Updated: February 28, 2021 03:12 PM
Created: February 28, 2021 11:54 AM
NEW YORK (WHEC/AP) — New York Attorney General Letitia James is clarifying a request for a referral from Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate allegations of sexual harassment.
The clarification comes after Cuomo later requested that she and the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals jointly select an independent, qualified lawyer without political affiliation to conduct a review of the sexual harassment allegations against him. However, James says that's not how it works:
“To clarify, I do not accept the governor’s proposal. The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral. While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task, per Executive Law. The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.”
The move came after legislative leaders assailed Cuomo's plan to appoint a retired federal judge, Barbara Jones, to conduct the probe.
“The Governor’s Office wants a review of the sexual harassment claims made against the Governor to be done in a manner beyond reproach,” Beth Garvey, special counsel to the governor, said. “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."
Garvey said the Democratic governor's administration has asked Attorney General Letitia James and Janet DiFiore, 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.”
Garvey said the report “will be solely controlled by that independent lawyer personally selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge.”
This was released by James earlier on Sunday:
“Allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously. There must be a truly independent investigation to thoroughly review these troubling allegations against the governor, and I stand ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary. Given state law, this can only be accomplished through an official referral from the governor’s office based on State Law (§ 63-8) and must include subpoena power. I urge the governor to make this referral immediately.”
The calls for investigations and/or reviews come after a second former aide to Cuomo came forward with sexual harassment allegations.
Charlotte Bennett, a low-level aide in the governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times on Saturday that Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men. Her accusation came days after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, elaborated on harassment allegations she first made in December. Boylan said Cuomo subjected her to an unwanted kiss and inappropriate comments.
Meanwhile, politicians with local ties are still adding their reactions to the new accustations. Monroe County's Chief Executive, Adam Bello, released the following statement on Twitter:
Sexual harassment allegations of any kind must be taken seriously, especially when it involves someone who is in a position of power. As elected officials, we have an obligation to listen to those who come forward and take action.— Adam J. Bello (@CountyExecBello) February 28, 2021
This is a developing story, and News10NBC will have the latest on News10NBC at 6.
The allegations made by two former aides to Governor Cuomo must be fully reviewed by an independent investigation.— Adam J. Bello (@CountyExecBello) February 28, 2021
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