The investigation into former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) found “overwhelming evidence” that Cuomo engaged in multiple instances of sexual harassment, as well as other types of misconduct.
The report was commissioned by State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D), who in March ordered the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Cuomo engaged in misconduct that would warrant impeachment charges. The committee, in turn, brought in the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell to conduct the investigation.
Cuomo resigned in disgrace in August.
The release of the report Monday compounds the result of an earlier investigation into Cuomo over the sexual misconduct allegations. In August, Attorney General Letitia James‘ office released its own findings that Cuomo had indeed sexually harassed multiple current and former employees and created a “toxic workplace” at the Governor’s office in violation of federal and state law.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee’s report is more expansive than the one from James’ office, as it looked at additional potential misconduct relating to other actions Cuomo took while in office.
In addition to investigating the sexual misconduct allegations, the committee looked into the deal for Cuomo’s October 2020 book about leading New York through the coronavirus crisis, his office’s reporting about COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, and his office’s handling of safety issues on the Governor Mario M. Cuomo bridge.
Specifically, the committee’s report concluded that Cuomo:
- Engaged in multiple instances of sexual harassment, including by creating a hostile work environment and engaging in sexual misconduct;
- Utilized state resources and property, including work by Executive Chamber staff, to write, publish, and promote his Book regarding his handling of the COVID-19 crisis – a project for which he was guaranteed at least $5.2 million in personal profit; and at the same time
- Was not fully transparent regarding the number of nursing home residents who died as a result of COVID-19.
‘Just Two Examples’
The committee took a closer look at two allegations of sexual misconduct against the former governor.
The first was brought by an unnamed state trooper, referred to as “Trooper #1.” She accused Cuomo of touching her inappropriately on multiple occasions and making multiple inappropriate and offensive comments. The report said that other state troopers corroborated Trooper #1’s allegations.
“The former Governor has not publicly denied that he engaged in the conduct described by Trooper #1; to the contrary, he has said, ‘Now, I don’t recall doing it, but if she said I did it, I believe her,'” the report says. “The former Governor admitted the behavior identified by the trooper was ‘insensitive,’ ’embarrassing to her, and it was disrespectful.'”
The committee also looked at allegations from former executive assistant Brittany Commisso, who alleged a pattern of harassment ranging from “flirtatious and sexually suggestive comments” from Cuomo to groping. Although Commisso couldn’t remember the exact date of the groping incident—a fact which Cuomo had used in his defense, the committee report says—the committee gathered corroborating evidence that indicated the incident occurred on Dec. 7, 2020.
“Now that the December date has been identified, the former Governor has raised a different defense: that Ms. Commisso has given differing accounts of the incident to various parties,” the report says. “We have carefully examined Ms. Commisso’s prior statements and find that she has been consistent in all material respects in describing the former Governor’s conduct toward her. In addition, Ms. Commisso’s statements have been corroborated by other Executive Chamber employees and by contemporaneous text messages and other documentary evidence.”
The committee concludes that Cuomo engaged in sexual harassment, adding that there are other similar incidents not included in the report.
“The experiences of Ms. Commisso and Trooper #1 are just two examples of the inappropriate nature of the former Governor’s conduct, and each independently satisfies the definition of sexual harassment under New York State law,” the report says, adding: “By highlighting these two examples, we do not intend in any way to diminish the allegations of the other ten women who have come forward or suggest that we do not find them to be credible. We have reviewed the former Governor’s challenges to the allegations, and nothing in his voluminous submissions can overcome the overwhelming evidence of his misconduct.”
‘Ongoing Law Enforcement Interests’
In Oct. 2020, Cuomo published his book about governing during the coronavirus pandemic titled American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. The committee found that in writing this book, Cuomo violated state guidelines requiring that no state property or personnel be used for activities associated with the book.
Cuomo “utilized the time of multiple state employees, as well as his own, to further his personal gain during a global pandemic – a time during which the former Governor touted the ‘around-the-clock’ state response to the crisis,” the report says, pointing out that Cuomo made millions as a result.
