Critics demanding SUNY Chancellor James Malatras’ ouster for smearing Andrew Cuomo’s first harassment accuser had been scratching their heads over Gov. Kathy Hochul’s refusal to help boot him.
But sources told The Post on Tuesday that no one need look further than Merryl Tisch, who heads SUNY’s board of trustees.
Tisch, a respected educator, is a prominent Democratic Party donor.
And she has been calling elected officials over the past week urging them to lay off Malatras, a former top aide and confidante to disgraced ex-Gov. Cuomo, who resigned in August amid a sex-harassment scandal.
Tisch has gotten her way on Malatras, at least for now.
“I definitely spoke to a few legislators and gave them my point of view,” Tisch told The Post on Tuesday. “I absolutely did that.”
For example, Tisch intervened with her local state senator, Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), the powerful Senate finance committee chairwoman who had planned to release a letter calling for Maltras to resign.
Tisch arranged for Krueger to personally meet with Malatras, which she did. After that meeting in Saratoga late last Friday, Krueger said, she had a change of heart and dropped her opposition to Malatras remaining as chancellor.
“I have decided that I am not calling for him to resign. It does not appear that he knowingly broke any laws, and that was very relevant to me in making this decision,” Krueger told The Post on Tuesday.
“He seemed sincerely guilt ridden about how he handled the situation with Ms. [Lindsey] Boylan.”
Krueger admitted she was upset that Malatras — a former top aide and adviser to Cuomo — was appointed the SUNY chancellor in the summer of 2020 without the customary national search.
But she added that she was “advised by others” that Malatras “appears to be doing a good job as chancellor.”
One poli-science professor said Tisch is one of the “EF Huttons” of New York politics — when she talks, people will listen.
“Tisch is a player,” said Baruch College public-affairs Professor Doug Muzzio.
“If Merryl says Malatras should stay, he likely stays. Merry Tisch will be influential whatever way she goes. Her web of influence is very wide. She’s got street credibility as well as political credibility.”
Tisch, a licensed teacher, previously served as chancellor of the state’s education policy-making board, The Board of Regents. She serves as co-chair of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among other boards.
She is married to James Tisch, CEO of the Loews Corporation.
She has donated more than $230,000 to candidates for state and local office over the past 15 years, state Board of Elections records show.
Recipients have included Hochul, Cuomo, Krueger, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, and the Assembly Democratic and Senate Democratic campaign committees.
Malatras wrote in a text to Cuomo aides in 2019, amid the administration’s dispute with Boylan over workplace issues, “Malatras to Boylan: Go f–k yourself.”
The SUNY chief added in another text, “Let’s release some of her cray [crazy] emails!”
Malatras also forwarded Cuomo aides a picture of a nuclear explosion with the word “kaboom” while discussing Boylan.
He sent the texts 18 months before her sexual-misconduct allegations against Cuomo surfaced.
The texts were unearthed by state Attorney General Letitia James last week as part of a massive document dump in her office’s sexual-harassment probe of Cuomo.
Students and some professors, as well as a bipartisan group of politicians, have called for Malatras’ resignation since.
Malatras issued an apology late Friday over the texts, saying, “My words were inappropriate, disrespectful and wrong” — while the SUNY board of trustees put out a statement backing him.
Meanwhile, Tisch didn’t convince every politician she talked to into back off calling for Malatras’ ouster.
Tisch said she spoke to Assembly Higher Education Committee Chairman Deborah Glick — who issued a statement on Monday calling for Malatras’ removal.
A group advocating for sexual-harassment victims has blasted Hochul for giving Malatras a pass.
“Gov. Hochul said ethics would be a top priority. Now we’re seeing that is not the case,” said Erica Vladimer, co-founder of the Sexual Harassment Working Group.
“Malatras is only sorry because he got caught.”
Boylan added in a tweet Tuesday, “I cannot get over the fact that the largest higher education system in the country is run by someone who retaliated against & belittled me when I spoke up about the toxic work environment I faced working for the former governor.
“What message does this send to students?”