Some key aides jump ship as Cuomo scandals spiral

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ALBANY, N.Y. — At least two top aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are leaving his office as the governor faces allegations of sexual harassment from former aides and a federal probe into his administration’s handling of nursing home deaths.

Gareth Rhodes, a senior adviser who became a familiar face at Cuomo’s briefings over the past year and has been a prominent figure in the state’s vaccination rollout, confirmed his departure in a statement to POLITICO.

“Last week as I approached one year since moving to Albany to join the NYS Covid task force, I decided it was time, given the progress of the vaccination program and continued decline of Covid numbers, to return to my previous role at the Department of Financial Services and I informed the Governor’s senior staff at the time,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes has been in the Cuomo administration in various capacities since 2011. Prior to joining Cuomo’s Covid-19 task force last year, he was special counsel to the superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services in New York and Albany.

First deputy press secretary Will Burns, who has been with the administration for about three years, also told the governor’s office this weekend he would leave the executive chamber.

Those departures are just two of at least six that have been submitted among executive chamber staff within the past week, some of which were in the works before the allegations against the governor emerged last week, according two people familiar the moves. Those resignations also foreshadow more staff who might jump ship as loyalists reconcile the behavior that has been reported by their colleagues and peers with the governor they thought they knew.

Rhodes wife, Alexa Kissinger, on Monday offered public support for Anna Ruch — a woman who detailed an uncomfortable interaction with Cuomo that was caught on camera — in a post on Twitter, and also shared criticism of the governor’s action. It’s a sharp turn; Cuomo officiated Kissinger and Rhodes’ wedding in 2019.

Current and former aides privately say they are going through some form of personal crisis as the current scandals threaten to mar the legacy Cuomo has built over the past decade as governor.

“I’m furious with the man,” said one former Cuomo aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We’re afraid this is going to undo 12 years of really good work. Love him or hate him, New York is a different state under Andrew.”

Many say they justified 80-hour workweeks and a no-excuses office environment with legitimate achievements they saw from their boss. Cuomo’s legacy includes marriage equality, a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, strict gun control, expanding women’s reproductive health, building light-up bridges and updating airports. But that’s not what people will remember, said another former executive chamber employee.

“I know that there are so many people who just killed themselves for this office to get things done," the former employee said. "It’s just like a slap in the face.”

“I gave my heart and soul to the chamber and the state, and I worked for pennies," they added. "It was a very tough place to work and I went through it. I was proud of what I was able to accomplish in spite of all the circumstances. This is making me question people who were like family to me.”



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