STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — After many elected officials — including several from Staten Island — called for the Cuomo administration to conduct an independent investigation of sexual harassment allegations against the Governor, his office announced an independent lawyer would head up the task.
“The Governor’s office wants a review of the sexual harassment claims made against the Governor to be done in a manner beyond reproach,” said Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior advisor.
She noted the Governor’s office had initially selected former Federal Judge Barbara Jones to conduct the investigation.
“But we want to avoid even the perception of a lack of independence or inference of politics,” she said.
The office has asked Attorney General of New York State and the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to jointly select “an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report.”
“The work product will be solely controlled by that independent lawyer personally selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge,” said Garvey. “All members of the Governor’s office will cooperate fully. We will have no further comment until the report is issued.”
News about a second former aide who said she was sexually harassed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo surfaced late Saturday.
Charlotte Bennett, a health policy adviser in the Democratic governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men.
Another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, recently accused Cuomo of subjecting her to an unwanted kiss and inappropriate comments. Cuomo denied the allegations.
Cuomo said in a statement Saturday that Bennett was a “hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID” and that “she has every right to speak out.”
He said he had intended to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25.
“I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate,” Cuomo’s statement said. “The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James released the following statement on Sunday prior to Garvey’s announcement. “Allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously. There must be a truly independent investigation to thoroughly review these troubling allegations against the governor, and I stand ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary. Given state law, this can only be accomplished through an official referral from the governor’s office based on State Law (§ 63-8) and must include subpoena power. I urge the governor to make this referral immediately.”
Prior to the Garvey’s announcement Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn), Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island), and Assemblyman Charles Fall (D-North Shore) put out a joint statement on Twitter calling for an independent investigation into the sexual harassment claims against Cuomo.
“The allegations of sexual harassment that have come to light this week from two women who worked for the Governor’s office are deeply disturbing,” the statement said.
Sen Andrew Lanza told the Advance/SILive.com that together with the Republican conference he had called on the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation.
Assemblyman Michael Tannousis (R-East Shore/South Brooklyn) also called the allegations against Cuomo “disturbing and troubling.”
“These are serious claims and they must be investigated thoroughly and adequately. A truly independent investigation is absolutely necessary. Any individuals that are associated to the Governor cannot properly carry out such an investigation,” he added.
Said Assemblyman Mike Reilly (R-South Shore) on Twitter: “The accusations made against Governor Cuomo must be taken seriously, especially since we were already questioning the Governor’s use of power during the pandemic.”
NURSING HOME DEATHS
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday said he also wanted an investigation into Cuomo’s role in the reporting of nursing home deaths in New York during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“New Yorkers have seen detailed, documented accounts of sexual harassment, multiple instances of intimidation, and the admitted withholding of information on the deaths of over 15,000 people,” said de Blasio. “Questions of this magnitude cannot hang over the heads of New Yorkers as we fight off a pandemic and economic crisis. It’s clear what must now take place.”
Associated Press material was used in this report.