Will the last top aide out of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office please turn off the lights? And for heaven’s sake, when you do, make sure there are no women in there with him.
On Friday, according to NY1, Cuomo communications director Peter Ajemian became the ninth top aide to leave the embattled governor’s office in recent months, saying he wanted to “pursue opportunities in the private sector.”
He’ll be replaced by Rich Azzopardi, previously a senior adviser to the governor.
“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 said in a statement.
“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.”
His replacement was just as gracious — if that’s the word.
“Peter has spent nearly four years in the administration taking on the hard challenges during even harder circumstances,” Azzopardi said in his statement. “There’s nobody I’d rather be in the trenches with and know he’ll always be a part of Team Cuomo.”
At least Ajemian didn’t use the tired old dog of a line that he wanted to spend time with his family, but there are several reasons why it doesn’t necessarily sound like this is someone wrapping up a stint in government work to quietly move into another line.
For starters, there’s the lack of an announcement from the eponymous head coach of Team Cuomo himself, just Azzopardi assuring everyone that Ajemian remains a team player. (Really! We swear!)
Also, when one is transitioning from a high-profile position in politics into “pursu[ing] opportunities in the private sector,” one usually announces it before, say, the day that transition takes effect:
— Morgan Mckay (@morganfmckay) May 7, 2021
According to his LinkedIn profile, Ajemian has been climbing the political ladder since 2014, which was the last time he listed himself as having a private-sector job. That job, mind you, came after Ajemian spent another year as a research and communications associate on Cuomo’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. He’s been around the block, Cuomo-wise.
It’s also curious that Ajemian’s departure comes as Cuomo’s administration is in the midst of a departure of top talent that’s starting to make the last days of the Nixon administration like a model of low personnel turnover.
“At least nine former aides have left the administration over the past few months,” NY1 reported. “This includes Gareth Rhodes, who was part of Cuomo’s COVID-19 task force, Caitlin Girouard, Cuomo’s press secretary and most recently, Jack Sterne, a Cuomo spokesman.”
The New York Post noted that Sterne, another aide who jumped to the private sector, submitted his resignation after the Albany Times Union reported in March that the governor had “groped” a female aide. His resignation didn’t take effect until mid-April, however.
Rhodes, the Post reported, also resigned immediately following another sexual misconduct accusation against Cuomo. Anna Ruch, Cuomo’s third accuser, alleged she was harassed by the governor at Rhodes’ wedding reception.
To be fair, vaccine czar Larry Schwartz resignation was prompted by the state legislature repealed a law allowing private-sector employees to serve on the state-run coronavirus task force, thus subjecting him to state ethics laws. However, it’s unclear whether Schwartz would have stayed for long even if he hadn’t, since the state attorney general is looking into whether Schwartz had tied vaccine supply to support for Cuomo.
According to a Saturday Wall Street Journal report, Schwartz had called a number of county executives to ask whether they would be calling for the governor’s resignation; given that the county executives said their only prior contact with Schwartz had to do with vaccine distribution, it’s not unreasonable to suspect Schwartz may have been unsubtly suggesting there was a quid pro quo at work.
But then, what do you expect? This time last year, many in the Democratic Party were not-so-secretly wishing that Andrew Cuomo would have run for president. Now, they’re not-so-secretly wishing he’d just resign already and go into ignominious semi-retirement.
He can go away defiant, he can go away contrite, he can go away and do a podcast with Al Franken where two jaded, fallen, grope-happy Democrat Next Big Things grouse about how the Fox News faux outrage machine done ’em wrong. But, the left seems to be saying, won’t he please just go away?
There were plenty of liberals (and mainstream media sycophants) willing to hitch their wagon to Cuomo last year when he was a healthy steed on his way up the Democrat mountain.
Now that his political career is potentially about to be put down, either by impeachment or resignation, they’re looking around for other horses to attach themselves to. Nobody’s going to say that in public, of course, but I doubt this would be the time for Peter Ajemian — or anyone else who’s left — “to pursue opportunities in the private sector” if Cuomo was still on his way up.
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