One of the Cuomo Administration’s top advisers, who reportedly pushed to hide nursing home death data, is known as the “Minister of Defense” and an “enforcer” for the embattled governor.
Linda Lacewell, a loyal Cuomo aide who heads the state Department of Financial Services, is among those who reviewed a July Department of Health report and directed the removal of COVID-19 deaths of nursing-home residents that occurred in hospitals, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The revisions reportedly undercounted the nursing-home deaths by about 3,500.
Cuomo’s office is claiming the data was taken out because “it had not been adequately verified.”
Unlike Melissa DeRosa — Cuomo’s top aide, who is also reported to have asked for the DOH report modifications — Lacewell has a much lower public profile despite being head of the governor’s COVID-19 task force.
The 57-year-old, who is not married, is said to be singularly devoted to Cuomo.
“She lived her life around him and his administration,” said a former Cuomo aide.
Another source who worked with her in the past described her as being “very smart,” but also as “having a temper problem.”
Lacewell has been by Cuomo’s side since his days as state Attorney General, when she served as his special counsel. She then worked as “chief risk officer” for Cuomo when he became governor and headed a program to install “special counsels” at state agencies to look out for ethical issues.
After a stint working for a cancer charity in California, Lacewell came back to the Cuomo Administration in 2017 to served as chief of staff and counselor to the governor before being named superintendent of the Financial Services department in 2019. Cuomo also appointed her to the MTA board that year.
During the 2018 trial of former Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco, who was convicted of taking $300,000 in bribes, Lacewell explained why she was known as the “minister of defense.”
She said that Cuomo gave her the nickname, while Percoco was in charge of the “offense.”
She said her job was “protecting the employees, the governor and the public trust.”
Lacewell was once a prosecutor with the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the same office that is now probing the Cuomo Administration’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.