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Cuomo’s COVID-19 czar abruptly resigns following change to state ethics law

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Bradley Stein, DCNF

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s longtime COVID-19 czar and former adviser Larry Schwartz tendered his resignation on Thursday following a change to a state ethics law.

Schwartz’s resignation follows the New York legislature’s repeal of an ethics law that previously granted a “volunteer” status to individuals aiding the state’s COVID-19 response, according to the New York Times.

Under the new law, Schwartz would be required to file financial disclosures and submit to a two-year lobbying ban following any work done for the state, according to the NYT. Schwartz is the latest staffer to resign in the wake of multiple sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo and reports of his administration covering up thousands of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

“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,” Schwartz said in a statement to the NYT.

“As a lifelong resident, I take pride in helping my fellow New Yorkers,” Schwartz said. The former COVID-19 czar told the Times he had plans to resign in mid-May but the recent ethics law changes forced him to resign earlier.

Schwartz joined the Cuomo administration’s coronavirus response team at the height of pandemic in March 2020, according to the NYT. Shortly after Schwartz joined the administration, Cuomo issued an executive order that exempted volunteers from having to comply with a two-year lobbying ban once they return to the private sector.

Schwartz also was the subject of a state ethics complaint for having called Democratic officials to gauge their loyalty to Cuomo after the governor was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women.

Cuomo has repeatedly denied the sexual harassment allegations. The governor has yet to announce who will fill Schwartz’s position.

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