ALBANY — The state Assembly is suspending the impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The suspension takes effect upon the governor’s resignation Aug. 24.
“First, the purpose of the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation was to determine whether Gov. Cuomo should remain in office,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement Friday. “The governor’s resignation answers that directive. Second, we have been advised by Chair [Charles] Lavine — with the assistance of counsel — of the belief that the constitution does not authorize the Legislature to impeach and remove an elected official who is no longer in office.”
He said the committee’s work uncovered credible evidence in relation to allegations made in reference to the governor.
“This evidence — we believe — could likely have resulted in articles of impeachment had he not resigned,” Heastie said.
Heastie said he asked Lavine to turn over to the relevant investigatory authorities all the evidence the committee has gathered.
“As I have said, this has been a tragic chapter in our state’s history,” Heastie said. “The people of this great state expect and deserve a government they can count on to always have their best interests in mind. Our government should always operate in a transparent, safe and honest manner. These principles have and always will be the Assembly Majority’s commitment to all New Yorkers.
Cuomo announced Tuesday he would resign. His announcement came a week after state Attorney General Lettita James released a 168-page report which concluded Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women, including nine current and former state staffers, breaking state and federal laws.
“The decision to drop the impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a massive disservice to the goals of transparency and accountability,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, said in a statement.
Impeachment would mean Cuomo would be prohibited from holding public office ever again in New York state, Barclay said. It would also mean he would be unable to collect his state-funded pension.
“The Legislature had a chance to deliver accountability and justice to the victims of Andrew Cuomo’s failed administration,” Barclay said. “Today’s announcement is a slap in the face to the people this body was elected to represent.”
Earlier this week, state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, and state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, sent a letter to Lavine urging the Judiciary Committee to move forward immediately with impeachment so the full Assembly can vote to impeach him, thereby removing him from office before the 14 days are up.
This would also allow a trial to be held after 30 days in the Senate to prohibit him from ever running or holding public office in New York State again, according to the letter.
“New Yorkers demand – and deserve – accountability and answers as to the whole host of ongoing investigations of the many scandals and alleged criminality of outgoing Gov. Cuomo,” Jordan said in a statement. “That’s why it’s critical that the remaining staff at the soon-to-be former Cuomo administration receive clear legal guidance that vital records and other documents are official public records and must not be destroyed or manipulated to try and hide any potential culpability of Andrew Cuomo or his lieutenants.”
Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, called the decision to suspend the impeachment investigation a “shady deal” to protect Cuomo.
“Resignation is not accountability,” Ortt said in a statement. “The Democrats not only failed in their constitutional responsibilities - they failed the governor’s countless victims in nursing homes, brave women who came forward to tell their stories, and those who believe in honest and transparent government.”