Photo: Photo provided by Vill.
Photo: Photo provided by Vill.
Updated: March 29, 2021 11:16 PM
Created: March 29, 2021 11:44 AM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A Greece woman is accusing Gov. Andrew Cuomo of grabbing her face, and kissing her without her consent while touring her flood-damaged home in May of 2017.
Sherry Vill, a married mother of three, and her high-profile women’s rights attorney lawyer, Gloria Allred, spoke out during a Zoom news conference Monday afternoon, describing the governor's visit to her home after flooding near Lake Ontario.
Allred said Vill has long wanted to report the Democratic governor’s conduct, but her family was worried he would “use his power to retaliate against her and her family.”
Cuomo kissed both of her cheeks in front of family members while inspecting her flood-damaged home in what Vill, who has been married for decades, felt was a “highly sexual manner.”
Then, Vill said, Cuomo “stopped and turned to me and said, ‘You are beautiful.’”
“I felt like he was coming onto me in my own home.”
He then inspected the damage with his staff and kissed her cheek again outside her home in a “very aggressive manner,” Vill said.
“While still holding one of my hands, he forcibly grabbed my face with his other big hand and kissed my cheek,” Vill said.
“I felt like I was being manhandled,” said Vill, now 55. Vill, who is about 5 feet tall, said the governor towered over her.
“The way he looked at me and his body language made me very uncomfortable,” she said. “I felt he was acting in a highly flirtatious and inappropriate manner, especially in front of my family and neighbors.”
Vill shared a copy of a July 19, 2017, letter she received from Cuomo in which he said he’ll help homeowners affected by the flooding.
“It was a pleasure to meet you recently,” he wrote.
The letter was only addressed to Vill, who questioned why it wasn’t addressed to her husband or son, whom Cuomo also met.
She said she received a phone call “within days” from a female employee on the governor’s staff who said Cuomo was having an event in town and asked if Ville would like to attend.
“Notably she didn’t say my husband and I, or my family and I, only specifically me,” she said. “I purposely did not respond to the invitation. I felt very uneasy about the call. I was the only one who received the call and the personal invite from the governor.”
A photo of Cuomo kissing Vill was shared at the press conference. It was a screenshot from the video her son was recording.
Vill joins at least eight other women — most of them current or former Cuomo staffers — who have publicly accused the governor of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior. Allred said that Vill is willing to cooperate with New York Attorney General Tish James' investigation into the allegations.
The state Assembly is conducting a separate investigation into whether there are grounds to impeach Cuomo. Allred said Vill has no plans to alert the law firm leading the Assembly judiciary committee’s investigation and is focusing on the attorney general’s office for now.
“We’ll have to see what if anything she’s willing to do after that,” Allred said. “This is not easy for Sherry. As I said, she’s been very brave. She’s never been involved in a situation like this before.”
People who live on Lake Ontario say they remember the 2017 flooding like it was yesterday, some say they met with Cuomo when he made his way to Greece to talk with residents about the damage to their homes. The flooding from 2017 and then again in 2019 wreaked havoc along the shore, and to this day some homeowners are still recovering.
"I'd say 20% of the people along the shoreline still have damage that was not covered by the money in 2017 and 2019,” president of the Crescent Beach Neighborhood Association Douglas Dobson said.
Dobson says during that time, Cuomo provided about $100 million for shoreline protection and many of the homes benefited from it.
During the governor's visit to Greece, Dobson says he met with Cuomo and believes he was there for the right reasons.
"He was sincere, he was concerned, he took action he provided the 10 million to make repairs,” Dobson said.
Dobson spent five years as an elected official on the Greece Town Board and 11 years on the Monroe County Legislature. He told News10NBC he feels the allegations against Cuomo are serious.
"I did trainings in diversity and inclusion and as an elected official, you have to be very careful about what you say, and you should keep your hands to yourself, that's how I feel,” Dobson added.
Other community members on Edgemere Drive say when they found out Cuomo was taking the trip, they were excited, but now can't help but feel unsettled.
"He needs to step up and do what he would ask of any other politician in the same position, exerting your power over someone and making them fearful of who you are, it’s time to step down,” Patty Turley, who’s lived around the Crescent Beach Neighborhood for years, said.
Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately but said he’s sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable.
Several prominent New York Democrats, including Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have called on Cuomo to step down. The three-term governor has refused to resign.
Attorney Rita Glavin, who represents Cuomo, sent the following statement Monday evening:
“During times of crisis, the Governor has frequently sought to comfort New Yorkers with hugs and kisses. As I have said before, the Governor has greeted both men and women with hugs, a kiss on the cheek, forehead or hand for the past forty years. I encourage everyone to look at other photographs from his visit to Greece, NY that day. Nothing described at today's press conference was unique in that regard. Three other related points concerning Gloria Alfred's press conference: (1) the July 19, 2017 letter from the Governor that Ms. Allred displayed was a nearly identical follow-up form letter sent to more than 30 people that the Governor visited to support and assist following the Lake Ontario flooding, and those form letters were signed with an autopen; (2) it is a practice of the Governor’s office to send signed photos to people he meets with after events, and those photos are regularly signed with an autopen; (3) it is common for staffers to contact constituents after events and invite them to a future event on a related topic.”
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