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May 08, 2014

CREW Calls for Investigation of NY Gov. Cuomo and Aides Over Use of Private Email Accounts

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY)Washington, D.C. — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today requested that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman investigate whether New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his aides violated state laws and policies by using private email accounts and untraceable text messages to conduct official business. CREW’s request follows a recent ProPublica article in which a journalist described receiving email regarding state business from a senior Cuomo aide’s private email account.

Read CREW's letter to Attorney General Schneiderman.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “Governor Cuomo pledged to ‘make the state government the most transparent and accountable in history,’ but his administration’s use of private email accounts and PIN messaging suggest otherwise.”

New York laws and policies prohibit the use of personal email accounts to conduct state business. The state’s Office of Information Technology Services has issued policy guidance specifically stating employees “may not use a personal email account to conduct state business unless explicitly authorized.” Gov. Cuomo’s office claims it need not retain an official email “unless it meets the definition of a particular kind of record,” such as a press release.  New York’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, State Technology Law, and the policies and guidance of several state agencies make it clear, however, that these records should be retained and available for public scrutiny.

Previously, there has been controversy about other governors’ use of private email accounts, including Sarah Palin (R-AK), Matt Blunt (R-MO) and Chris Christie (R-NJ).

Ms. Sloan continued, “Government officials who use private email or untraceable text message to keep their dealings secret from the public that elects them and funds their salaries and whom they claim to represent must be held accountable for their conduct. If Governor Cuomo doesn’t want voters to know what he’s doing, maybe he is doing something he shouldn’t.”

The ProPublica article by Justin Elliot detailed the reporter’s receipt of email regarding official state business from the private account of a top Cuomo advisor, Director of State Operations Howard Glaser. Mr. Elliot’s subsequent open records request for email sent to and from the private account was denied on the basis the New York State Executive Chamber had no responsive records. In 2012, the Daily News reported that Governor Cuomo routinely relies on PIN to PIN Blackberry messaging to communicate with top aides, apparently to avoid leaving any paper trail.