help Lee recover from the surgery.

House Dems Sign On To Raise The Age

More than a dozen members of the state’s Congressional deleation are signing on to an effort to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Tuesday announced.

Money for the proposal, first embraced by Cuomo last year after the results of a commission were made public, was included in the state budget agreement.

But lawmakers — particularly Senate Republicans — are yet to come to an agreement with the governor on how to enact the reforms, which would bring New York in line with 48 other states in how the deal with youthful offenders.

All of the 15 New York House members who signed on to the campaign are Democrats.

“Raising the Age is key to both improving public safety and helping at-risk teenagers build safe and successful futures,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Without this reform, hundreds of young people each year will continue to be placed in adult prisons, where they face abuse and limited opportunities to rebuild their lives – which makes it more likely that they will commit criminal activity in the future. This is a common-sense proposal that will make our justice system stronger and fairer for all, and I am urging the state Legislature to stand with us and make it a reality this year.”

The proposal would raise the age of criminal responsibility so that 16 and 17 year-old-teens convicted of non-violence offenses are not included in an adult prison population.

Here’s the list of lawmakers signing on to the plan:

• Congressman Charles B. Rangel
• Congressman Eliot Engel
• Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey
• Congressman José E. Serrano
• Congressman Jerrold Nadler
• Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney
• Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez
• Congressman Gregory W. Meeks
• Congressman Joe Crowley
• Congresswoman Yvette Clarke
• Congressman Paul Tonko
• Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
• Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney
• Congresswoman Grace Meng
• Congresswoman Kathleen Rice

Fast Food (Wage) Fight Is Joined

From the Morning Memo:

The wage board convened at the direction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo to consider raising the hourly pay of the state’s fast food workers will hold its first meeting tomorrow in New York City.

In conjunction with that meeting, labor advocates are kicking off what they say will be an “aggressive” and multi-pronged campaign to make New York the epicenter of the so-called “Fight for $15″ movement.

Rallies that are expected to draw over 1,000 fast food workers and their allies will take place tomorrow in New York City, Albany, Buffalo and on Long Island to mark the start of the wage board’s deliberations, which are set to conclude with final recommendations delivered in July.

Over the course of the board’s tenure – (it plans to hold four public hearings next month) – the labor campaign plans to organize and petition at fast food restaurants across the state, and also pack the board’s hearings with economists, activists, and local elected officials who side with the unions in their push for a higher hourly wage for these workers.

Eventually, according to a source familiar with the campaign’s plans, there will also be a “robust” paid media component, which will include TV, radio and online ads. All told, this campaign will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million – a bill that will be largely covered by SEIU.

In addition, SEIU plans to bring 25 top organizers from around the country – the same people who have been working on the national “Fight for $15″ campaign – to New York for the duration of the wage board’s deliberations to lead a worker organization and mobilization program.

Organizers believe a win in New York – hopefully a boost to the fill $15-an-hour they’ve been seeking – will be a seminal moment in this national movement, setting a new standard that will galvanize similar efforts elsewhere across the country.

Several cities – Seattle, San Francisco – have voted to boost their local minimum wage to $15, but New York would be the first state to do so – assuming the board goes in that direction – albeit only in a single sector.

Cuomo has not specifically said he’s looking for an increase to $15 an hour. He tried unsuccessfully in his executive budget to raise the hourly wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state, meeting strong opposition from the Senate Republicans and their business allies.

In announcing his plans for a fast food wage board in a recent NYT OpEd, Cuomo said the disparity between fast food industry CEOs and rank-and-file workers is the most “extreme and obnoxious” example of the country’s income inequality gap.

He also accused the industry of draining taxpayer dollars by forcing their low paid workers to rely on public assistance to make ends meet and provide health care coverage.

This board – the second Cuomo has convened in less than a year (the first raised hourly wages for tipped workers) – is being chaired by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

Its other members are: Mike Fishman, secretary-treasurer of SEIU, who is representing organized labor; and Kevin Ryan, a tech entrepreneur and vice chairman of the Partnership for NYC, who is (ostensibly) representing the business sector.

I say “ostensibly” because some in the business community are apparently unhappy with Ryan’s selection, saying it signals that a fast food worker wage boost is a foregone conclusion, due to the fact that he supported Cuomo’s push for an overall minimum wage increase during the budget battle.

During a recent CapTon interview, NYS Business Council CEO and President Heather Briccetti, who served on the first wage board and was the lone “no” vote on raising tipped worker wages, said she had never heard of Ryan, and questioned whether he could adequately represent the business community’s interests – especially franchise owners upstate.

Briccetti also said that her experiencing serving on the first wage board was “frustrating,” and had she been asked to participate on this one, too, her answer would have been: “No.”

Briccetti also said the Business Council believes the appropriate way to address the state’s minimum wage is through an action by the Legislature, and it is considering a legal challenge to this wage board – through she did admit the statute does not prohibit the governor from going this route.

Gianaris Compares Cuomo To Scott Walker

From the Morning Memo:

Queens Democratic Sen. Michael Gianaris in an interview on Monday compared Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform policies to anti-labor measures being enacted under Republican Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

“Resources are being diverted out of the public school system to private schools, an attack on the teachers who sacrifice so much to work in our schools,” Gianaris said on NY1’s Inside City Hall. “If I wanted Scott Walker to be the governor, I’d move to Wisconsin. But we’re here in New York. I think we should be a progressive champion that stands up for working people who stand up for public schools first and foremost and then we should help the entire school system.”

The comment underscores the deepening level of antipathy from Senate Democrats in the mainline conference toward Cuomo, who this year has pursued efforts to make it harder for teachers to obtain tenure and overall the teacher evaluation criteria, which is linked to tenure.

Senate Democrats have already this year taken a more assertive posture to Cuomo on several issues, including education.

The Gianaris comment is the start of a renewed focus on education in the post-budget session for the conference as Democrats there are expected to roll out a series of what one official called “legislative fixes” to the measures included in the budget.

Cuomo has been at odds with the New York State United Teachers union since even before taking office. But this year has brought a new level of debate over the direction of education in the state.

After achieving the passage of a new evaluation system that will rely on a mix on at least one standardized test and in-classroom observation, the governor is renewing his focus to areas NYSUT has opposed, including a lifting of the cap on charter schools and a $150 million education investment tax credit, which is strongly backed by private and parochial schools.

“The hostility to public schools is alarming,” Gianaris added in the interview.

NYSUT and their city partners at the United Federation of Teachers have supported Senate Democratic candidates politically and spent heavily last year on behalf of challengers and freshman candidates.

Senate Democrats aren’t the only ones seeking changes to what was approved in the budget: Republicans and Democrats in both chambers have introduced bills aimed at extending the deadline for developing regulations for the teacher evaluations as well unlinking the enactment of the standards on the local level to a boost in school aid.

Cuomo and the administration have argued the policies included in the budget do benefit public education and public school teachers, including bonuses for high-performing teachers and free tuition to state schools for people on track to become teachers.