Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cuomo Restricts Access To Records From His Time As Attorney General

Looking to see why Governor Andrew Cuomo didn't take on any of the architects of the '08 financial collapse or the LIBOR rate fixing when he was attorney general?

Good luck at that:

ALBANY — For those seeking the history of Andrew Cuomo's tenure as attorney general through the State Archives, be advised: Members of the governor's staff may go over the material before you arrive, review it after you leave and remove what they don't think should be seen.

A limited number of documents relating to Cuomo's single term as attorney general are stored at the Archives, a branch of the State Education Department, after being transferred from the jurisdiction of the Office of Attorney General. But in a break with past procedure, a Freedom of Information Law request by the Times Union for attorney general records from 2007 to 2010 prompted top Cuomo aide Linda Lacewell to screen documents before their release.

Dozens of folders in the Archives' custody were pulled by Lacewell, a special counsel to the governor, who spent nearly eight hours in the public records room, according to sign-in sheets released by the archives.

Months after the paper made the request, officials made available 30 boxes of material in addition to documents from a closed lawsuit. Most of the material was routine, including news releases announcing drug busts and reports on cybercrime and inmate recidivism.

Of course, politicians often exaggerate in their public utterances, but governmental records usually provide a more unvarnished narrative. Cuomo, like many politicians, has worked to tightly control the flow of information, managing access to senior officials and reducing the volume of records that are created.

While the governor took office vowing to run an administration that is "the most transparent and accountable in history," he and his team are noted for their meticulous management of information.

This tendency appears to extend to the Archives. Lacewell, a top deputy to Cuomo at the attorney general's office, removed several documents from the case files after reporters had seen them. She extracted the daily calendars and notebooks of Ellen Biben, who managed the attorney general's Public Integrity Bureau for Cuomo before becoming the state's top ethics watchdog this year, even though many of the items in the schedules appeared to be mundane. Lacewell even pulled a presentation on how to improve traffic on the office's website.

The governor's press secretary, Josh Vlasto, joined Lacewell at the Archives when he and Lacewell were contacted after reporters photocopied some documents that had been authorized for public viewing after Lacewell's initial screening.

State Archivist Christine Ward told the Times Union that she learned that materials had been made public in error, and that she was responsible for the second round of extractions.


The Times Union reported in March that Cuomo's aides had sent 30 boxes of attorney general records to the Archives, a process that began while he was still in that office. Eliot Spitzer, who like Cuomo served as attorney general before he was elected governor, waited until assuming the higher office to send over old records. So far, Spitzer has sent 1,022 boxes.

Cuomo's schedule records, which had been sought by the Times Union under the Freedom of Information Law, were not sent to the Archives. Instead, they were discarded.

Bamberger's statement said that while Spitzer's aides did not pre-review his materials, Cuomo's aides will handle that task for the current governor. They are now combing through 400 boxes of Cuomo's correspondence as attorney general and "other records will be identified and produced to the Archives as appropriate."

This process of pre-review is "very concerning," said Lawrence J. Hackman, the New York archivist from 1981 to 1995 and a nationally recognized expert on archives policies.

"I don't remember anything like this ever happening," said Hackman, who left Albany to become director of the Truman Presidential Museum and Library in Independence, Mo. "I don't remember an instance of that kind of direct intervention and then removal of records that were accessible after the fact. It's certainly very concerning, and it drives me toward the conclusion that ... if you don't have a statute to hold up to them in regard to gubernatorial records, you don't have a chance."

Ah yes - the most transparent administration ever.

That's Little Andy for you.

What's he hiding?



  1. Cuomo has a lot to hide. My best guess is that he would be scadnalously removed from the governorship or he would be significantly damaged politically if the records were to be made public. Otherwise, he would release them right now.

  2. But all this is so typical of Cuomo. Even during the gubernatorial debates, such as they were--he said very little. There was almost a conspiracy to play the other candidates for laughs--leaving him off the hook.There's a running joke on NY Channel 1 on how many days it's been that they've been trying to have Cuomo as a guest, but he refuses. He was his dad's behind the scenes enforcer and his style is Machiavellian. Yet he has high approval ratings and the public doesn't question him.