“The former Governor profited substantially from the Book, and he tried to downplay the extent of his earnings,” the report says. “Former Governor Cuomo’s book contract guaranteed payment to him of $5.2 million in royalty advances, with additional payments available if the Book met certain sales targets. In public statements, the former Governor suggested otherwise, indicating that his income from the Book was principally dependent on sales.”
The report also found that Cuomo’s office made changes to a July 6, 2020, Department of Health report in order to protect his reputation. That July report only shared COVID-19 deaths of people who died while at a facility, and not outside of one.
“Evidence obtained during our investigation demonstrates that while the DOH Report was released under the auspices of DOH, it was substantially revised by the Executive Chamber and largely intended to combat criticisms regarding former Governor Cuomo’s directive that nursing homes should readmit residents that had been diagnosed with COVID-19,” the report said.
“[T]he decision to exclude the out-of-facility deaths resulted in a report that was not fully transparent,” the report added. However, the report noted, “many of the decisions regarding the pandemic and related policies were made in the context of a once-in-a-century event that was fast-moving and presented significant challenges.”
Regarding the bridge safety concerns, the committee ultimately told Davis Polk “not to pursue this investigation” in light of Cuomo’s resignation and the “substantial further evidence” that would need to be collected and analyzed, but noted that all evidence gathered so far would be made available to “appropriate authorities.”
The report indicated an awareness that Cuomo could potentially face criminal charges as a result of the findings.
“As noted, we are mindful of the ongoing law enforcement interests into several of the matters covered in this report. We have prepared this report with those interests in mind and we are cooperating with any such investigations,” the report said in its conclusion.
‘The Truth Will Come Out’
Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi released a statement in response to the report, blasting it as “hypocritical” and “revisionist.”
“Once again, the fact that an employee entered and exited the Executive Mansion as part of her job was never in dispute and once again this report offers no evidence to support any allegation,” Azzopardi’s statement said. “What is interesting is that the Assembly didn’t even try to prove Tish James’ bogus ’11 legal violations,’ and instead only focused on two. When all the facts are fairly weighed there will be none.”
“The truth will come out,” Azzopardi’s statement later said.
Debra Katz, the attorney for Charlotte Bennett, a former Cuomo aide who accused him of sexual harassment, issued a statement Monday, which reads in full:
Once again, independent investigators who examined extensive evidence and conducted dozens of interviews reached the undeniable conclusion that then-Governor Andrew Cuomo used his office to sexually harass staffers, including Ms. Bennett and her former colleagues. His desperate, shameful attempts to smear our client in an effort to silence and discredit her did not work.
We assume that Rita Glavin, on behalf of Andrew Cuomo, will be holding a press conference to accuse the Judiciary Committee and its independent investigators of launching a politically motivated attack against her client. Such attempts to evade the truth are petty and will not work. The Judiciary Committee’s findings are clear: Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed staffers, used state resources to line his pockets at the expense of New Yorkers’ lives, and doctored COVID-19 numbers to hide his egregious shortcomings.
We don’t need another press conference from Rita Glavin or her client. Andrew Cuomo is a corrupt sexual harasser, and he’s been caught. Rather than funding more PR spins and calculating future opportunities in New York State politics, he should use his campaign funds to demonstrate his remorse — assuming he’s capable of such a feeling. Of this, we’ve yet to see any evidence.
Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, issued the following statement following the release of the report.
“The Assembly’s report simply parrots the Attorney General’s flawed report, failing to engage with the many errors and omissions in the AG’s report and her one-sided, biased investigation,” Glavin’s statement said. “And, like the AG, the Assembly refused to provide the former Governor with access to all the evidence, again denying the Governor due process and a meaningful ability to respond. This is disappointing, but hardly surprising.”
You can read the report to the New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee, below.
[Image via Office of the Governor of New York]
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