State Assemblyman Michael Montesano is voicing his opposition to Speaker Carl Heastie’s decision to suspend the Assembly’s impeachment inquiry of Gov. Andrew Cuomo once he officially steps down on Aug. 24.
In a memo released last Friday, Heastie concluded that the State Legislature lacked the clear authority to impeach an elected official who voluntarily steps down. Heastie said that attorneys had advised the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee that the state Constitution does not give the Legislature that power.
“I am completely against this premature cancellation of the impeachment investigation, which was done without conferring with the minority conference,” Montesano, a Republican from Glen Head, said. “The people of New York deserve the governor being held accountable for his actions. We had plenty of time to wrap up this investigation before the governor officially stepped down.”
Other lawmakers continue to urge the Assembly to press on with an impeachment proceeding, in the hope of barring Cuomo from holding state office in the future. All six Republicans, and nine of 15 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed that the Assembly should release a public report on its findings.
“The Speaker of the Assembly should at least release our findings to the public to show them what we found,” Montesano said. “They are entitled to much more, but they at least deserve that.”
Assembly leaders say they are still working to finish multiple investigations into Cuomo’s alleged sexual harassment of nearly a dozen women, and plan to send the findings to state and federal prosecutors, and to make their findings public.
“The Assembly Judiciary Committee will continue to review evidence and issue a final report on its investigation of Governor Cuomo,” Heastie and committee Chairman Charles Lavine, a Democrat from Glen Cove, said in a joint statement.
Section 24 of Article VI of the state Constitution states: “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office, or removal from office and disqualification from future public office,” leading some lawmakers to believe the pursuit of impeachment after Cuomo is no longer in office would have no legal standing.
Nonetheless, in addition to possible impeachment and criminal charges, there are calls for additional punishment for the governor if he were to be criminally convicted. Legislation proposed by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and State Sen. James Skoufis would keep an impeached governor from collecting a pension. In 2017, the state Constitution was amended to require any state employee who is convicted of a felony to forfeit or her pension. Cuomo is set to receive a $50,000-a-year pension for life despite his resignation.
And a bill that has been proposed before, but is resurfacing in light of the accusations against the governor, is calling for the name of the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge to be changed back to the Tappan Zee Bridge. In 2017, when the younger Cuomo renamed the newly rebuilt bridge, there were complaints from local community members and even some lawmakers. Now, with Cuomo set to resign, Assemblyman Mike Lawler, who introduced the bill, said it was time for the Cuomo name to be removed from the bridge.
Others are continuing to demand justice for Cuomo’s reported victims. “The Assembly’s decision to call off its impeachment investigation is an unjust cop-out,” Lindsay Boylan, a former aide to the governor and one of the 11 women who accused him of sexual harassment, said in a tweet. “The public deserves to know the extent of the governor’s misdeeds and possible crimes. His victims deserve justice and to know he will not be able to harm others.”