On March 10th, a sixth woman, and current aid to the Governor, came forward alleging inappropriate sexual behavior from the Governor, specifically that the Governor reached up her blouse and fondled her after she was summoned to the Executive Mansion to help the Governor with a technical issue with his cell phone. This latest allegation, which came just two days after State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins called for Governor Cuomo to resign, and has led to a significant increase in lawmakers calling for the Governor’s resignation. On Friday, March 19th, a seventh woman, who is also a current aid, came forward accusing the Governor of sexual harassment and fostering a toxic work environment. To date, nine women have accused the Governor of sexual harassment.
On March 11th, a group of 59 Democratic state lawmakers issued a letter calling for the Governor to resign, and on Friday, March 12th 14 members of New York’s Democratic Congressional delegation joined Kathleen Rice in calling for Governor Cuomo to resign. In a conference call with press on March 12th, the Governor directly addressed the issue again, saying, “women have a right to come forward and be heard, and I encourage that fully. But I also want to be clear, there is still the question of truth. I did not do what has been alleged. Period.” He reiterated that he was “elected by the people,” and that he will not resign. “There are now two reviews underway…Let them do it! I’m not going to argue this issue in the press, that is not how it’s done, that is not the way it should be done,” he said. In response to increased calls for his resignation from elected officials, the Governor characterized the calls as, “bowing to cancel culture” and “politics at its worst,” and, “reckless and dangerous,” saying, “part of this is that I’m not part of the political club, and you know what? I’m proud of it.”
After meeting with the Assembly Democratic conference, regarding paths forward, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced that the Assembly Judiciary Committee, led by Judiciary Chair Charles Lavine, will begin an impeachment investigation into the allegations of misconduct against the Governor. “The reports of accusation concerning the Governor are serious,” said Heastie in a Statement issued to the Press. “The committee will have the authority to interview witnesses, subpoena documents and evaluate evidence, as allowed by the New York State Constitution.” It has been reported that the allegations of misconduct the Committee will investigate includes the sexual harassment allegations and the Governor’s handling of nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaker Heastie and Attorney General Leticia James have both said the Assembly’s investigation will not interfere with the investigations being conducted by the AG’s office.
On Wednesday, March 17th, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Judiciary Committee Chair, Charles Lavine, announced that the Assembly has retained the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP to lead the impeachment investigation into Governor Cuomo. “Since Thursday, Chairman Lavine led a vigorous search for a top-flight firm to assist with the investigation. I have the utmost faith that Assemblymember Lavine and our Judiciary Committee will conduct a full and fair investigation,” Heastie said in a statement. “Hiring Davis Polk will give the Committee the experience, independence, and resources needed to handle this important investigation in a thorough and expeditious manner.”
The announcement that Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP will be leading the investigation drew swift criticism from many who pointed out that Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, who was appointed by Governor Cuomo, has close ties to the firm. Specifically, DiFiore’s husband, Dennis Glazer spent over 30 years as a partner at the firm and still receives a pension for his time there. Debra Katz, the lawyer for one of Cuomo’s accusers, Charlotte Bennett, immediately condemned the choice. “This is an unacceptable conflict of interest. The impeachment investigation must operate free of political influence and must be transparent, detailing for the public the steps being taken to protect the integrity of their impeachment investigation,” Katz said in a statement. Another one of Cuomo’s accusers, Lindsay Boylan, announced that she would not participate in the Assembly’s investigation, calling the investigation a “sham.” Boylan’s attorney told the press that her client is fully cooperating with the Attorney General’s investigation. Responding to the criticism, Speaker Heastie defended the choice, saying, “they were vetted externally by us and internally by the firm, and I don’t believe there will be any conflict.”
The Governor’s office also drew further criticism after it was announced that the Governor’s office has begun conducting its own investigation into the allegations against the Governor. “We have our own inquiries ongoing,” said a senior aid to the Governor. “We have an obligation to investigate any claim of sexual harassment. And we, after reporting (the female aide’s allegations) to the (attorney general), were directed to continue our own inquiry…So there are multiple inquiries.” An attorney for one of the Governor’s accusers criticized the move, which he characterized as a “shadow investigation,” saying, “It’s absurd. Why would you be doing that? It’s not appropriate, and obviously we’re concerned with the ramifications and the effect on witnesses and the quest for the proof.”
Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s office continued their investigation into the allegations, meeting with multiple accusers for several hours. Ana Liss, one of the Governor’s accusers and former aids, released a statement after meeting with investigators, saying the AG’s investigation is not only focused on the allegations of sexual harassment by the Governor, but also, “on the pervasive, arbitrary, and severe conduct tolerated and propagated by the Governor.” Specifically, the investigation is also looking into whether Governor Cuomo’s top officials enabled the alleged behavior, how complaints were dealt with, and alleged efforts by the Governor’s staff to intimidate and retaliate against the Governor’s accusers.