New York State Police leaders should have disciplined a trooper who was dating one of then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s adult daughters while tasked with protecting the governor and his family, according to a state report released on Friday.

The 32-page report from Inspector General Lucy Lang disagreed with Kevin Bruen – now the head of the state police – for deciding against formal punishment for Trooper Dane Pfeiffer in May 2020, when the governor’s office informed a top trooper of Pfeiffer’s relationship with Cara Kennedy-Cuomo.

Lang’s office also found state police didn’t follow the proper procedures for investigating the trooper and his supervisor. The agency failed to properly log its actions or quickly refer the matter to the inspector general, and only located a recording of an interview with the trooper because an investigator found the file in his old emails, according to the report.

The report offers a behind-the-scenes look at what went on after Kennedy-Cuomo first informed her father of the relationship on May 21, 2020. By that point, it had been going on for about two months, according to the report. The inspector general's office does not suggest Cuomo or his office committed any wrongdoing.

“The Inspector General does not agree with Bruen’s conclusion that Pfeiffer’s conduct did not constitute a violation of state police rules warranting the initiation of formal disciplinary proceedings,” the report reads.

The report's conclusions angered Thomas Mungeer, president of the New York State Troopers PBA, who said Pfeiffer's conduct came when he was off duty. Mungeer said he stands by Bruen's decision not to discipline Pfeiffer, who did at one point inform his direct supervisor of the relationship prior to the governor's office learning of it.

“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."

The relationship between Kennedy-Cuomo, now 27, and Pfeiffer, now 37, captured headlines in October 2020, when The New York Post revealed the trooper had been transferred to a station in Plattsburgh near the Canadian border, more than two hours from his home. It’s unclear if the two are still together.

Cara Kennedy-Cuomo was in a relationship with a member of her father's security detail. The Inspector General said the officer should have been disciplined.

'Voluntold' to transfer

The morning after Cuomo was told about his daughter’s relationship, Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s top aide, called the commander of Cuomo’s police detail and informed him, according to the report. That set off a chain of events that culminated with Pfeiffer — who had a coveted assignment on Cuomo’s detail since 2018 — being summoned for an interview later that morning with high-ranking state police officials.

Pfeiffer admitted to the consensual relationship during the interview, and by that point had begun making inquiries about transferring to a troop near his home in Saratoga County. He later put in a request to transfer to the station in Plattsburgh, more than 130 miles away, but claimed he was “voluntold” to do so by his superiors, who determined the troop he preferred was too close to Albany and the governor’s mansion. (Pfeiffer has since been reassigned and promoted to a position in New York City, according to the New York Post.)

“On paper I volunteered, but no, I don’t want to go up there, never want to go there again,” Pfeiffer told the inspector general’s office.

The inspector general's report makes no suggestion that Cuomo was involved with the transfer, though Bruen – then the first deputy police superintendent – said he was aware Cuomo was upset about the relationship. And while Bruen made the decision that Pfeiffer could no longer remain on Cuomo’s police detail and had the discretion to transfer him anywhere, it did not amount to a formal disciplinary action such as a censure or suspension.

'Cut him a break'

According to the report, Bruen ultimately decided Pfeiffer’s relationship with Kennedy-Cuomo didn’t break any specific state police rules or guidelines. So he decided against a formal punishment and “cut him a break,” deciding the case was an “ill fit” for discipline, according to the report.

There was “nothing in writing that said, 'thou shall not become romantically involved with a member of the first family,'” Bruen told investigators. “It was simply something everybody understood was a no-no and would make you inappropriate for the detail.”

Pfeiffer also told the inspector general’s office he “didn’t break any rules.”

“I wanted to make sure and double-check our rules and regulations and our confidentiality agreement to be sure that there was no breach, which there was not,” he said, according to the report.

Bruen, however, decided Pfeiffer’s direct supervisor — who had previously learned of the relationship and chose not to alert any of his superiors — should be punished, according to the report. The supervisor, a sergeant whom Lang’s office did not name, chose to retire instead.

Lang’s report took issue with Bruen’s determination, particularly in deciding that the sergeant deserved punishment but the trooper didn’t. Lang found that Pfeiffer did violate a number of non-specific, “catch-all” state police regulations, including a rule saying troopers “shall not engage in any activity that will interfere or could reasonably be expected to interfere with the proper, impartial, and effective performance of official duties.”

Recommendations

Beau Duffy, spokesperson for state police, said the agency has already implemented significant changes to the structure and policies of the Protective Services Unit, which provides security for the governor.

"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," Duffy said in a statement.

Lang acknowledged the alterations state police have already implemented to the Protective Services Unit, including a change in the chain of command that has the unit reporting to a rung below the first deputy superintendent. Bruen said the update was meant to "shield" the first deputy, who is supposed to serve as the final arbiter of discipline, from being involved in disciplinary cases while they're ongoing.

She concluded state police should consider adopting a rule explicitly banning relationships between troopers and the state’s first family.

The state police [should] either consistently utilize current policies or regulations in disciplinary actions to prohibit these relationships or draft and implement new policies prohibiting such relationships
The inspector general's office

“(The) inspector general recommends that the state police either consistently utilize current policies or regulations in disciplinary actions to prohibit these relationships or draft and implement new policies prohibiting such relationships,” the report reads.

The inspector general’s office opened an investigation in December 2021, three months after Cuomo resigned as governor. It came after Pfeiffer had requested a copy of his May 2020 interview with state police leaders – a right afforded to him under the troopers’ collective bargaining agreement. Initially, state police told Pfeiffer it had no recording, or even a record of the interview.

That led the troopers’ union to file an official grievance, which led to the inspector general’s probe.

Ultimately, one of the people who interviewed Pfeiffer found a copy of the interview in their state email account, having sent the message to their own account the night of the interview, according to the inspector general's report. But by that point, the inspector general’s office had decided to launch an investigation.

Lang’s report criticizes state police for failing to follow its own procedures for internal investigations. The grievance helped show that the agency never created a personnel complaint number or used its record management system for the probe — nor did it properly store recordings of the interviews with Pfeiffer and his supervisor.

The internal probe wasn’t thorough, either, according to the report. It only consisted of the two interviews and didn’t make much of an attempt to determine if Pfeiffer had been interacting with Kennedy-Cuomo on state time.

In an interview with the inspector general’s office, the head of Cuomo’s police detail said he looked into “other things” linked to the relationship — including whether Pfeiffer was sneaking into the governor’s mansion. And Pfeiffer himself said he was communicating with Kennedy-Cuomo while off duty.

But Lang’s report didn’t draw any conclusions, in part because of the state police’s lack of record keeping.

“(W)ithout any report or evidence of these or other investigative steps – such as interviewing other witnesses, and reviewing telephone surveillance camera footage, and GPS records – the inspector general can neither fully corroborate nor discredit Pfeiffer’s and his supervisor’s statements,” the report concludes.

This story has been updated with additional comment.