Cuomo’s ‘COVID Czar’ resigns after losing exception to ethics law

Larry Schwartz resigned after the state stopped allowing COVID advisors to be labelled as "volunteers" meaning Schwartz would be subject to ethics laws.

Brendan Boucher Ottawa ON

Larry Schwartz resigned after New York state stopped allowing COVID advisors to be labelled as "volunteers", meaning Schwartz would be subject to ethics laws.

Larry Schwartz commonly referred to as the "COVID Czar" of New York is the latest Cuomo staffer to resign because of a change in ethics laws. While other staffers have resigned because of the scandal around the long-term care home death count cover-up or because of the numerous sexual assault allegations, Schwartz will resign after losing his "volunteer" status in the Governors office.

Previously, advisors and staffers working specifically on the COVID-19 pandemic were labelled as "volunteers" and were except from certain ethics laws that require financial disclosure and anti-lobbying provisions.

Schwartz have been heavily involved in the New York COVID-19 response. Melissa DeRosa, the secretary to governor Cuomo tweeted her thanks to Schwartz saying,"I can't think of another public servant who has sacrificed more than Larry Schwartz in their entire career than he has over the last year as a volunteer".

Schwartz's specific concern is the 2-year lobbying ban that he would have to submit to under the new ethics law that might affect his work in private industry according to The New York Times. Schwartz is the chief strategy officer at OTG, an airport concession company.

Gov. Cuomo originally waved the ethics requirements of the positions at the beginning of the pandemic to attract a wider range of people available to help in the response to COVID-19. In his book Cuomo says of the relationship, "I called Larry and asked him to come back and help," I hated doing it because I knew that if I asked, he couldn’t say no; he was that good a friend."

Schwartz said on the topic, "At the request of Governor Cuomo, I returned to public service over a year ago as a volunteer to help in the battle against Covid," continuing, "As a lifelong resident, I take pride in helping my fellow New Yorkers."

New York law makers are considering making an "Larry Schwartz rule" that would require people who volunteer to take on a significant amount of public service work to be treated as a public officer and subject to all the same rules.


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