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ALBANY, N.Y. — New York State Police failed to follow proper procedures when investigating and disciplining a trooper who had a romantic relationship with one of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daughters, according to a new report released Friday.
Inspector General Lucy Lang’s office found state police officials dropped the ball after being informed in May 2020 that Trooper Dane Pfeiffer was dating Cara Kennedy-Cuomo while assigned to the ex-governor’s protective detail.
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The report targets State Police Superintendent Kevin Bruen’s decision to forgo formal punishment for Pfeiffer, instead allowing him to be reassigned, and punishing a supervisor who knew of the dalliance but failed to inform the IG’s office about the incident.
“These failings prevented a full and fair review of the investigation, which, while problematic in any circumstance, is of even graver concern here, where the facts call into serious question the decision not to formally discipline Pfeiffer for his conduct, particularly when a simultaneous decision was made to discipline his supervisor for failing to take action upon learning of that same conduct,” the report reads.
No personnel complaint number was assigned to the matter and audio files of the two compelled statements made by Pfeiffer and his supervisor were not properly maintained, according to the 32-page report.
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Documents related to the investigative steps taken in response to the complaint were not completed and records were not maintained, Lang’s office determined.
According to the report, a day after Kennedy-Cuomo told her father about the relationship, which began in March 2020, Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa called the commander of the Protective Services Unit.
Pfeiffer was then called in for an interview with his commanding officer and an investigator from the State Police’s Professional Standards Bureau in which he admitted to the consensual relationship.
During a second interview the same day, Pfeiffer claimed that he never physically interacted with the governor’s daughter while he was on duty and said he believed it was “professional” of him to engage in a relationship with Kennedy-Cuomo.
Bruen and others involved in the investigation determined that Pfeiffer needed to be transferred and no “additional investigative steps to either corroborate or discredit Pfeiffer’s or his supervisor’s accounts of the matter” were conducted, per the report.
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Bruen simply looked at the nature of the relationship between Kennedy-Cuomo and Pfeiffer and “cut him a break,” concluding that “there was nothing unseemly about his behavior.”
Pfeiffer told Lang’s office that his transfer to a troop near the Canadian border was not voluntary but rather “voluntold.”
“On paper I volunteered, but no, I don’t want to go up there, never want to go there again,” he told the inspector general’s office.
The supervisor who knew of the relationship retired in good standing without any personnel complaint pending, although Bruen told Lang’s office that a complaint would have been initiated had he stayed on the job.
According to the State Police, a complete overhaul of the Protective Services Unit’s organizational structure and policies was initiated last year.
Additionally, the agency is “working with the Inspector General to ensure the recommendations in the report are implemented.”
“We believe the additional changes recommended by the IG will build on the reorganization of the unit and enhance the consistency and fairness of our internal investigations,” the agency said in a statement.
While the report does not indicate that Cuomo had anything to do with Pfeiffer’s reassignment, Bruen testified that DeRosa told him not to speak about this matter with then superintendent Keith Corlett, to whom Bruen directly reported at that time.
Lang’s office determined that Bruen and other members of the State Police took “an overly narrow view of Pfeiffer’s conduct and State Police rules.”
Thomas Mungeer, president of the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association, said he was appalled by Lang’s report.
“I am speechless at the inspector general’s report,” Mungeer said in a statement. “Our trooper is being used as a political pawn for a power grab by the inspector general to assert her undue influence on the New York State Police.”
Mungeer added that he stands by the decisions made by Bruen and has full faith in his leadership.
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