Cuomo's new ethics pick raises questions after predecessor's sudden resignation

The change atop the ethics commission came as the Cuomo administration has faced mounting scrutiny for its handling of the nursing home scandal.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's pick to chair a state ethics commission is raising eyebrows.

The governor tapped an attorney from his inner circle to replace Michael Rozen, who abruptly resigned as the chairman of New York’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) on Feb. 10. The reason for Rozen's resignation remains unclear but did come as tensions over Cuomo's nursing home scandal hit a fever pitch. 

Cuomo's new pick for the position — attorney Camille Joseph Varlack —is no stranger to the Cuomo administration. Varlack previously served under the embattled governor in multiple roles including deputy director of state operations, chief risk officer and special counsel. 

In her role as chief risk officer of JCOPE, Varlack managed a network of attorneys planted into 24 state agencies monitoring for ethical violations, the Times-Union reports.

The role of the "special counsels" in JCOPE was to effectively play defense for the Cuomo administration by tracking and dealing with potentially damaging freedom of information requests, the paper reported Monday, citing anonymous sources. 

The change atop the ethics commission came as the Cuomo administration has faced mounting scrutiny for its handling of the nursing home scandal.

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The Cuomo administration stonewalled requests from news outlets and lawmakers for data nursing home resident coronavirus deaths, until an investigation by the state's Democratic attorney general revealed that the administration was significantly undercounting such deaths. 

One of Cuomo's political aides, Melissa DeRosa, reportedly told Democratic lawmakers that the administration withheld the data on nursing home deaths out of fear that it could "be used against us" by the Department of Justice. 

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The governor is now facing calls for his impeachment from both Democratic and Republican legislators