The office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo already changed direction on an “independent review” of the sexual harassment claims against the politician, but the new plan fell short of demands. Other elected officials wanted him to refer this to state Attorney General Letitia James, but he also included Janet DiFiore, who he appointed as chief judge of New York’s highest court.
“This is not how it is supposed to work,” New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes (D) wrote in a tweet Sunday.
“This is not the process laid out under Section 63 of the Executive Law relating to referring cases to the AG for investigation,” he wrote. “Nor is this what the AG asked for in her statement. The Chief Judge is not supposed to have a role in that process, so why does she have one here?
He called on Cuomo to refer the matter to James, and only James.
If the Governor does not refer this investigation to the Attorney General for a full independent review, then the Legislature should amend Section 63 of the Executive Law to allow for the Attorney General to receive a direct referral by concurrent resolution of the legislature. https://t.co/WsqGpqZ4Wb
— Andrew Gounardes (@agounardes) February 28, 2021
This follows after a second former aide stepped forward with sexual harassment claims. Charlotte Bennett told The New York Times in a Saturday report he asked inappropriate questions about her love life, he appeared fixated in one encounter on her being a survivor of sexual assault, and when she was considering a tattoo, he suggested she get it on her butt so no one would see it if she wore a dress. Former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan previously stepped forward with her own sexual harassment claims, saying he kissed her and he also stated, “Let’s play strip poker.”
Cuomo denied wrongdoing in regard to both women. After Bennett stepped forward, his office announced an “independent review” run by former federal Judge Barbara Jones, who used to work with former Cuomo aide Steve Cohen.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-New York, 4th District) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York, 14th District), called B.S., remanding a independent probe without someone chosen by Cuomo. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York, 10th District) and Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-New York, 19th District) separately said the governor should refer this case to James, who should appoint an independent investigator. They made no mention of DiFiore.
That’s not what the governor’s office did on Sunday. They want James to choose the “independent” investigator with DiFiore.
“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,” stated their new statement on the matter. “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.”
This is not what people wanted.
“Uh. No,” wrote Assemblyman Mike Lawler (R) on Twitter. “@NYGovCuomo needs to refer it to Attorney General @TishJames so she can appoint an independent special prosecutor with subpoena power.”
“The Governor must refer the allegations of sexual harassment to the Attorney General, who should have full authority, with subpoena power and with no caveats,” wrote State Senator Liz Krueger (D). “If he does not, I call for the Legislature to immediately pass a law giving the Attorney General such authority.”
Indeed, that’s what James asked for a statement Sunday.
Given state law, this can only be accomplished through an official referral from the governor’s office and must include subpoena power.
I urge the governor to make this referral immediately.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) February 28, 2021
Cuomo’s link to DiFiore is already fraught. A number of “political insiders” reportedly accused him of nominating a candidate for the state Supreme Court to the Court of Claims instead, clearing the way for DiFiore’s relatively inexperienced daughter Alexandra Murphy to win the Supreme Court seat. (DiFiore is the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, which is the state’s highest court over its “supreme” court.)
Reporters also weighed in Cuomo’s newest plan to handle the sexual harassment claim.
This is so Cuomo. He says AG Tish James can only take part in investigation if Cuomo ally Janet DiFiore (whom he appointed as chief judge) has veto power over her decision.
When *he* was AG, Cuomo investigated governors Spitzer and Paterson, with no such conditions. https://t.co/aYyK22YBPl
— Blake Zeff (@blakezeff) February 28, 2021
I have had numerous occasions down through the years to note @NYGovCuomo‘s horror of independent investigations when they come anywhere near him. But I’ve never seen this tendency expressed in so naked a fashion as we’re seeing today.
— Casey Seiler (@CaseySeiler) February 28, 2021
[Screengrab via Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on YouTube]
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