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Bello was contacted by NY's vaccine 'czar' - county exec. calls for Cuomo to resign

Max Schulte
WXXI News file photo
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello is responding to reports that the state’s COVID vaccine ‘czar,’ Larry Schwartz, had reached out to some Democratic leaders asking if they support Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Bello says he pointed Schwartz to his statement, and the County Executive is calling on Cuomo to resign.

Published reports say that Schwartz, a longtime adviser to 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. The Washington Post and The New York Times report that one Democratic county executive was so disturbed by the call from Schwartz that the executive filed notice of an impending ethics complaint with the public integrity unit of the state attorney general's office. Schwartz told the Post he did not discuss vaccines in the conversations. He said he "did nothing wrong," 

Here’s the statement Bello released on Monday:

"On Sunday March 7th, the day after I again publicly called for an investigation into the allegations against Gov. Cuomo, I received a phone call from Larry Schwartz. During that call, Mr. Schwartz asked about my position, and I pointed him to my statement. That was the end of the conversation. At no time did I feel any pressure and the topic of vaccines never came up.

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."

New York GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy held a news conference outside of Monroe County Office Building Monday. He called Cuomo corrupt and called for his resignation.

Langworthy says Bello and other democratic county executives around the state should take questions from the media about the calls.

“I think it's important for the people of Monroe County and Rochester to ask hard questions of this county executive who has avoided controversial topics, I think he has been someone who has in fact run from them on many occasions,” said Langworthy.

“It's downright disgusting that once again, New Yorkers' lives have been put at risk to protect this governor’s political power,” continued Langworthy. “The latest abuse of power cannot go unchallenged. It is too serious to hide behind anonymous sources.”

Langworthy also joined Senate Republicans in a request for the federal government to seize control of New York's vaccine distribution.

“We’ve made our position clear that the Cuomo Administration is unfit to make any decisions related to this pandemic, including the vaccination rollout. Our conference has held roundtable events with County Executives to listen and hear about the troubling vaccination rollout. These communications documented the many inadequacies in the state’s stewardship of vaccinations, including the inability or unwillingness of the State Department of Health to answer questions and address the concerns of their local partners. Mr. Schwartz’s recent actions remove the last bit of credibility or confidence that might have remained in the state’s vaccination program,” said Senate Minority Leader Ortt in a statement.

Beth Garvey, Acting Counsel to the Governor, released this statement on Monday afternoon:

"Vaccine distribution in New York is based on objective criteria to ensure it matches eligible populations, ensure equity, and ability to rapidly administer shots in arms. To be clear, Larry's conversations did not bring up vaccine distribution -- he would never link political support to public health decisions.  Distorting Larry's role or intentions for headlines maligns a decades long public servant who has done nothing but volunteer around the clock since March to help New York get through the COVID pandemic.  Any suggestion that Larry 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." 

This story includes reporting from the Associated Press.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.