A New York state senator who has repeatedly refused to subpoena the Cuomo administration over its decision to send COVID-19 patients to old age homes appeared star-struck after a recent closed-door meeting with the governor’s top aides.
Democratic Sen. James Skoufis, who represents Orange County and heads up the chamber’s investigations committee, gushed in a Zoom call last week about meeting with legislative “stars,” including top aide Melissa DeRosa and health commissioner Howard Zucker.
“Basically the stars you see on your TV set every day that tell us what’s happening,” bragged Skoufis in a Zoom conference with the Ferry Godmother, an upstate community group, in a clip obtained by the Hudson Power Broker. Skoufis told participants he spoke to the group minutes after his closed-door Feb. 10 Zoom conference with DeRosa, Zucker and other members of the Cuomo administration.
Skoufis, 33, is Chair of the Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, but has repeatedly refused Republican calls to subpoena records or testimony from members of the Cuomo administration who put thousands of COVID-19 patients into nursing homes, spreading the virus among vulnerable elderly residents. More than 13,000 New Yorkers in nursing homes have died since the start of the pandemic, nearly double the state health department’s tally of 8,500 nursing home fatalities.
Last week, the US Attorney and the FBI launched criminal probes into the Cuomo administration over its handling of the coronavirus in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to reports.
“It’s time for him [Skoufis] to do what is right and hold the Cuomo administration accountable,” said Republican state Sen. Robert Ortt in a statement to The Post Friday. “Instead, he is on record actively defending an administration under criminal investigation. His job as Chair is to provide oversight; instead he acted for his own political benefit by blocking a subpoena request that would hold Gov. Cuomo and the Department of Health accountable and finally get the answers New Yorkers deserve.”
Earlier this month, Skoufis rebuffed a motion from state Sen. Robert O’Mara to subpoena members of the Cuomo administration over nursing home deaths. In a Zoom meeting of the Senate investigations committee, Skoufis muted O’Mara who continued to press for subpoenas.
But Skoufis told The Post his committee is “continually engaged in oversight,” and had conducted more than 40 hours of COVID hearings in — a process which is ongoing, he said.
“What we are not… is a criminal investigative entity,” he said. “We do not have the authority to launch those types of inquiries, and defer to the appropriate agencies and their discretion.”