The probe, run by New York Attorney General Letitia James, will look at how the governor’s top aides handled complaints of inappropriate behavior in the workplace, whether officials enabled the behavior, and whether they intimidated accusers after they came forward.
Investigators in recent days have interviewed at least three former aides to the governor who have come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment — Lindsey Boylan, Charlotte Bennett and Anna Liss. The women and their attorneys told The Wall Street Journal that investigators had asked how complaints were handled and about the actions by senior aides they viewed as retaliation.
Boylan said in a Medium post in February that bullying and sexual harassment “is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected” in the Cuomo administration.
“It was all so normalized — particularly by Melissa DeRosa and other top women around him — that only now do I realize how insidious his abuse was,” Boylan wrote in the post.
Boylan’s attorney, Jill Basinger, told The Journal her client had discussed the leaking of personnel files with James’ investigators.
Soon after Boylan publicized her accusations on Twitter in December, she learned about a series of leaked personnel files about her, which she’d never seen, that had been obtained by the Associated Press, New York Post and the Albany Times Union. The documents reportedly indicated that Boylan had harassed and belittled colleagues.
At the same time, Cuomo’s close advisers drafted a letter to circulate to current and former administration officials suggesting that Boylan’s accusations were “premeditated” and “politically motivated.” It reportedly revealed personnel complaints filed against her and attempted to link her to supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Ana Liss, who worked in the Cuomo administration from 2013 to 2015, said that the governor asked her invasive questions about her sex life, kissed her on the hand and touched her lower back. After sitting down with the attorney general’s office, Liss said she talked about “the sexually hostile work environment perpetuated by him and senior staff.”
Liss said investigators asked about a phone call she received from Richard Azzopardi, Cuomo spokesperson. In the days after Boylan’s December tweet, the governor’s office reportedly called at least six former employees to find out if they’d heard from Boylan or to get information on her. Liss said she viewed the call as intimidation.
Charlotte Bennett said Cuomo also asked her invasive questions about her sex life and implied he wanted to sleep with her. Bennett said she first raised concerns to Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, on June 10. She said she also discussed the harassment accusations with Judith Mogul, the governor’s special counsel. Bennett was later transferred to another role not in close proximity to the governor but her complaints were never investigated.
Bennett’s attorney, Jessica Westerman, said that Mogul said they didn’t need to investigate the complaint because the governor was just mentoring Bennett.
Cuomo has faced a sea of calls to resign as more women come forward, for both his behavior and the reported undercount of nursing home Covid-19 deaths after a controversial order forced long-term care facilities to take in COVID-positive patients. At the same time, state lawmakers have opened an impeachment investigation into the governor.
Cuomo has repeatedly denied ever touching anyone inappropriately but apologized if anyone felt uncomfortable as a result of his workplace behavior. He has resisted calls to resign, urging the public to reserve judgment until the findings of the attorney general’s report are made public.