Cuomo faces new accusation of inappropriate touching

By Jesse McKinley and Luis Ferré-Sadurní

A female aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo has accused the governor of inappropriately touching her late last year at the Executive Mansion in Albany, according to a published report.

The incident involved an unidentified staffer who was working with Cuomo at the mansion, where the governor lives, according to the Times Union of Albany, which reported the account. Few details, including the exact nature of the allegations, were available, but the woman’s supervisor recently became aware of the incident, according to the article.

The governor, speaking in a conference call with reporters Tuesday about an hour after the newspaper posted its story, said he was unaware of the new allegation, but he reiterated previous assertions that he “never touched anybody inappropriately.”

“I never made any inappropriate advances,” he said, adding, “no one ever told me at the time that I made them feel uncomfortable.”

Beth Garvey, acting counsel to the governor, said in a statement, “All allegations that we learn of directly or indirectly are going promptly to the investigators appointed by the attorney general.”

The Times Union reported that the governor’s counsel learned of the matter Monday from other employees in the executive chamber. The woman, who still works for Cuomo, has not filed a formal complaint with the office, the newspaper said.

The matter was forwarded to the state attorney general, Letitia James, whose office is overseeing an investigation into Cuomo’s actions with several other women, according to the newspaper. James’ office had no comment on the new allegation.

The accusation comes as Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, faces calls for his resignation, including from the Democratic leader of the state Senate.

The women who have complained include another former executive-chamber staffer, Charlotte Bennett, who told The New York Times that the governor had asked her a series of sexually charged questions during a meeting in his office last spring.

The accusation outlined in the Times Union was the latest made by a female employee against Cuomo over the past few weeks. The governor has apologized for workplace remarks that he has described as playful comments but that, in hindsight, may have been taken as unwanted flirtation by women on his staff. He has repeatedly insisted that he never inappropriately touched anyone.

The series of allegations began in late February when Lindsey Boylan, a former top official in the state’s economic development agency, published an essay describing a series of unsettling interactions with Cuomo. She said the governor once suggested they “play strip poker” on a flight back from a business trip and accused the governor of kissing her on the lips without her consent after a one-on-one meeting in his Manhattan office. Cuomo flatly denied her allegations.

Later that week, The Times reported on Bennett’s sexual harassment allegations during her time as an aide to the governor last year. Bennett said that during a meeting alone in June with Cuomo in his state Capitol office, the governor asked if she was monogamous and whether she had sex with older men, among other questions about her personal life.

Bennett, now 25, said she took those remarks as a clear proposition. She reported her encounter with Cuomo to two of his senior aides and was promptly transferred to another job in the state Capitol before leaving the administration in November.

Since then, a number of other women have come forward to accuse the governor of inappropriate conduct, including unwanted advances and instances in which the women said they felt uncomfortable because he initiated physical contact — a hand on the back or a kiss on the cheek — without their permission.

The independent investigation being overseen by James’ office will be led by two outside lawyers: Joon Kim, a former acting U.S. attorney of the Southern District of New York, and Anne Clark, an employment lawyer.

The lawyers will have subpoena power to request documents and records from the state and to compel witnesses, including the governor, to testify under oath. They are expected to issue a public report with their findings, likely months from now.

On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who would succeed Cuomo if he were to step down, weighed in on the allegations, declaring her support for the investigation and saying she was “confident everyone’s voice will be heard and taken seriously.”

“I trust the inquiry to be completed as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible,” Hochul, a Democrat, said. “New Yorkers should be confident that through this process, they will soon learn the facts.”

On Tuesday, Cuomo differentiated himself from Eric Schneiderman, the former state attorney general who resigned in 2018 after The New Yorker reported he had physically abused four women, saying, “Obviously, there’s allegations, and then there are allegations.”

Cuomo demanded Schneiderman’s resignation shortly after the article was published, leading some to ask whether the same standard should be applied to the governor.