Embattled New York Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s communications team is seeing big changes following the resignation of Communications Director Peter Ajemian.
Ajemian’s last day on the job was Friday and he will be replaced by Rich Azzopardi, a long-time Cuomo ally and senior adviser for the past 9 years, according to an announcement from Cuomo’s office Friday.
“After nearly four years, and with this year’s budget done and vaccine eligibility open to everyone, I decided now is the time to pursue opportunities in the private sector,” Ajemian told Spectrum News on Friday. “I’m grateful to the governor for giving me the chance to serve. It’s been the honor of a lifetime to be part of a team working for New Yorkers in a period of unprecedented crisis and seeing the government work for the people and people work for each other.”
Azzopardi, who will also continue his work as a senior adviser to the governor, praised Ajemian, saying he would always be part of “team Cuomo.”
“Peter has spent nearly 4 years in the administration taking on the hard challenges during even harder circumstances,” Azzopardi said in a statement to Spectrum News. “There’s nobody I’d rather be in the trenches with and [I] know he’ll always be a part of Team Cuomo.”
His departure is not the only change in the communications division.
According to Cuomo’s announcement, Colin Brennan has been appointed deputy communications director, Jennifer Givner will become acting press secretary, Jordan Bennett will be deputy communications director for the downstate part of New York, including New York City, and Haley Viccaro will be the deputy communications director for energy and the environment.
In addition to those staffing changes, Dana Carotenuto will be Cuomo’s new chief of staff, replacing Jill DesRosiers who has been on maternity leave since December, according to the announcement.
Six other staff changes were included in the announcement.
The changes come as the Cuomo administration is being scrutinized for two different scandals, one involving thousands of senior deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic and another involving alleged sexual harassment, The Hill reported.
After being heralded by many Democrats as a “gold standard” for his daily press briefings during the height of the pandemic, Cuomo has recently come under fire for allegedly underreporting the number of senior deaths in nursing homes after an executive order mandated hospitals in the state return discharged COVID-positive seniors back to nursing homes.
An estimated 5,000-6,000 seniors died due to the virus in those homes, according to several published reports at the time.
To make matters worse, Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan came forward with an essay earlier this year accusing the single, 68-year-old governor of inappropriate behavior.
Several other women have come forward since then with similar stories, causing Attorney General Letitia James to run 2 independent investigations into the allegations.
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing on either matter.
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