An assistant counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who professed himself to be the author of the NY SAFE Act, was ultimately selected as the lead writer of the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption’s December 2013 report after several independent candidates for the position were nixed, according to multiple sources within the Moreland Commission.
Alex Crohn, the self-proclaimed author of the SAFE Act, had not been the Moreland Commission co-chairs’ first choice to write the much-anticipated report the Commission released on Dec. 2.
According to the dozen Commission sources interviewed for this article, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to anger the governor’s office, Calcaterra was open with the Commission’s staff and commissioners that she was closely coordinating with the governor’s office, and that in many instances her demands were extensions of orders handed down by the Second Floor, in particular from the Secretary to the Governor, Larry Schwartz.
Calcaterra, who did not return calls for comment from City & State, had been appointed executive director of the Commission by Gov. Cuomo when he announced the Commission’s creation on July 2, 2013. Just days earlier Calcaterra had wrapped up her work as the governor’s appointee as executive director of the previous Moreland Commission he had called, which focused on the Long Island Power Authority and released its final report on June 22. Sources say that after Calcaterra threatened to resign over Camarda’s hiring, the governor’s office made it clear to the co-chairs that Calcaterra would be staying on, and that the executive chamber would not agree to the hiring of an independent, good government report writer.
By early October there was still no writer on board to draft the report, despite the days quickly ticking down to Dec. 1—the date on which Gov. Cuomo had mandated by executive order that the Commission release a preliminary report detailing its findings. As such, the co-chairs agreed to accept a report writer selected by the Second Floor, provided they would be allowed to hire a second independent writer to work alongside the executive chamber’s choice.
The governor’s office sent Alex Crohn. No independent writer was ever hired.
Was Crohn qualified for the job compared to the people the commission had tried to hire in his stead?
Crohn, a graduate of Harvard Law School, came to the Commission directly from the executive chamber, where he worked under Mylan Denerstein, the governor’s counsel. Crohn spoke widely with members of the Commission about his work in the governor’s office, claiming that he played a significant role in writing legislation. He was particularly proud of his role in authoring The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, commonly known as the NY SAFE Act.
“This is the hardest thing I’ve had to write since the SAFE Act,” several Commission sources recall Crohn bemoaning aloud on numerous occasions while working on the December Moreland report. Commission sources also say they overheard Crohn, who sat in the bullpen with the rest of the Moreland Commission’s staff members, engaged in long conference calls that appeared to focus on the implementation of the SAFE Act.
Crohn could not be reached for this article, and the computerized message that answered his cell phone number stated that “the person you are trying to reach is not accepting calls at this time.”
Commission sources say that by Crohn’s own admission, he was an unusual fit for the job, lacking, as he was, in professional expertise in ethics reform, campaign finance, the penal code or any of the other areas principally germane to the Commission’s work. Despite this dearth of qualifications on-paper, Crohn would not only serve as the lead writer of the Commission’s preliminary report—which, with the shutdown of the Commission, now appears will be its only report—and sources say he also wrote the much talked about dissent to the section of that report which recommended the introduction of publicly financed elections in New York State.
While one independent expert, who requested to remain anonymous so as not to upset the governor, said that it was not unheard of for the author of a report to also write its dissent, provided the dissent accurately reflects the perspective of the dissenting minority, a commission source bristled at what the source believed was an inherent conflict of interest.
“It’s crazy,” said the source. “It’s nothing short of crazy. It’s just completely counterintuitive.”
Crohn did not end up writing the entire report. Several Commission sources say that the first draft submitted by Crohn was riddled with grammatical mistakes and factual errors. Moreover, as Jimmy Vielkind would write in Capital New York the day after the report’s release, “its recommendations mirrored Cuomo’s recent legislative platform” and seemed to be aimed chiefly at affirming the governor’s agenda—thus undermining the appearance of the Commission’s independence.
Appalled at the low quality of the work and its lack of specifics particularly in detailing the Commission’s investigations, the co-chairs decided to silo off the executive summary of the report to Danya Perry, the chief of investigations for the Commission, since that would be the part of the report most likely to be read by the public and the media.
According to multiple sources, Perry was selected because of her thorough knowledge of the status of the Commission’s investigations and because the co-chairs trusted her. Some other sections of the report were handed off to Commission members who were experts in the respective areas covered.
Not exactly somebody engaged with his work, this Crohn fellow, or even qualified to do it.
Every day we're getting more and more stories of the way Cuomo and his minions interfered in the Moreland Commission's work and steered the subpoenas and investigations the way they wanted (or kept them from going to places they didn't want - like Cuomo's own donors) and now we get a story about how Cuomo stuck the commission with one of his own minions to write the final commission report even though the commission had chosen much more qualified (and interested) people to do it.
With US Attorney Preet Bharara now picking up the Moreland investigations and refusing to rule out whether he would investigate the governor's interference into the commission's work, Cuomo may eventually be exposed publicly for the kind of corruption and malfeasance he engaged in with the Moreland Commission.
Here's hoping, because the games Cuomo and his people played with this commission are just outrageous - read the whole City and State article on it and you'll see what I mean.