Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen disputed reports that he threatened to resign over frustration with the governor’s office involvement with the now-defunct Moreland Commission.
Mollen said he knew that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office would have input in the panel’s direction, but he backed up statements today by Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick that the commission was ultimately independent.
“I never had any quarrel or misunderstanding that the governor and his people would provide advice, support and input on what we were doing,” Mollen said in an interview today with Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “But I also always believed that we had absolute independence to go wherever the commission wanted and the governor could not stop us if we choose to go somewhere.”
Mollen was mentioned in the New York Times investigation Wednesday that he was among district attorneys that threatened to resign over the intervention of Cuomo’s office in seeking to direct who was issued subpoenas by the panel.
“I always had the opportunity to be heard with the commissioners and chairpersons,” Mollen said. “I always had the opportunity to express my viewpoint. Sometimes it was accepted, sometimes it was not. But I never came to a point where I said, ‘Look it, we’re going to do this or else I’m going to resign or we should resign.’”
But Mollen criticized a statement to the Times by Cuomo’s top aide Larry Schwartz that the panel needed the second floor’s expertise.
“What the governor’s representative said in the statement to the Times is directly contrary to both the executive order and my understanding of our degree of independence,” Mollen said. “It’s directly contrary to the way in which we did business. I’m not defending recent comments coming from the governor’s chambers; I’m defending the work of the commission.”
He also said the commission’s work shouldn’t have been brought to an abrupt end by Cuomo in March.
“My viewpoint is that the governor would have been better served by just letting the commission run its course,” he said. “But I don’t have his responsibilities. He has to judge the value of the commission in light of everything else the governor does.”
Mollen said that subpoenas that were disputed by the governor’s office were ultimately served, showing the commission’s independence.
“You can dress it up as an evil conspiracy, but if you actually do a timeline on the facts, all it amounts to is that there was too much grumbling and discussion and advice being given,” he said. “Being a prosecutor, really? That’s what we do all day, every day.”