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New York county official flags potentially unethical call from Cuomo’s vaccine czar

Larry Schwartz, a longtime adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) who is serving in a volunteer capacity as the state’s COVID-19 vaccine czar, made some calls to New York county officials last week that led at least a few of them to worry about their jurisdiction’s vaccine supply, The Washington Post reports.

Cuomo is under investigation and facing calls to resign after a series of allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior toward women in recent weeks, and Schwartz, who has earned a reputation as the governor’s enforcer, acknowledged calling the officials to get a sense of where they stood on the matter. He claims he did so in a role that was distinct from his vaccine duties, and two officials did tell the Post they didn’t consider the calls a threat. However, they said they understood why others were unsettled by the exchanges. Per The New York Times, one official said Schwartz did indeed pivot directly from Cuomo’s political situation to a discussion about vaccine distribution.

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One county executive filed notice of an impending ethics complaint with the public integrity unit of the state attorney general’s office. “At best, it was inappropriate,” the executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Post. “At worst, it was clearly over the ethical line.”

As Arthur Caplan, the director of medical ethics at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, put it, “if you are in control of a vital supply of a live-saving resource … you are carrying an enormous amount of implicit clout when you ask for political allegiance.” Read more at The Washington Post and The New York Times.