Home US Hordes of Cuomo staffers jumped ship before he stepped down in disgrace
Like rats in a sinking ship, dozens of top staffers in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office fled their jobs in the months before he was forced to resign amid a sexual harassment scandal, payroll records obtained by The Post reveal.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will replace the disgraced Cuomo at midnight Tuesday and it appears she has plenty of vacancies to fill.
Thirty-three staffers assigned to Cuomo’s tight-knit executive chamber resigned or were reassigned from Jan. 1 through Aug. 11 of this year, according to personnel records kept by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.
“Thirty-three people leaving the executive chamber is a high number,” said Rob Cole, who served as a senior adviser to former three-term Gov. George Pataki.
“There’s probably many more Cuomo aides assigned to other state agencies who also left,” he said.
While the names of some of the departed have been publicly known, the breadth of the exodus is striking.
Payroll records show that many top staffers in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office quit ahead of his resignation.New York Governor’s Office via A
The records show that Cuomo relied on an old hand who worked for his father, the late three-term Gov. Mario Cuomo, ex-FBI agent Joseph Spinelli.
Cuomo, unannounced last year, hired Spinelli, who served as the elder Cuomo’s state inspector general, as a deputy secretary and senior adviser with a $188,700 annual salary, payroll records show.
Spinelli, according to his LinkedIn page, worked for the governor from March 2020 when the pandemic hit until May 2021.
“It’s unusual not to announce the hiring of a staffer with that top salary,” said one former Cuomo official who was not familiar with Spinelli’s work during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Another source said Spinelli was brought in to work on public safety issues.
The state Office of Children and Family Services in 2017 appointed Kroll Associates and Spinelli to investigate the city’s child welfare agency’s handling of child abuse cases.
Other departures in recent months include general counsel Kimuki Gibson, who made $204,000, and assistant counsel Rose Nadine Fontaine, who was paid $176,851.
Gibson had served as Cuomo’s chief lawyer for two years, overseeing legislation and all legal issues involving the executive chamber and government workforce.
She had replaced Alphonso David, who now heads the Human Rights Campaign and whose name surfaced in state Attorney General Letitia James’ investigative report that concluded Cuomo had harassed 11 women, including current and former staffers. David, like Cuomo, denied any wrongdoing.
Another key staffer, Max Orenstein — who was making $156,060 as creative director — left in April. He worked on the COVID-19 mask TV ad campaign last year.
Orenstein is now communications director at B’nai Jeshurun.
Two other top aides left the executive chamber for soft landings at other state entities.
Joseph Rabito, the $194,158 deputy executive secretary to the governor, now heads the state Environmental Facilities Corporation. Rabito held several leadership positions under Cuomo, overseeing services and policy regarding transportation, public safety and financial services.
John Maggiore, who was making $176,868 as deputy secretary and senior adviser, left in June when Cuomo appointed him to sit on the Public Service Commission. He helped oversee upstate economic development issues.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will officially become governor at midnight on August 24, 2021.Seth Wenig/AP
At least four members of the press office, including former communications director Peter Ajemian, resigned or were reassigned. He was paid $164,383.
Ajemenian was part of the governor’s team of advisers involved in “ongoing and regular discussions about how to respond to the [sexual harassment] allegations publicly” that were leveled against Cuomo, the attorney general’s 168-page report said.
Others who departed include Marquita Sanders, the $173,400 assistant secretary to the governor who is now director at the state Department of Financial Services; Miriam Judlow, executive assistant, $163,200; and senior speechwriter Daneil Kadishon, who earned $132,600 and now is speechwriter at the US Department of Transportation.
The Post reported on Sunday that Cuomo is saddling Hochul with a staffing crisis at the state Health Department after hordes of top staffers exited amid the unrelenting coronavirus pandemic and controversies surrounding the administration’s policies on nursing homes.
Cuomo’s office had no immediate comment.