April 17, 2021

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Cuomo faces new sexual harassment allegation, this time at Executive Mansion – Times Union

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ALBANY — A sixth woman has leveled allegations of sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, after a supervisor in the Executive Chamber recently became aware the woman said that the governor inappropriately touched her late last year during an encounter at the governor’s mansion, where she had been summoned to do work.

An official close to the matter on Tuesday confirmed to the Times Union that the new allegation had been made. The governor’s office learned of the matter on Monday, an aide said.

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In response to questions about the handling of the revelation of the woman’s allegations, Beth Garvey, acting counsel to the governor, said: “All allegations that we learn of directly or indirectly are going promptly to the investigators appointed by the attorney general.”

Cuomo, in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, claimed he was unaware of the woman’s allegations. He also has not denied touching women, but has said if he did it was not “inappropriate.”

“First, I’m not aware of any other claim,” he said. “As I said last week, this is very simple, I never touched anyone inappropriately … I never made any inappropriate advances … (and) no one ever told me at the time that I made them feel uncomfortable. Obviously, there are people who said after the fact they felt uncomfortable.”

The woman has not filed a formal complaint with the office of the governor.

Her allegations were reported to the governor’s counsel by other employees in the Executive Chamber. The information also was relayed by the governor’s office to the attorney general’s office, which is coordinating an investigation into multiple allegations of sexual harassment that have been made against the governor.

The sixth woman could not be reached for comment. She is a member of the governor’s Executive Chamber staff.

The investigation being coordinated by the attorney general’s is being handled by two private attorneys, Joon H. Kim, a former acting U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District in Manhattan, and Anne L. Clark, who specializes in labor law and sexual harassment cases.

The story so far


Last week, Cuomo said he “now understand(s) that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and, frankly, I am embarrassed by it.”

The governor, apparently in response to earlier accusations of another aide, Lindsey Boylan, that he had kissed her in his Manhattan office, also said: “I want you to know this from me directly, I never touched anyone inappropriately.”

Aides to the governor on Tuesday said the governor stands by his statement that he never touched anyone inappropriately.

The new allegations by the sixth woman potentially undermine that statement by Cuomo, and are certain to intensify the pressure that many lawmakers — including fellow Democrats — are putting on him to resign. They include state Senate Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins, who on Sunday said Cuomo should step down due to a series of scandals, and Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, who stopped short of telling Cuomo to step down but questioned whether he can remain an effective leader.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who would take over the position if Cuomo is impeached, on Tuesday issued a statement regarding the appointment of the independent investigators, saying, “I am confident everyone’s voice will be heard and taken seriously. I trust the inquiry to be completed as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible. New Yorkers should be confident that through this process they will soon learn the facts.”

Five other women have accused Cuomo of inappropriate or unsettling behavior, including Boylan, who alleges he kissed her without her consent in his Manhattan office three years ago.

The intensifying calls for his resignation followed the initial allegations made by three women — Boylan as well as Charlotte Bennett and Anna Ruch, who did not work for Cuomo but told the New York Times that the governor grabbed her and attempted to kiss her at a 2019 wedding of one of his senior aides.

Bennett told the New York Times that Cuomo, during an encounter in his Capitol office last June, talked about being lonely during the pandemic and that he had missed being able to hug someone. She said that Cuomo never tried to touch her.

Over the weekend, in stories published by the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, two more women came forward and described what they characterized as inappropriate behavior by Cuomo, including one who worked with the governor more than two decades ago at the U.S. Housing and Urban Development agency.

Jessica Westerman, an attorney for the law firm representing Bennett — along with her associate Debra Katz — on Monday told the Times Union that the Executive Chamber’s decision last year to handle Bennett’s complaint “in-house” and not refer the matter to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER) needs to be a focus of the ongoing probe.

In that case, Jill DeRosiers, fielded the complaint from 25-year-old Bennett, and Garvey, a top member of the governor’s legal team, assigned the matter to Judith Mogul, a special counsel for the governor. There was apparently no formal investigation, and it was resolved when Bennett “received the transfer she requested to a position in which she had expressed a long-standing interest, and was thoroughly debriefed on the facts which did not include a claim of physical contact or inappropriate sexual conduct.”

“She was consulted regarding the resolution, and expressed satisfaction and appreciation for the way in which it was handled,” Garvey added in a statement last week.

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The handling of the investigation by a legal team that provides advice to the governor also raises questions about the potential inherent conflict of interest in their decision to not notify GOER and instead resolve the case by transferring Bennett to a new job.

Westerman said there were multiple problems with that process, which she said did not follow state law or the rules spelled out in the employee handbook covering the Executive Chamber.

“It’s clear that they were legally obligated to refer the complaint to GOER, and so by failing to do so — regardless of whether they otherwise advised Charlotte of the options available to her — they violated their legal obligation to report the governor’s conduct to GOER,” Westerman said.

In December 2018, under an executive order signed by Cuomo, GOER became the office responsible for handling sexual harassment investigations, and is required to be notified of all complaints. That order, which followed expanded rules for sexual harassment allegations and responses, “transferred the responsibility for conducting investigations of all employment-related discrimination complaints to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations … (and) all such complaints of protected class employment-related discrimination will be investigated by GOER.”

The governor, when asked last week whether he had taken legally mandated, annual sexual harassment training, said “the short answer is yes.” But his office has declined to provide details on when the governor took the training.

Bennett, in an interview with CBS News last week, said she witnessed an assistant to Cuomo taking the harassment training for him, although the governor certified he had completed the online course. The assistant has denied Bennett’s allegation.

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