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Bello received call from state vaccine 'czar' gauging his support for Cuomo

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Monroe County Executive Adam Bello has acknowledged that he received a call from the state's COVID-19 vaccine "czar," Larry Schwartz, who wanted to gauge his support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom several former aides are accusing of sexual harassment or exhibiting sexist and patronizing behavior.

Bello said he pointed Schwartz to a March 7 statement he made calling for a thorough investigation of the governor.

"That was the end of the conversation," Bello said in a written statement Monday. "At no time did I feel any pressure and the topic of vaccines never came up."

In the statement he released Monday, Bello also called on Cuomo to resign:

"Over the past 12 months, I have been laser focused on our community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the health and safety of Monroe County residents. Unfortunately, the growing number of strong, credible women coming forward to detail troubling allegations of a toxic workplace and sexual harassment and abuse against Gov. Cuomo has become a distraction from our important work. I believe the time has come for Gov. Cuomo to resign. Doing so is the only way to put the people of New York first and allow our state to begin the challenging work of rebuilding the trust that has been lost in state government. While the path ahead is not easy, I have complete confidence that Lt. Gov. (Kathy) Hochul has the integrity and skill necessary to lead us forward."
A story published Sunday in the Washington Post reported that Schwartz, a longtime advisor to Cuomo, had phoned county officials across New York to get a feel for their loyalty to Cuomo. The calls came as the state was preparing to select and open mass vaccination sites, the Post noted. Schwartz told the Post he made the calls as a 30-plus year friend to Cuomo and there was no discussion of vaccines.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded to allegations of sexual harassment during a news briefing on March 3, 2021. - WXXI NEWS
  • WXXI NEWS
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded to allegations of sexual harassment during a news briefing on March 3, 2021.
But the call rattled one county executive to the point that they filed notice of an impending ethics complain with the Public Integrity Unit or the state Attorney General's Office. "The executive feared the county’s vaccine supply could suffer if Schwartz was not pleased with the executive’s response to his questions about support of the governor," read the Post article.



The executive also said the conversation with Schwartz happened close to a separate conversation with another official in the Cuomo administration regarding vaccine distribution, reported the Post.

In a written statement, Steve Brew, the Monroe County Legislature's Republican majority leader, dinged Bello for waiting until he "found himself in the political crosshairs" to call for Cuomo's resignation.

“The right thing and the easy thing are not always the same," Brew's statement read. "If it was right to call for Governor Cuomo’s resignation today, it was right to do so one week ago. County Executive Bello’s effort to quickly sweep this under the rug is nothing more than an attempt to cover up his complicity in this scandal. On behalf of the residents of Monroe County, I demand that County Executive Bello come clean and provide an honest and thorough account of his conversations with Mr. Schwartz and any other Cuomo official, instead of the shallow dismissal he offered today.”

Randy Gorbman is the news director at WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.

Jeremy Moule, CITY's news editor, contributed to this article. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.


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