Feb. 28 (UPI) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked the state’s attorney general and chief judge to appoint an independent investigator to examine the allegations of sexual harassment made against him, his office said in a statement Sunday.
On Saturday, the Democrat had announced the appointment of a former federal judge to look into the allegations but members of his party said that wasn’t good enough. Last week, Lindsey Boylan, a deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to Cuomo from 2015 to 2018, said the governor “sexually harassed me for years.”
Then, former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett, 25, told The New York Times in a report Saturday that Cuomo made several inappropriate remarks about her sex life. Cuomo said he “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”
“The governor’s office wants a review of the sexual harassment claims made against the governor to be done in a manner beyond reproach,” Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior adviser to Cuomo, said in a statement. “We had selected former federal judge Barbara Jones, with a stellar record for qualifications and integrity, but we want to avoid even the perception of a lack of independence or inference of politics.”
“Accordingly we have asked the 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.
New York Attorney General Tish James, a Democrat, said she is prepared to lead an independent investigation into Cuomo.
“Allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously,” James said in a statement. “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.”
Some Democrats had said Cuomo’s decision to name an independent investigator was not proper.
“No, I wouldn’t consider that to be independent,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, told ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “It should be, I would say, the attorney general of New York.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., also on Sunday called for “an independent, transparent and swift investigation into these serious and deeply concerning allegations,” in a tweet shared by the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty.
In 2017, she forced the resignation of Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s resignation over sexual harassment claims.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, said on CNN’s State of the Union, said: “There should be an independent review of these allegations. They’re serious. It was hard to read that story as a woman. And that process should move forward as quickly as possible and that’s something we all support and the president supports.”
Also, she said Biden believes Bennett and Boylan “should be treated with respect and dignity.”
Also Sunday, New York Mayor de Blasio, a Democrat, repeated his calls for the governor to lose the emergency powers that the state legislature granted him at the start of the pandemic.
DeBlasio wants a separate investigation of Cuomo’s handling of nursing home deaths from coronavirus.
“The investigation into nursing home deaths must be free to examine campaign contributions from the nursing home industry,” the mayor said in a statement. “And the investigation into sexual misconduct must be led by someone fully independent of the governor, not the former business partner of the governor’s top adviser.”