In case you didn’t know it, Gov. Andrew Cuomo can be an intimidating guy. If you work for him, the message is stay out of his way. If you cross him, or he thinks you did, watch out.
It is also worth noting that women are not spared his wrath or his strong-arm tactics if they get in his way.
One local woman who has run afoul of the governor and paid the price in lost work and legal fees is Roseanne DiPizio, an executive with DiPizio Construction, the local firm that was terminated by Cuomo’s development team back in 2013 from the $19.8 million Canalside ice rink project for allegedly being incompetent.
The Empire State development official who pushed for DiPizio’s dismissal was former Buffalo Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, the same Cuomo aide who resigned his plum state patronage post last year amid claims of sexual harassment by a local woman.
The alleged victim of Hoyt’s conduct, Lisa Marie Carter, has filed a federal lawsuit that names not only Hoyt but the governor as well, claiming her complaints were not fully investigated by Cuomo’s administration, charges his office has denied.
When a female radio reporter, Karen DeWitt, attempted to question Cuomo last December about the state’s specific response to sexual harassment complaints, including those against Hoyt, the governor dodged the question and asked her how the news industry would respond.
“When you say it’s state government, you do a disservice to women, with all due respect, even though you’re a woman,” Cuomo told DeWitt. He refused to name any potential changes to state policy regarding sexual harassment claims.
DiPizio says that Cuomo’s dismissal of DeWitt does not surprise her, given what’s happened to her since that 2013 date when Cuomo’s minions fired her for allegedly not doing the work on time on the ice rink project.
“We’ve lost millions in potential work and it has cost our firm a lot of money to challenge the unlawful termination in court,” says DiPizio, a fight that is still going on.
“I think what really happened is that Cuomo’s development team just couldn’t deal with a woman in charge of the governor’s marquee waterfront project, and they fired us to make room for Pike, a politically friendly firm from Rochester that was close to the lieutenant governor at the time,” says DiPizio.
“It was Sam Hoyt who backed up the dismissal, even though he admitted under questioning in a deposition that he really didn’t know what was going on with the project,” said DiPizio.
In one telling moment, says DiPizio, a Cuomo staffer sent an email prior to a visit by the lieutenant governor to Buffalo, asking “is DiPizio behaving? “Any concern there?” She says now, “I guess I should have just gone quietly to time-out.” She said the email from the governor’s staff “is just one of the many inappropriate , condescending and misogynistic emails the governor’s office was a part of.”
DiPizio is continuing its legal fight in the case that has cost the state at least $2 million in legal fees–and counting–most paid to a local law firm, Phillips Lytle, whose former managing partner, Ken Manning, a prominent Democratic fundraiser, was recently named by Cuomo to the Peace Bridge Authority.
And then of course, another woman, actress and gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, has run afoul of Cuomo by daring to challenge him in the Democratic primary for governor.
When the Nixon campaign visited Buffalo last week to discuss economic development, she was unwelcome at the Olivencia Community Center and the Delavan-Grider Community Center, two venues that had originally agreed to the Nixon visit but had a change of heart, saying she couldn’t come because it was a political event.
Nixon blamed the governor for the change of heart, saying in a statement that Cuomo “is clearly scared of our campaign, and desperately wants me to go away.” The Cuomo team called Nixon paranoid.
Mayor Byron Brown serves as state Democratic Party chairman and the city has been on the receiving end of large chunks of development money from Cuomo even though the projects so far have not produced the jobs that were promised.
Nixon, as a parting shot, said the money is going to people “who are great contributors of the governor’s, and there’s very little oversight.”
So there you have it. DiPizio, DeWitt, and Nixon getting the Cuomo treatment and Sam Hoyt, the disgraced development official, reportedly on the receiving end of a Cuomo message to help convince Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to challenge Congressman Chris Collins instead of staying on the ticket in November with him although he denies he was trying to get her off the ticket.
Woman or not, and maybe especially if you are a woman, this governor takes no prisoners.