A LBANY – There’s one phrase Gov. Cuomo never hears: “You’ve got mail!”
Cuomo refuses to communicate with his staff by email, sources close to the governor revealed to the Daily News.
If aides can’t talk in person or by phone, they are told to use the BlackBerry PIN-to-PIN messaging system – a function that leaves no lasting trail because it bypasses data-saving email servers. It allows users to connect directly through their devices using Personal Identification Numbers.
Only members of Cuomo’s inner circle are told his PIN, sources say.
A message sent over a data server can always be recovered, even when deleted. Not so for PIN messages, which are gone forever once killed, a spokesman for BlackBerry operator Research In Motion said.
And while much of the back-and-forth communication between the governor and his aides is private, it could be subject to subpoena by ethics investigators, prosecutors and possibly members of the Legislature in the event of a probe.
“He told me directly to use the PIN and that was the way to do it,” said one former administration official.
Cuomo – who promised to have the most open and transparent administration in state history – did not tell the former official the reason to use PIN communication, but the message was clear, the source said.
“It doesn’t have a paper trail,” the official said. “If he gets a new phone, he gets a new PIN, even if he has the same phone number. Every phone has a specific PIN.”
“If you want to exclude folks from having it, you get a new phone and distribute the PIN to a smaller or different group,” the official added.
The News filed a freedom of information request with the administration seeking every email sent to – and by – Cuomo since the beginning of the year. After two months of delays, the official response was nada.
“Please be advised that the New York State Executive Chamber has conducted a diligent search, but does not possess records responsive to your request,” records access officer Justin Levin replied.
Cuomo spokesman, Josh Vlasto explained it’s no secret Cuomo doesn’t like email.
“His primary mode of communication is talking on the phone, as has been widely reported for years,” Vlasto said.
He did not deny, however, the Governor’s use of PIN messaging when using the BlackBerry – rather than normal email.
Internal back-and-forth messages – whether on paper or by email or PIN-to-PIN messaging – are not by law available to the public, said Robert Freeman, of the state Committee on Open Government.