To the Editor: Don't believe for one moment that state Attorney General Letitia James has shown independence from Governor Cuomo by issuing her Nursing Home COVID report.
Don't forget that this woman, whose political career was enabled by the Working Families Party in 2003 when it endorsed her against a Democratic candidate, committed the most-graceless and ungrateful act by refusing to appear on that party's slate during the election of 2018 at a time the WFP's very existence was threatened because of a higher vote-threshold requirement.
Moreover, in December 2019 she poured loads of road salt on the open wound by asking a court to dismiss the WFP lawsuit challenging the new rules designed to limit the number of minor parties on the ballotin New York. Not exactly a pro-democracy act.
Why did she behave that way? Because she needed to please Cuomo in his attempt to kill the WFP.
Let's be clear: as Attorney General, Letitia James does not preside over a patronage-appointed, loyal and obsequious group of employees who follow their leader's diktats, as the Governor does with his sycophants in the executive chamber.
The Nursing Home COVID report was produced by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the AG's office which is 75 percent federally funded and consists of career civil servants. The unit was created as an autonomous agency to investigate malfeasance and fraud in nursing facilities. Although Attorney General Dennis Vacco in the 1990s brought the unit under the AG's umbrella, the Investigators are not mindless robots. Rather, they possess a high degree of pride and ethical responsibility in their work. These professionals simply did the job they were required to do.
I was fortunate to befriend the venerable union official, Abraham M. Genen, who served for many years as Senior Investigator at the Attorney General's Office and whose integrity is beyond reproach. It is without question that all the gold in Fort Knox wouldn't have swayed him to shirk his duties for political purposes. The same holds true for many of his contemporary colleagues.
Ms. James did her best to soft-pedal the report, trying to go easy on the Governor and lay as much blame as possible on the nursing homes.
But had she attempted to squash or suppress the report, a mutiny would have broken out in the unit and it wouldn't have taken a leak to make a spectacular splash on media headlines all across the country.
An attempted whitewash of the report, besides being futile, would been the equivalent of political suicide for Ms. James.
She still remains highly loyal to her putative mentor, but in this instance she was hapless and helpless, and unable to help him.
Rather than laud the political figurehead at the helm of the AG office, let us give credit to the conscientious civil servants in that office who serve the public with distinction.
Chief Steward, PEF Division 191
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