ALBANY — State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Tuesday that her Democratic supermajority will not investigate Gov. Kathy Hochul — despite mounting evidence of a $637 million pay-to-play scheme on which involves a donor tied to $300,000 in campaign money to the governor.
“I take them at their word,” Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said of the governor’s continued denial of wrongdoing.
“We have to remember – I think we all do – where we were when we had to figure out what needed to be done to keep the people of New York safe, and you know it was of paramount importance that.” Receive COVID testing,” Stewart-Cousins added, while repeating Hochul’s earlier rationale for the deal.
The apparent effort to cover for their Democratic compatriot comes after months in which Republicans have urged colleagues across the aisle to investigate the matter.
“You take someone’s word for it when you talk about fraud and corruption?” State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-Bath) said in disbelief in response to Stewart Cousins.
NJ-based Digital Gadgets landed a no-bid contract for rapid COVID-19 testing in late 2021 after its founder, Charlie Tebele, hosted a fundraiser for Hochul that made the deal possible by suspending normal state contracting rules amid a spike in coronavirus cases .
Tebele, which has denied wrongdoing, in an email to her administration, cited a conversation with Hochul about “COVID-19 testing” that highlighted available supplies days before the company made a $338 million payment received from the state, the Buffalo News revealed Monday.
“I read that the governor wants to be able to send people immediate Covid tests [sic] houses,” wrote Tebele. “My company stocks the Covid tests and can work with the state to ship them to people one at a time [sic] home the same day we receive the order,” Tebele wrote.
A spokeswoman said Hochul had no recollection of speaking to Tebele at the fundraiser, whose company reportedly charged New York almost twice as much for the tests as other states.
“There should have been a hearing on this months ago,” William Barclay (R-Fulton), one of the Republican lawmakers who previously called for an investigation into the matter, told The Post on Monday.
“With every new detail that is reported, it becomes clearer that the governor has not been willing to deal with an agreement that has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars,” he added. “It’s time for the Democrats in the Legislature to do their job and ask some uncomfortable questions.”
A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) has not responded to repeated inquiries about whether his chamber has an interest in an investigation into the alleged pay-to-play system.
Attorney General Letitia James, who has investigated price gouging in the past, has also taken no steps to investigate the matter.
It remains unclear if any prosecutors are keeping tabs on the controversial deal, or if state-level officials like Inspector General Lucy Lang, whose office investigates wrongdoing within state agencies, could get involved.
O’Mara and other Republicans have said someone needs to find the facts about strange circumstances that led to the $637 million rapid test deal that Hochul has continued to defend.
“It was either a very, very badly negotiated contract – or it was corruption,” O’Mara said.
https://nypost.com/2023/01/24/nys-senate-leader-andrea-stewart-cousins-says-no-need-to-probe-kathy-hochul-pay-to-play/ NYS Senate Chair Andrea Stewart-Cousins says there is no need to investigate Kathy Hochul’s pay-to-play