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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has launched a purge of agency heads and other officials appointed by her disgraced predecessor Andrew Cuomo — with at least nine bureaucrats either resigning or being told they’ll be out of a job within the next few days, sources told The Post on Friday night.
Topping the list of departures is Michael Hein, the former Ulster County Executive who was tapped by Cuomo in 2019 to oversee the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hein was put in charge of the regional control room for the Hudson Valley, monitoring key health metrics as the state tentatively reopened in summer 2020.
In recent months, Hein was supposed to oversee the distribution of $2.6 billion in federal funding to help tenants pay back rent and utility bills. He was criticized for failing to hand out the money fast enough.
On Aug. 10, the day Cuomo announced his resignation, Hein admitted to lawmakers at an Assembly hearing that he had never spoken to the then-governor about the program, which was created by Congress at the beginning of this year.
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and newly sworn in Gov. Kathy Hochel
Other officials headed for the door, according to sources, include: Dr. Theodore Kastner, commissioner of the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities; Arlene González-Sánchez, head of the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services; Kenneth Theobalds, chair of the New York State Insurance Fund; Human Rights Division Commissioner Licha Nyiendo; Deputy Secretary for General Government and Technology Molly Reilly; Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights and Workforce Debra Alligood White; Director of Cannabis Program Norman Birenbaum; and Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Jeremy Shockett.
The shake-up in Albany began hours after the Friday announcement that Amit Singh Bagga, who unsuccessfully sought to represent the 26th City Council District earlier this year, had been appointed Hochul’s deputy secretary for intergovernmental affairs.
It also comes one day after Hochul announced that state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker would step down from his post as soon as a replacement could be found.
Zucker, who had been in his position since 2015, was accused by critics of helping Cuomo minimize and disguise the terrible toll of COVID-19 in nursing homes across the state. It was he who issued the infamous March 2020 order that required nursing homes to accept coronavirus-positive residents returning from hospitals, provided they were not critically ill. Zucker also barred nursing homes from testing the returning residents for the virus
That order was quietly withdrawn in May of last year, but family members of those who died in long-term care facilities said the damage had been done by then.
Under Zucker’s watch, the Health Department provided incomplete tallies of coronavirus death counts from nursing homes for months, by refusing to release the tallies of residents who later died in nursing homes. The Cuomo administration only released the complete figures after state Attorney General Letitia James released a report saying the Health Department’s count likely understated COVID-linked deaths at nursing home facilities by 50 percent.
Zucker’s incomplete counts obscured the connection between 1,900 COVID deaths and nursing homes in New York City alone.
When Hochul first took office in August, she declared she would have a 45-day window to assess which state workers she would keep or replace from the former administration.
Hochul said she is New York’s “number one recruiter” Friday speaking to business leaders in upstate-based Bolton Landing, noting she’s actively seeking two candidates for top positions. Meanwhile, she has also announced key appointments over the last several weeks.
A representative for Hochul declined to comment on the departures when reached by The Post.
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