ALBANY — State Senate Republicans may want her to publicly disclose her finances, but Gov. Cuomo’s celebrity chef girlfriend, Sandra Lee, insists none of the companies she owns has business before the state.
“None of the companies Ms. Lee owns lobby or have business before the state,” a Lee spokeswoman said Saturday.
“Ms. Lee and the governor fully comply with all current disclosure laws.”
But the spokeswoman did not respond to a question about deals Lee might have with companies she doesn’t own but do have business before the state.
Cuomo and Lee have lived in her Westchester County house together for years, but because they are not married, she does not by law have to publicly disclose her financial information like the spouses of public officials must do.
Okay - great.
Then Sandra should have no problem disclosing that information and her paramour, Sheriff Andy, ought to have no problem with the disclosure too.
After all, if there's nothing to hide, there's nothing to be afraid of, right?
Except maybe there is something they're afraid of.
Last year it was revealed that Lee and Cuomo refused to get building permits for improvements they made to their house and property and refused to allow the tax assessor to enter the premises to see just how those improvements would affect their property taxes.
The person who pushed back on the press was the governor's secretary, Larry Schwartz, not a Lee PR person:
An email message to Lee at the Food Network was answered by Larry Schwartz, Cuomo's secretary in Albany. He said any work performed at the Lee-Cuomo residence as noted in the USA Today article was "all decorative renovations and they don't require building permits. ... It was retiling, painting, wallpapering. It's like her line of work — decorative. I'm not aware of any rooms that were combined."
And what of the basement remodeling noted in the New York magazine article?
"Again, the key word is decorative," Schwartz wrote in an email. "Window treatments."
Here we have a state employee - one who is paid for more than Governor Cuomo and is the second most powerful figure in the executive branch after the governor himself - responding to Lee's email messages sent to the Food Network.
Gee, how did Larry Schwartz, a state employee in the Cuomo administration, get involved in this matter and doesn't that represent a conflict of interest?
Schwartz is currently still raking in his $181,000+ salary a year in a new position specifically created for him after the administration said he was stepping down from the secretary position to pursue a job in the "private sector."
Schwartz is also the Cuomo administration official who had subpoenas to Cuomo donors from the Moreland Commission "pulled back" during the anti-corruption panel's heyday.
He went in front of federal prosecutors investigating alleged tampering into Moreland by the Cuomo administration in August and is said to be "toxic" now as a result of rumors he will be indicted for corruption.
After the Dicker column reported Schwartz was still on the payroll, Cuomo said he is just cashing in his vacation days and will be gone sometime in March.
Now maybe it's perfectly legal for Lee to have used Schwartz, Cuomo's "fixer," to respond to emails to her at the Food Network even though she's not a state employee and the matter did not touch on state business.
But it certainly smacks of hypocrisy to claim that Lee has no business with the state when she's using the governor's secretary to respond to queries from the press that pose a political problem for her paramour, Sheriff Andy.
Also, you have to wonder, if Andy and Sandy used Larry Schwartz to put out the fire around the Lee permit business, what other items did they use him or other Cuomo admin officials or state employees for?
Cuomo wants to play like he's above politics and corruption in this ethic reforms battle, but the truth is, he's above neither and the citizens of this state need some sunlight to see just how compromised he is or isn't.
Just as Cuomo keeps saying that if teachers are so great at teaching, then they shouldn't worry about being evaluated by his "toughened" evaluation system, I say "If Andy and Sandy have nothing to hide in their finances, then they should have no problem revealing those to the citizens of the state."