A longtime adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo leading the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been calling county executives to gauge their loyalty to the Democratic governor amid a sexual harassment investigation, per the AP. According to the New York Times, one Democratic county executive, who was not named, was so disturbed by the call from vaccine “czar” Larry Schwartz that the executive filed notice of an impending ethics complaint with the public integrity unit of the state attorney general’s office on Friday. The executive feared the county’s vaccine supply could suffer if the executive did not indicate support for Cuomo, the Washington Post reported. Schwartz served as secretary to the governor from 2011 until 2015 and has advised Cuomo off and on since then. He returned in a volunteer capacity last spring to assist the administration with the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Schwartz acknowledged making the calls to county executives, but told the Post he did not discuss vaccines in the conversations. “I did nothing wrong,” he said. But the phone calls could raise questions about an intermingling of politics with the state’s coronavirus response. “If you are in control of a vital supply of a lifesaving resource like vaccines, you are carrying an enormous amount of implicit clout when you ask for political allegiance,” Arthur Caplan, NYU’s medical ethics director, told the Post. Schwartz said that the calls he made to assess political support for Cuomo were distinct from the role he plays in the vaccination effort. Beth Garvey, Cuomo’s acting counsel, said in a statement Sunday that any assertion Schwartz “acted in any way unethically or in any way other than in the best interest of the New Yorkers that he selflessly served is patently false.”
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