Newly released files show why the Inspector General’s office’s top investigator lost his job

It was all clear: A high-ranking New York state investigator with longstanding ties to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s orbit was abruptly and quietly fired last year.

Robert Addoloarto’s name appeared last November alongside his subordinate, investigator Steven Hill, on a list of law enforcement officials whose basic training certificate had been revoked. The list, released monthly by the state, showed the two men were fired for misconduct in October by the state inspector general’s office, where Addolorato had served as deputy chief of investigations since 2011. The office Inspector General is responsible for investigating internal malfeasance.

The reason for the layoffs was much less clear. The state’s list did not contain any details, and the inspector general’s office initially declined to discuss the situation.

Documents recently obtained by Gothamist, however, show why the pair were fired – and why the state office later changed course and instead allowed them to resign retroactively, a designation that meant they could keep their certifications. peace officers with the ability to make arrests. : The couple have been accused of improperly accessing a law enforcement database containing sensitive information.

“(The) dismissal was wrongful and effectively destroyed the careers of two longtime law enforcement professionals,” Paul Shechtman, attorney for Addolorato and Hill, wrote in a Dec. 6 letter to Chief Ryan Hayward. office of current IG Lucy Lang. , obtained through an Access to Information request.

The documents show that the inspector general’s office fired Addolorato and Hill on Oct. 14 after a routine audit uncovered unusual activity within eJusticeNY, a one-stop database for information on criminal history and crimes of the defendants available only to a strictly controlled list of authorized. users undergoing training.

Together, the previously undisclosed documents show a sudden end to the state-level service of Addolorato, who worked in Cuomo’s governor and attorney general administrations and conducted some of his key investigations, including the ill-fated Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption and an investigation of then-Senator Pedro Espada.

Aries Dela Cruz, a spokesman for the inspector general’s office, declined to comment beyond the letters delivered to Gothamist, calling it a “personnel/HR issue.” Last week, the inspector general’s office publicly released one of the letters as part of an ongoing transparency initiative.

A monthly audit revealed “unauthorized” access

Gothamist submitted Freedom of Information requests for a variety of Inspector General’s Office documents related to Addolorato and Hill after their names appeared on the state’s decertification list. Shechtman, the attorney for the two men, also provided the letter he sent to the office in response to their dismissal.

Among the documents released was an Oct. 15 letter from Acting Inspector General Robyn Adair to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which enforces the State Public Officials Act. Among other provisions, the law prohibits the use of state assets for personal gain. Each violation verified by JCOPE is subject to a fine of up to $10,000.

In his letter, Adair outlined the reasons for Addolorato and Hill’s firing the day before.

On October 7, a monthly audit of the Inspector General’s office’s use of the eJusticeNY database revealed “possible unauthorized access” to the system. It showed that someone had used an old case number from 2015 to access criminal history.

The database includes a treasure trove of restricted data, including criminal information about whether someone has ever been arrested, charged, indicted, incarcerated, or released on parole. Some law enforcement officials and investigators are only granted access after they have completed training and signed an attestation that clearly states that the data is confidential and should only be used in accordance with state policy. Access for personal purposes is strictly prohibited, in part to prevent investigators from using the information for their own benefit.

The inspector general’s office said Addolorato ordered Hill to run a family member’s name through the system on Sept. 13, according to Adair’s letter. She then wrote to JCOPE after the two men were fired, asking the ethics committee to determine whether further action, including a potential fine, was warranted.

Soon after, Shechtman — an attorney who once worked with Cohen and now represents Melissa DeRosa, another of Cuomo’s former top aides — took on Addolorato and Hill as clients. The attorney was formerly commissioner of the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, the entity that oversees eJusticeNY.

Shechtman sent a letter to the inspector general’s office on December 6. Through his story, Addolorato was investigating whether an organized crime syndicate was operating illegal slot machines in the state. Some of the survey subjects were in their 70s and 80s. Investigators on the case became curious whether the subjects had criminal records dating back decades, and if so, whether their NYSID — the number assigned by the state to every person with a criminal history — had already expired.

