Rockland DA: Cuomo’s office called, but didn’t exert pressure

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Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe confirmed today that he was contacted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Monday about whether he would be willing to issue a statement that concurred with comments made earlier that day by Moreland Commission co-chairman William Fitzpatrick about the panel’s independence.

zugibeBut Zugibe, a Moreland Commission member, said he never felt pressured to issue a public statement. He did so to help make the record clear and to reiterate that he never threatened to resign from the panel, he said.

“On Monday, I was contacted by a representative of the governor who inquired whether I was aware of the letter issued by District Attorney William Fitzpatrick and if so, whether I believed it was accurate,” Zugibe said in a statement to Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “I was unaware of the letter and immediately reviewed it online. This letter, indeed, accurately reflected my knowledge and understanding of the pertinent facts surrounding the Moreland Commission.”

He continued, “I willingly agreed to issue a statement confirming the accuracy of the letter and also that I never threatened to resign from the commission. At no time did I detect an effort to exert any pressure to issue a public statement. The letter was issued for the sole purpose of assuring that the facts and circumstances surrounding this controversy are accurately reported.”

Zugibe, a Democrat, was among four Moreland Commission members Monday to issue statements in support of the independence of the Moreland Commission. The New York Times reported last week that Cuomo’s office had sought to dissuade the commission from issuing subpoenas to Cuomo’s allies. Cuomo disbanded the panel amid its work in March.

Monday’s statements drew a rebuke from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who accused the Cuomo administration of potentially trying to influence witnesses and urged it to stop.

Cuomo defended the commission members’ statements, saying it was solely aimed at clearing the record about the commission’s work. But he said he was done talking about Bharara’s investigation.

In May, Zugibe told Gannett’s Albany Bureau that the commission was “never, ever advised that anything is off limits to us.”

But he was also critical of its disbandment and that not enough reforms were implemented, saying the commission was finding numerous instances of misuse of campaign cash for personal use in state government.

“I think there would have been a lot more findings coming out of it,” he said in May.

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