New York governor Andrew Cuomo has revised his plan to investigate claims of sexual harassment against him by two former aides.
Former Cuomo special adviser Lindsey Boylan accused the governor of kissing her on the lips without consent and of asking her to play “strip poker” in an essay published on Medium on Wednesday. Charlotte Bennett, a former health policy adviser, alleged that the governor asked intrusive questions about her sex life, including if she had had sex with older men, in comments to the New York Times published on Saturday.
Cuomo initially called for former New York judge Barbara S. Jones to head an independent investigation into the allegations. However, Jones has worked with Cuomo adviser Steven Cohen since leaving the judiciary, leading to accusations that the probe would not be free of political influence.
New York attorney general Letitia James wrote on Twitter on Sunday that she was “ready to oversee [the] investigation and make any appointments necessary.” However, “this can only be accomplished through an official referral from the governor’s office and must include subpoena power.”
Minutes after James called for a referral, the Cuomo administration called for the attorney general and New York Court of Appeals chief judge Janet DiFiore to jointly appoint an “independent” investigator for the allegations. While James is elected as attorney general, Judge DiFiore was appointed by Cuomo.
State Senator Andrew Gounardes, a Democrat who represents parts of Brooklyn, criticized the move.
“This is not the process . . . relating to referring cases to the AG for investigation. Nor is this what the AG asked for in her statement,” Gounardes wrote on Twitter. “The Chief Judge is not supposed to have a role in that process, so why does she have one here?”
Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) blasted the governor in her own comments on Twitter. “New Yorkers aren’t stupid,” she wrote. “Criminal sexual predators don’t get to unilaterally select the Judge you appointed to work with the AG to oversee an ‘independent investigation.’”