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Cuomo says charges against Skelos, if true, are "deeply disturbing"

Ellen Abbott
Gov. Andrew Cuomo answers reporters' questions after an event at Syracuse University.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his first public comments since the leader of the New York State Senate was charged in an extortion and bribery scheme, says if true, he finds the accusations “disturbing.”

Cuomo, speaking at an event in Syracuse, commented for the first time since Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was charged with six counts of public corruption.

“If the charges are correct, it’s deeply disturbing,” Cuomo said. “And the narrative that the papers present is deeply disturbing and troubling.”

Skelos’ Republican members agreed to allow him to remain as leader, at least through the end of the session. Cuomo says he has no opinion on whether Skelos should resign his post, saying it’s up to the Republican Senators to decide.

“The legislature is a separate branch from the executive, it’s not my place to tell them who their leader should be,” Cuomo said. “That’s up to them.”

The governor admits he’s worried, though that the Senate will be able to function and help settle key issues in the remaining weeks of the session.

The charges against Skelos come three months after former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on corruption charges, and resigned from his leadership position.

Cuomo was also asked about the nearly $1.5 million he’s received in campaign contributions from the real estate firm, Glenwood management. Glenwood has been a factor in the cases against both Silver and Skelos. The firm has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but its top managing executive is a cooperating witness in the Skelos case.

Cuomo says his only relationship with Glenwood has been that “they are a donor of mine” and he says “that’s basically the interaction.” The governor says he has not discussed New York City’s rent regulations or the related real estate tax break, known as 421a, with the real estate company.  

Cuomo says Glenwood has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but he says if “somebody did something wrong, then obviously I would not associate with them politically."

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.