(CNN) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo changed course on Sunday, urging the New York Attorney General and the Chief Justice of the Appeals Court to work together to select an independent attorney to conduct “a thorough review” of sexual harassment claims for him.
The Democratic governor’s office had initially selected former federal judge Barbara Jones to investigate the sexual harassment allegations made against the governor by two former aides, as noted by York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a longtime opponent of Cuomo it is important that someone other than the governor select an independent person to direct the effort.
Cuomo would now ask New York Attorney General Letitia James and Judge Janet DiFiore to select “an independent and qualified attorney in private practice with no political affiliation” to conduct a “thorough review” and report on the matter to ” avoiding “even the perception of a lack of independence or inferring politics,” said Beth Garvey, special adviser and senior adviser to the governor, in a statement on Sunday.
“The governor’s office wants a re-examination of allegations of sexual harassment against the governor to be unprovoked,” Garvey said, adding that Cuomo’s office will “cooperate fully” with the investigation.
James made two statements on Sunday highlighting the conditions under which her office could conduct an independent investigation.
“For the sake of clarity, I do not accept the governor’s proposal. The state executive law clearly gives my office the power to investigate this matter once the governor files a referral,” said James.
“While I have great respect for Chief Justice DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this duty under executive law. The governor must provide this referral in order for an independent subpoena to be conducted.” “
Claims against Cuomo to be investigated include one that surfaced in an article in the New York Times on Saturday night. Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former executive assistant and health policy advisor at Cuomo, told the newspaper that Cuomo asked questions about her sex life during one of several awkward encounters while talking in his state Capitol office, and that it was open for relationships with women in their 20s.
She interpreted the exchange – which she said took place in June while the state was fighting the pandemic – as what the newspaper called “clear overtures to a sexual relationship”. CNN has asked Bennett to comment on the latest allegation, which the governor denied in a statement on Saturday.
“The last thing I ever wanted her to feel one of the things that are being reported,” said Cuomo, saying that “she came to me and opened up to be a sexual assault survivor” and that “I’ve tried” is supportive and helpful. “
A separate allegation was made by Lindsey Boylan, another former Cuomo aide, who wrote an in-depth post on Medium last week about her own allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo, which his aides have found to be untrue.
Boylan claimed in the Medium Post that Cuomo invited her to “play strip poker” on his taxpayer-sponsored jet on a 2017 flight while another aide sat next to her and a soldier behind her. In 2018, Boylan said, Cuomo was stunned when he kissed her on the lips after holding one-on-one talks about economic and infrastructure projects in his New York City office.
Cuomo denied Boylan’s allegations in a press conference in December when she first made them.
In a statement released on Wednesday by the governor’s press secretary, four other people said they were on October flights with her and that “that conversation did not take place”.
CNN was unable to confirm the allegations, and when asked for further comments, Boylan, who is currently running for Manhattan District President, replied that she was letting her middle post speak for itself. She wrote in the post that she hoped to share her story “to pave the way for other women to do the same”.
Among the Democrats calling on Cuomo to have the Attorney General and Chief Justice appoint an independent investigator, New York MP Jerry Nadler wrote in a tweet on Saturday: “As is the norm in New York state when allegations arise Governor Cuomo should refer the matter directly to the Attorney General, who in turn should appoint an independent investigator. “
New York MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter on Sunday that there “needs to be an independent investigation – not one led by a governor-chosen person” to investigate the allegations she considers “extremely serious and painful to read “. “
This story was updated with additional details on Sunday.
CNN’s Maeve Reston contributed to this report.