New York governor Andrew Cuomo has officially referred the case to New York attorney general Letitia James on allegations of sexual harassment against the governor, the governor’s office announced on Sunday evening.
This decision enables an investigation with subpoena powers to be conducted by the Attorney General.
“The governor’s office wants a thorough and independent review that goes beyond allegations or political interference. Therefore, the governor’s office has asked Attorney General Tish James to select a qualified private attorney to conduct an independent review of allegations of sexual harassment,” it said Beth Garvey, special adviser and senior advisor to the governor, said in a statement on Sunday evening. “The attorney publicly reports his findings. The governor’s office will voluntarily cooperate fully.”
James turned down a proposal from Cuomo on Sunday to select an independent investigator to conduct a review, she said on Sunday afternoon.
After two former aides made allegations against Cuomo this week, Garvey first announced that an independent review would be initiated under the direction of former federal judge Barbara Jones.
But after critics argued that Jones was inadequate given her business relationships with Cuomo’s top aide, Steve Cohen, the governor’s office released a statement Sunday morning that James and chief appeals judge Janet DiFiore would jointly select an “independent and” judge would call a qualified solicitor in private practice with no political affiliation to conduct a thorough review and produce a public report. “
“We selected former federal judge Barbara Jones, who is known for her qualifications and integrity, but we also want to avoid perceiving a lack of independence or inferring politics,” the statement said. “The work product is controlled solely by the independent attorney personally selected by the Attorney General and the Chief Justice.”
Later on Sunday, James denied the governor’s request for an outside attorney to be appointed and reiterated her request for a formal referral from the governor’s office for her to conduct a summons 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 submits a referral. While I deeply respect Chief Justice DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task in accordance with executive law, “James said in a statement. “The governor must produce this referral so that an independent subpoena can be conducted.”
“I urge the governor to make this transfer immediately,” said James.
New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks at a news conference in Rochester, New York on September 20, 2020.
State and US Senators, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and others are calling for a fully independent investigation. Some, including Senator Alessandra Biaggi, have called for Cuomo’s resignation.
Allegations against Cuomo
Two former Cuomo aides this week made allegations of sexual harassment against the governor.
On Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan alleged “sexual harassment and bullying” against the governor, saying it took “years”.
In a post on Medium, Boylan described an incident on a flight with Cuomo, aides, and a New York police officer in October 2017 in which Cuomo suggested they play “strip poker.” She also complained to friends that Cuomo would “go out of his way to touch my lower back, arms and legs”.
Boylan, who began working in the State Bureau in 2015 and was later promoted to Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Special Advisor to the Governor, accused Cuomo of “creating a culture in his administration where sexual harassment and bullying are so widespread that it does.” Case is. ” not only tolerated, but expected. “
Months before her middle position, Boylan began tweeting allegations against Cuomo on Dec. 13 when she saw she was forced to go public after seeing Cuomo’s name float as a potential candidate for the U.S. Attorney General .
“Yes, @NYGovCuomo has sexually molested me for years. A lot of people saw and watched it. I could never predict what to expect: Would I be grilled at my job (which was very good) or molested for my appearance. Or would it be both in the same conversation? That was the way for years. “
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo arrives at a vaccination site in Brooklyn, New York on February 22, 2021.
Boylan, who is currently running for president of Manhattan District, stepped down from governor in September 2018.
After Boylan’s middle post, Cuomo’s office issued a statement denying her allegations against the governor.
“As we said earlier, Ms. Boylan’s allegations of inappropriate behavior are simply false,” said press officer Caitlin Girouard.
The statement also denied Boylan’s allegations about what happened on the October 2017 flight.
Calls for an independent investigation and for the governor’s resignation have increased after a second prosecutor brought allegations against Cuomo on Saturday.
Charlotte Bennett, another former Cuomo adviser, told the New York Times the governor harassed her last spring, including an incident on June 5, 2020 in which Cuomo allegedly asked her questions about her personal life and romantic interests said he was “open to relationships with women in their twenties,” the Times reported.
Bennett left Cuomo’s administration in November, she told the Times.
“I understood the governor wanted to sleep with me and felt terribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times, adding that a week after the June 5 incident, she told Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, and was transferred from the role the assistant to the management of a health policy advisor.
Cuomo has denied the allegations but said in a statement on Sunday night that some of the things he said were “misunderstood as undesirable flirtation”.
“At work, I sometimes think I’m playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I occasionally tease people in ways I think are good-natured,” Cuomo’s testimony said. “I do it publicly and privately. You’ve seen me at briefings hundreds of times. I’ve raised people about their personal life, relationships, about getting married or not to marry. I don’t mean insulting and just trying to add some ease and.” Joke added to what is very serious business.
“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal, and given my position, some of my comments felt others in ways that I never intended,” said Cuomo’s testimony.
Cuomo issued a statement after the Times story went public calling Bennett a “hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID,” but denied any progress against Bennett.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street in New York City.
Cuomo said he never intended to act inappropriately and tried to be a supportive and helpful mentor. “The last thing I ever wanted her to feel one of the things that’s being reported,” he said.
“This situation cannot and should not be resolved in the press. I believe the best way to get to the truth is through a full and thorough outside scrutiny, and I direct all government officials to comply with these efforts. I beg all New Yorkers to do this. ” Wait for the results of the review so they know the facts before making a judgment. I will not comment further until the review is complete. “
Cuomo also under fire for deaths in nursing homes
Cuomo is also under investigation by the FBI and prosecutors dealing with the governor’s coronavirus task force, with a particular focus on his administration’s handling of nursing homes at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, two sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.
The investigation, first reported by the Albany Times Union, is in its early stages. Subpoenas have been issued, the sources said.
The FBI has refused to comment, as has the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
The full scope of the investigation is not immediately clear, but the sources said there was a particular interest in nursing homes, which has been increasingly frustrating Cuomo.
The number of residents of the New York nursing home who have died from the virus has been under counted by up to 50%, according to a study by the New York Attorney General. Many of these patients died after moving to the hospital and therefore were not counted as deaths in nursing homes.
Investigators asked 62 nursing homes as of the week of March 1, 2020 for information on on-site and in-hospital deaths from COVID-19 and found significant discrepancies between those numbers and the numbers reported to the Ministry of Health. In one case, according to the DOH, a facility reported that the on-site deaths totaled five confirmed COVID-19 deaths and six suspected COVID-19 deaths, but informed the AG’s office that there were in fact 27 deaths at the facility and 13 were hospital deaths – a discrepancy of 29 deaths.
Earlier this month, a Cuomo aide admitted the government had withheld the death toll in nursing homes by lawmakers fearing it would be used against the state by the Trump administration.
“He starts tweeting that we all killed in nursing homes,” Cuomo’s top advisor Melissa DeRosa said of Trump on the tap of the conference call, the transcription of which was provided by DeRosa ABC News. “He’s going after you [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy follows [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, follow up [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer. He’s directing the Justice Department to investigate us. “
Cuomo admitted that his handling of death data in nursing homes created a “void” filled by misinformation and conspiracy theories – but declined to apologize.
“The void we created by not providing information was full of skepticism, cynicism and conspiracy theories that fueled confusion,” Cuomo said during a press conference Monday. “The void we created created disinformation and that made loved ones more afraid.”
ABC News’ Aaron Katersky and Laura Romero contributed to this report.