This much was clear: A high-ranking New York state investigator with long-standing ties to Gov. 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subordinate, investigator Steven Hill, on a list of law-enforcement officials whose basic training certification had been revoked. The list, published monthly by the state, showed the two men had been terminated for misconduct in October by the state inspector general’s office, where Addolorato had been deputy chief of investigations since 2011. The inspector general's office is charged with investigating internal malfeasance.
Far less clear was the reason for the dismissals. The state list didn’t include any details, and the inspector general's office originally declined to discuss the situation.
Documents recently obtained by Gothamist, however, show why the two men were terminated – and why the state office later changed course and instead allowed them to retroactively quit, a designation that meant they could retain their certification as peace officers with the ability to make arrests: The pair were accused of improperly accessing a law enforcement database with sensitive information.
“(The) termination was unjustified and has effectively destroyed the careers of two long-time law enforcement professionals,” Paul Shechtman, Addolorato and Hill’s attorney, wrote in a Dec. 6 letter to Ryan Hayward, chief of staff to current IG Lucy Lang, obtained via a Freedom of Information request.
The documents show the inspector general’s office fired Addolorato and Hill on Oct. 14 after a routine audit discovered unusual activity within eJusticeNY, a one-stop-shop database for information on defendants’ criminal histories and crimes available only to a strictly controlled list of authorized users who complete a training.
Together, the previously undisclosed documents show a sudden end to the state-level service of Addolorato, who worked in Cuomo’s gubernatorial and attorney general administrations and led some of his key investigations, including the ill-fated Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption and a probe of then-state Sen. Pedro Espada.
Aries Dela Cruz, a spokesperson for the inspector general's office, declined comment beyond pointing to the letters released to Gothamist, calling it a “personnel/HR matter.” Last week, the inspector general’s office posted one of the letters publicly as part of an ongoing transparency initiative.
Monthly audit turned up ‘unauthorized’ access
Gothamist submitted Freedom of Information requests for a variety of records from the inspector general’s office linked to Addolorato and Hill after their names appeared on the state decertification list. Shechtman, the two men’s attorney, also provided the letter he sent the office in response to their termination.
Among the documents released was an Oct. 15 letter from then-Acting Inspector General Robyn Adair to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which enforces the state's public officers law. Among other provisions, the law prohibits the use of state property for personal reasons. Each violation verified by JCOPE carries a potential fine of up to $10,000.
In her letter, Adair laid out the reasons for Addolorato and Hill’s dismissal the day before.
On Oct. 7, a monthly audit of the inspector general's office’s use of the eJusticeNY database turned up “possible unauthorized accessing” of the system. It showed 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 that shows whether a person has been ever arrested, charged, indicted, incarcerated or paroled. Certain law-enforcement officials and investigators are allowed access only after completing a training course and signing an attestation making clear the data is confidential and must be used only according to state policy. Access for personal use is strictly prohibited, in part to keep investigators from using the information for their own gain.
The inspector general’s office said Addolorato had directed Hill to run a family member’s name through the system on Sept. 13, according to Adair’s letter. She later wrote to JCOPE after the two men were fired, asking the ethics board to determine whether any 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 lawyer was once commissioner of the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, the entity that oversees eJusticeNY.
Shechtman sent a letter to the inspector general’s office on Dec. 6. By his telling, Addolorato was investigating whether an organized crime syndicate was operating illegal slot machines in the state. Some of the subjects of the probe were in their late 70s and 80s. Investigators on the case became curious if the subjects had criminal records dating back several decades and, if so, if their NYSID – the state-assigned number for each person with a criminal history – had ever expired.
According to Shechtman’s letter, Addolorato gave his father’s name and birth date to Hill to look up in the eJusticeNY system, knowing he had been arrested for robbery in the 1930s. It was meant to be a test run, Shechtman wrote. Addolorato had Hill – who had eJusticeNY access – use an old, soon-to-be-closed case number 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 cases in which a law enforcement officer used the database to gather information for his own benefit or that of others,” he wrote. “Such conduct deserves condemnation and discipline. But that is not what occurred here.”
Both Addolorato and Hill had lengthy careers as investigators.
According to Shechtman’s letter, Hill worked for the state attorney general’s office from 1984 through 2011. He took on a part-time role with the inspector general’s office in 2016.
Addolorato, meanwhile, began a 20-year stint as a detective in the NYPD in the 1980s, investigating homicides, gang and drug activity, according to his biography and LinkedIn pages.
Known to his colleagues as “Bobby A,” Addolorato made headlines in the mid-2000s when he pushed for the release of two men who were wrongly jailed for the 1990 murder of a bouncer at a Manhattan club known as the Palladium. His efforts at the time joined him with a federal prosecutor by the name of Steven M. Cohen, who would go on to become then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s chief of staff.
Addolorato followed Cohen to the attorney general’s office and would help lead one of Cuomo’s highest-profile investigations: A probe of Sen. Pedro Espada, a powerful political figure from the Bronx and one-time senate majority leader, that resulted in his conviction for looting millions of dollars from a nonprofit he controlled. In 2011, Cohen and Addolorato followed Cuomo to the executive branch, with Addolorato joining the downstate branch of the inspector general’s office.
In 2013, Addolorato became chief investigator for the Moreland Commission, his most notable assignment. Cuomo had created the panel the year prior and charged it with investigating corruption within state government, including the Legislature and the governor’s administration.
By February 2014, Addolorato was promoted to the Moreland Commission’s chief of investigations. His appointment raised eyebrows at the time for his ties to Cohen and Cuomo, since Addolorato’s predecessor, Danya Perry, resigned amid reports that Cuomo’s office meddled with the commission’s work when it 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 losing his job last year.
IG’s office rescinds terminations
Shechtman closed his Dec. 6 letter by pleading with the inspector general’s office to restore 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 a job 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. “That is unjust.”
Dela Cruz, the inspector general’s office spokesperson, acknowledged the agency received Shechtman’s letter but declined to discuss it further.
By Dec. 24, according to the letters obtained by Gothamist, the inspector general’s office agreed to rescind its termination of Addolorato and Hill. Instead, the two men were allowed to resign retroactive to Oct. 14, the day they were originally fired. And it allowed them to retain their law-enforcement certification, as Shechtman had requested.
“By this letter, I write to notify you that your resignation is accepted, and that your personnel file will be updated to reflect this change in status,” Pauline Ross, a special deputy inspector general, wrote to the two men Dec. 30.
While Adair requested a full investigation, it’s unknown whether the JCOPE ever launched one. Under state law, JCOPE is required to keep their investigations secret, aside from sending a letter to the subjects of the investigation. So far, neither Hill nor Addolorato have received a notice, according to their attorney.
Walt McClure, JCOPE’s spokesperson, declined to comment.