The investigation into claims Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women has now widened to probe whether his top aides tried to intimidate his accusers and whether they failed to follow the complaint process signed into law by the governor himself.
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office is investigating the actions of some of the embattled governor’s top officials to determine if they enabled his inappropriate behavior, retaliated against his accusers and handled the complaints correctly, according to some of the women who have spoken to investigators.
James launched an independent investigation into the sexual harassment accusations after she received a referral letter from Cuomo’s office earlier this month.
At the time, two women had accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. Since then, several more women have come forward with allegations while a group of 30 have spoken up about a culture of bullying and harassment while working in his office.
Now, a total of seven women – five of which are former aides in the governor’s office – have now accused the governor of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior.
The most damning accusation to date comes from an anonymous woman who claims he called her to his Executive Mansion last year, before reaching under her blouse and fondling her.
The governor has said he ‘never touched anyone inappropriately’ and ‘never made any inappropriate advances’ but has apologized for making anyone feel ‘uncomfortable.’
This week a report from the New York Times revealed the governor’s office released personnel records and circulated a letter attacking the credibility of his first accuser, Lindsey Boylan, and tried to get current and former staffers to sign it.
Calls are mounting for him to resign with an impeachment investigation launched by state Democrats last week and top New York lawmakers including Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer demanding he stand down.
Cuomo has vowed he will not stand down and urged New Yorkers to wait for the outcome of the investigation.
The investigation into claims Andrew Cuomo (pictured) sexually harassed multiple women has now widened to probe whether his top aides tried to intimidate his accusers and whether they failed to follow the complaint process signed into law by the governor himself
Three of Cuomo’s seven accusers – Charlotte Bennett, Lindsey Boylan and Ana Liss- revealed they were questioned about not only Cuomo’s actions but those of his senior aides when they sat down with investigators in James’ office in recent days, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Attorneys for Bennett, 25, said the administration did not follow the correct procedures when she complained to Cuomo’s Chief of Staff Jill DesRosiers that the governor asked about her sex life and whether she had relationships with older men while she was working as his aide last June.
Cuomo signed into law in 2018 that all sexual harassment complaints in state agencies must be investigated by the Governor’s Office for Employee Relations and that supervisors who become aware of allegations must report it.
This is also detailed in the employee handbook.
Bennett claims she was never contacted by the Governor’s Office for Employee Relations.
She says she first raised the incident on June 10 with DesRosiers and later spoke with special counsel Judith Mogul.
Attorney Jessica Westerman told the Journal the complaint ‘obviously falls within the definition of sexual harassment in the employee handbook.’
But Bennett claims she was told by Mogul the office did not need to investigate the allegations because Cuomo had only been mentoring her.
She was transferred to another job and did not seek a formal investigation at the time because she said she ‘wanted to move on’ from the incident.
Mogul told the Journal this account of the conversations was ‘not true.’
‘This characterization of our conversations is not true,’ she said in a statement.
‘As I have previously stated the documents will reflect that I acted consistently with the information provided at the time, the requirements of the law, and Charlotte’s wishes.’
Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo aide, came out in December with allegations against him – she further detailed her experience in a February post to Medium
Anna Ruch (left) and Ana Liss both accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior
Karen Hinton (left), a press aide, and Jessica Bakeman accused Cuomo of inappropriate actions
Charlotte Bennett, 25, accused Cuomo of propositioning her in his office in June
Liss, who worked as Cuomo’s policy and operations aide between 2013 and 2015, echoed Thursday that Cuomo was not the only person in the administration who came up in her discussions with state investigators for ‘offensive conduct.’
Liss, who has accused the governor of subjecting her to unsolicited advances, including touching her lower back, kissing her hand and quizzing her about her love life, said she met with state investigators for two hours Thursday.
‘Sexual harassment on the Governor’s behalf is a significant piece of the investigation, but he neither is nor was the only person in the administration responsible for offensive conduct,’ she said in a statement, per CNN.
She gave examples including ‘scatological name-calling’ and ‘outright objectification of women’s bodies’ as she described ‘a toxic, verbally abusive, retaliatory workplace, especially for young women like myself.’
She said she told James’ office about ‘instances of unsolicited attention paid to me by the governor and the sexually hostile work environment perpetuated by him and senior staff.’
Liss told the Post she was asked about a phone call she received from Cuomo’s Senior Adviser Rich Azzopardi back in December when Boylan first leveled accusations against the governor.
Azzopardi has said calls were merely made to former staffers to check in if they had heard from Boylan but Liss said the call was an intimidation tactic.
Boylan, who worked for Cuomo’s team from March 2015 to October 2018 and the first accuser to come forward back in December, said investigators brought up reports that the governor’s office released her personnel records to potentially smear her after she brought accusations.
Her attorney Jill Basinger told the Journal she was ‘pleased with the scope of the investigation and the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of their questioning.’ M
Boylan told The New Yorker this week Cuomo said he would ‘mount her’ during one 2018 incident after his pet dog Captain jumped up near her.
In December, she spoke out online to accuse the governor of unwanted advances including an unsolicited kiss on the lips and him suggesting they play a game of strip poker. The governor has denied these allegations.
Soon after she made the accusations, the governor’s administration released her personnel records, which included disciplinary recommendations against her.
It emerged this week that Cuomo’s office tried to tarnish Boylan’s reputation when the allegations surfaced by sending an open letter to former staffers to sign – especially women – accusing her of making ‘false claims’ for ‘political gain.’
‘Weaponizing a claim of sexual harassment for personal political gain or to achieve notoriety cannot be tolerated,’ one version of the letter read, according to the New York Times.
‘False claims demean the veracity of credible claims.’
The letter, which was never released, also tried to tie her to Donald Trump saying her allegations arose after she was ‘supported by lawyers and financial backers of Donald Trump: an active opponent of the governor.’
At least two former officials refused to sign it.