According to Shechtman’s letter, Addolorato gave Hill his father’s name and date of birth to search the eJusticeNY system, knowing that he had been arrested for robbery in the 1930s. It was supposed to be a test. , Shechtman wrote. Addolorato asked Hill — who had access to eJusticeNY — to use an old case number that will soon be closed because the gambling investigation was still in the “preliminary” stage, according to their attorney.

In his letter, Shechtman said Addolorato and Hill had a legitimate law enforcement purpose for doing what they did.

“I know of instances in which a law enforcement officer has used the database to gather information for their own benefit or that of others,” he wrote. “Such conduct deserves condemnation and discipline. But that’s not what happened here.

Veteran researchers

Both Addolorato and Hill had long careers as investigators.

According to Shechtman’s letter, Hill worked for the state attorney general’s office from 1984 to 2011. He took on a part-time role with the inspector general’s office in 2016.

Addolorato, meanwhile, began a 20-year tenure as an NYPD detective in the 1980s, investigating homicides, gangs and drug-related activities, according to his biography and LinkedIn pages.

Known to colleagues as “Bobby A”, Addolorato made headlines in the mid-2000s when he pushed for the release of two men wrongfully jailed for the 1990 murder of a bouncer in a Manhattan club known as the Palladium. His efforts at the time joined him with a federal prosecutor named Steven M. Cohen, who would become Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s chief of staff.

Addolorato tracked Cohen to the Attorney General’s office and helped lead one of Cuomo’s most high-profile investigations: an investigation into Sen. Pedro Espada, a powerful Bronx politician and former Senate Majority Leader, which resulted in his conviction for looting. millions of dollars from a non-profit organization he controlled. In 2011, Cohen and Addolorato followed Cuomo up to the executive branch, with Addolorato joining the lower branch of the Inspector General’s office.

In 2013, Addolorato became chief investigator of the Moreland Commission, his most notable assignment. Cuomo had established the panel the previous year and tasked it with investigating corruption in state government, including the legislature and the governor’s administration.

In February 2014, Addolorato was promoted to Chief of Investigations for the Moreland Commission. His nomination raised eyebrows at the time for his ties to Cohen and Cuomo, as Addolorato’s predecessor, Danya Perry, resigned amid reports that Cuomo’s office meddled in the commission’s work. when he got too close to the governor and his allies.

But Addolorato’s time with the commission would be short-lived. Cuomo abruptly disbanded the panel a month after Addolorato’s promotion, ending its work without issuing a final report. Addolorato returned to the inspector general’s office and remained there until he lost his job last year.

IG office rescinds layoffs

Shechtman closed his Dec. 6 letter by begging the inspector general’s office to reinstate his clients’ law enforcement certification. Stripping them of their status as peace officers, which required a specific training regimen and allowed them to make arrests in certain circumstances, would make it difficult to find employment in their field, he wrote.

“If their police training certificates have been invalidated, as has been reported, they are unemployable in the field to which they have devoted their lives,” he wrote. “It is unfair.”

Dela Cruz, a spokesperson for the inspector general’s office, acknowledged that the agency received Shechtman’s letter but declined to discuss it further.

On December 24, according to letters obtained by Gothamist, the Inspector General’s office agreed to reverse its termination of Addolorato and Hill. Instead, both men were allowed to resign retroactively to October 14, the day they were initially fired. And it allowed them to keep their law enforcement certificate, as Shechtman had requested.

“Through this letter, I am writing to inform you that your resignation is accepted and that your personnel file will be updated to reflect this change in status,” Pauline Ross, Special Assistant Inspector General, wrote to the two men on December 30.

While Adair has called for a full investigation, it’s unclear if JCOPE ever launched one. Under state law, JCOPE is required to keep their investigations secret, in addition to sending a letter to the subjects of the investigation. So far, neither Hill nor Addolorato have received notice, according to their lawyer.

Walt McClure, spokesperson for JCOPE, declined to comment.

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