By LOUIS FLORES
During Wednesday's cabinet meeting, sitting to the left of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-New York) was the governor's secretary, Lawrence Schwartz.
It was a rare public appearance for Mr. Schwartz, who was largely, if not entirely, absent from Gov. Cuomo's official public events during the final weeks of this year's gubernatorial race, and in the weeks since.
Mr. Schwartz adopted a low public profile after it was reported by The Wall Street Journal that he had voluntarily agreed to meet with investigators from the U.S. Attorney's Office in connection with a federal probe of the premature demise of the Moreland Commission. Mr. Schwartz was reported to have been a central figure in allegations that the Cuomo administration obstructed the work of the Moreland Commission, according to a bombshell report published by The New York Times, activities that included Mr. Schwartz issuing the now infamous directive to a Moreland Commission co-chair in respect of a politically embarrassing subpoena, "Pull it back."
Shortly after Gov. Cuomo won a difficult reëlection, it was announced that Mr. Schwartz would be leaving his post in early 2015, The New York Daily News reported. Therefore, Mr. Schwartz's public appearance Wednesday may be the first of a last few possible remaining appearances that he will make as an official in the Cuomo administration.
A controversial figure in state government since the administration of former Gov. David Paterson (D-New York), Mr. Schwartz was faulted for a range of failures noted in a scathing report by the New York State Office of the Inspector General in respect of his role in the alleged bid-rigging scandal involving a proposed racino at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, Queens. Even though the Inspector General's report was referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office for further investigation, no criminal charges were ever filed against the various officials involved in the scandalous Aqueduct racino deal.
Several other senior administration officials have left or are leaving office as Gov. Cuomo begins his second term. As previously reported by The New York Daily News, Howard Glaser, Mylan Denerstein, Josh Vlasto, and Matthew Wing have left their government posts. Mr. Glazer was replaced with Jim Malatras.
In addition to Mr. Schwartz, other officials expected to depart shortly include Kristin Proud, Bob Megna, and Ben Lawsky. Gov. Cuomo has yet to appoint a permanent state health commissioner ; after Dr. Nirav Shah resigned in the wake of an abortion clinic inspection controversy, the New York State Department of Health has been being led by an acting commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker. Furthermore, besides Mr. Schwartz, Ms. Denerstein was considered a witness in the Moreland Commission controversy.