Key Aide to Cuomo Quits as New York’s Vaccine Czar

Key Aide to Cuomo Quits as New York's Vaccine Czar andrew cuomo speaks to press New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at Rochdale Village Community Center in Queens on April 5, 2021, in New York City. (Brendan McDermid/Getty Images)

By Jeffrey Rodack | Friday, 30 April 2021 11:01 AM

Larry Schwartz, a trusted adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has stepped down as the state’s vaccine czar.

His resignation came on Wednesday. The New York Times reported it came as state lawmakers restored provisions to the public officers law that would have impacted Schwartz had he stayed on. His decision to depart from the unpaid job came after Cuomo had recruited him for the post.

If he had remained in the post, Schwartz could have been treated as a public officer, which would require him to file a financial disclosure form and subject him to a two-year lobbying ban, sources told the Times.

Those requirements had been waived by Cuomo at the start of the pandemic as a way to attract more volunteers to the government.

Schwartz is now chief strategy officer for an airport concessions company. The newspaper’s sources say his decision to step down was made to avoid the two-year lobbying ban.

Schwartz, who had served as Cuomo’s top aide from 2011 to 2015, said in a statement: "At the request of Governor Cuomo, I returned to public service over a year ago as a volunteer to help in the battle against COVID."

And he added: "As a lifelong resident, I take pride in helping my fellow New Yorkers."

He said he had wanted to quit in mid-May, but the changes to the law by the state legislature pushed him to expedite his decision.

And, in a statement to The Hill, Schwartz added: "My plan was always to step down in my volunteer capacity over the next few weeks as we achieved certain milestone."

Schwartz raised eyebrows in March after calling county officials around the state to gauge loyalty to the embattled governor amid the nursing home cover-up and sexual misconduct allegations.

"At best, it was inappropriate," a Democrat county executive told The Washington Post after calls made by Schwartz, At worst, it was clearly over the ethical line."

The executive asked to remain anonymous, fearing retribution from the Cuomo administration – including potential restriction on access to vaccines – and amid a notice of an ethics complaint, according to the Post.

"I did nothing wrong," Schwartz told the Post, calling the conversations personal in nature and not related to vaccine rollouts. "I have always conducted myself in a manner commensurate to a high ethical standard."

NYU Grossman School of Medicine Director of Ethics Arthur Caplan told the Post, "If you are in control of a vital supply of a life-saving resource like vaccines, you are carrying an enormous amount of implicit clout when you ask for political allegiance."