Skip to main content

Amid Pressure from Democrats, Andrew Cuomo’s Office Punts ‘Independent Review’ of Sexual Harassment Claims


Andrew Cuomo

An adviser for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced on Sunday that they asked the offices of state Attorney General Letitia James and Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Janet DiFiore to jointly choose an attorney to run an independent investigation into sexual harassment claims against the governor. The decision still falls short of what some critics were demanding. They wanted James’ office to be involved. They said nothing about DiFiore, who was appointed to her position by Cuomo.

This follows after the adviser announced on Saturday that there would be an “independent review” after a former aide stepped forward with sexual harassment claims against the governor, but some elected Democrats called B.S. and demanded a legitimately independent probe.

“This is no joke,” wrote Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-New York, 4th District) on Saturday night. “There must be an independent investigation into these allegations. The accused CANNOT appoint the investigator. PERIOD.”

Rice was not the only congressperson doubting the legitimacy of the “independent review.”

“Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read,” wrote Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York, 14th District). “There must be an independent investigation – not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.”

This follows after former aide Charlotte Bennett became the second Cuomo aide to allege sexual harassment. She told The New York Times in a Saturday report the politician groomed her. He allegedly progressed to asking inappropriate questions about her love life, he appeared fixated in one encounter on her being a survivor of sexual assault, and when she was considering a tattoo, he suggested she get it on her butt so no one would see it if she wore a dress.

Former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan previously stepped forward with her own sexual harassment claims. Cuomo denied wrongdoing in both cases. In regard to Bennett, he said he was attempting to be a mentor, and never made advances.

“The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported,” he said.

Beth Garvey, a special counsel and senior adviser to Cuomo, announced an “independent review” regarding Bennett’s claims.

“Although in no way required by law, the Governor has requested an independent review and all staff will cooperate in that endeavor,” she wrote. “Former Federal Judge Barbara Jones will lead the review.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York, 10th District) and Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-New York, 19th District) separately said Cuomo should refer this case to James, who should appoint an independent investigator.

“These are serious and credible sexual harassment allegations that warrant a full and truly independent probe,” wrote Delgado.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had also demanded an investigation led by someone “fully independent” of the governor.

Nadler and Delgado only mentioned James’s office, not DiFiore’s. The attorney general in New York is an elected official, chosen separately from the governor. Cuomo appointed DiFiore to her position in December 2015.

Before Cuomo’s office punted on the “independent review,” others demanded more immediate action. New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi (D) and Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (D) called for the governor to resign.

“The current review, arranged by the Governor’s team and overseen by an individual who has a work history with his close associates, does not meet any standard of independence,” Biaggi had written. “While a truly independent investigation may uncover more evidence or instances of abuse, the existing details are sufficient for me to form my conclusion.”

Update – 11:52 a.m.: Cuomo’s office announced they would refer the matter to the attorney general’s office, and the office of the chief judge of the Court of Appeals.

[Image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime: