The Office Of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Sent The Following Letter To School Districts And Boards Of Cooperative Educational Services (boces) Across The State:
Today my Office issued a legal opinion as requested by the Governor of the State of New York. The advice sought by Governor Paterson concerns whether the Governor can grant a waiver of grand jury secrecy and all applicable privileges with respect to certain documents provided to the District Attorney's Office by former Governor Eliot Spitzer.
Yesterday, I briefed Governor Paterson on the opinion. In short, only a court can waive grand jury secrecy and former Governor Spitzer’s privileges can be waived by former Governor Spitzer, or - if he refuses - defeated by a court. The Governor and I both believe deeply in transparency and disclosure and want all relevant documents released. The only question is the best legal vehicle to reach that end.
With respect to materials provided to the District Attorney for which former Governor Spitzer has reserved his privilege claims, my Office’s legal opinion acknowledges former Governor Spitzer’s claim of privilege and that he is legally justified in pursuing these claims of privilege as they were reserved by him when he provided material to the District Attorney. However, my personal opinion is that given the unique circumstances presented in this matter, it is in the public interest that the former Governor withdraw his privilege claims for the sake of the public's right to full disclosure and transparency.
My Office has also shared these conclusions with the District Attorney.
I thank the Governor, the District Attorney and their respective staffs for their thoughtfulness and cooperation in working through the difficult Grand Jury and privilege issues raised in this unusual context.
Today, the District Attorney released a report illuminating new important facts on the so-called “Troopergate” matter. The Attorney General’s Office began the investigation approximately eight months ago. Our Report last July found that members of Governor Spitzer’s senior administration staff had used the State Police in a political plot to discredit an adversary. The Albany District Attorney’s report today demonstrates this same improper conduct. Indeed, the District Attorney’s report also reveals that the scheme involved the former Governor himself.
I believe our statements and findings of eight months ago have been proven correct. Those who sought to minimize this incident, or isolate the conduct to one or two mid level staff, were wrong. A political plot involving State Police by senior state officials is a toxic brew. In government, even a legitimate goal does not justify unscrupulous means. This situation also proves the old adage, “The cover-up is worse than the crime.” There has been a positive development from this matter: State regulations on the use of aircraft have finally been tightened and a new awareness of accountability to the taxpayer has been developed. As we said at the time, ‘our report speaks for itself,’ and had we possessed subpoena power to compel the testimony of Darren Dopp and other senior officials, the full facts would likely have come out much sooner.
Our great state faces many profound challenges and our state government is in the midst of turmoil. We need to calm the waters of state government and work together to address our state’s needs. Most of the individuals who acted improperly in “Troopergate” are already gone from state government. Governor Spitzer’s situation is truly a tragedy. I believe that with our report and the District Attorney’s report of today we have served the interests of the people of New York. Let us close this ugly chapter and move forward.