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Politics

Cuomo, facing criticism, offers new plan for probe of harassment charges


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed that state Lawyer Basic Tish James and the state’s chief decide, Janet DiFiore, title a lawyer to conduct the investigation. | Seth Wenig/AP Picture

ALBANY — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing a torrent of criticism over a plan to nominate a former decide to overview sexual harassment allegations in opposition to him, supplied a new proposal on Sunday morning even because the state’s legal professional normal mentioned she would search a referral that may enable her workplace to open a probe of the charges.

Cuomo’s transfer got here after New York’s prime legislative leaders, each Democrats, made it clear on Saturday night time that they supported an impartial investigation, and that governor’s authentic proposal did not match that description. Comparable criticisms had been leveled by means of the morning hours on Sunday, main Cuomo to pivot by proposing that state Lawyer Basic Tish James and the state’s chief decide, Janet DiFiore, title a lawyer to conduct the investigation.

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The governor’s authentic proposal, unveiled Saturday night time after The New York Instances revealed new allegations of sexual harassment from a former staffer, would have had former federal decide Barbara Jones main the probe. Critics questioned the independence of any investigation led by a Cuomo appointee. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), a former prosecutor, famous in a tweet that, “The accused CANNOT appoint the investigator.”

The new accuser, Charlotte Bennett, told The New York Times that the governor had repeatedly requested her intimate private questions, which felt like “one thing out of a horror film.” They included questions on her romantic life and whether or not Bennett, 25, “had ever been with an older man.”

Earlier final week, one other former Cuomo staffer, Lindsey Boylan, detailed allegations of harassment from Cuomo. Amongst different issues, Boylan mentioned Cuomo kissed her on the lips and requested her to play strip poker throughout a airplane experience.

The accusations have come after a collection of revelations about Cuomo’s dealing with of Covid-related deaths of nursing house residents. James, the legal professional normal, issued a report saying that the administration severely undercounted the quantity of deaths of nursing house residents, and the governor’s prime aide mentioned that the administration “froze” when requested for an accounting of these deaths. These revelations led in flip to a collection of tales important of Cuomo’s aggressive management fashion, all of which led to a disaster in Albany even earlier than the sexual harassment accusations.

In the meantime, James launched an announcement on Sunday saying that her workplace might start an investigation solely “by means of an official referral from the governor’s workplace.” However she made it clear she was searching for one. “There have to be a very impartial investigation to totally overview these troubling allegations in opposition to the governor, and I stand able to oversee that investigation and make any appointments mandatory,” she mentioned.

On the similar time that James launched her assertion, Cuomo counsel Beth Garvey put out one of her personal, saying that the administration desires “to keep away from even the notion of a scarcity of independence or inference of politics.”

“[W]e have requested the Lawyer Basic of New York State and the Chief Choose of the Court docket of Appeals to collectively choose an impartial and certified lawyer in personal observe with out political affiliation to conduct a radical overview of the matter and concern a public report,” she wrote. “The work product can be solely managed by that impartial lawyer personally chosen by the Lawyer Basic and Chief Choose.”

Garvey issued a second assertion about half an hour later, seemingly dismissing James’ request: “We’ll go away all choices in regards to the investigation to be made within the discretion of the impartial counsel chosen by the Lawyer Basic and Chief Choose.”

DiFiore, a Cuomo appointee, agreed to the governor’s plan.

“On the request of the Governor’s workplace, Chief Choose DiFiore has agreed to work with Lawyer Basic James to pick a person to conduct an impartial inquiry and report into the current complaints relating to the Governor,” her workplace mentioned in an announcement.

James doesn’t appear able to signal on to the newest plan, which would go away her with out subpoena energy to conduct an investigation.

“Our assertion speaks for itself,” a James spokesperson mentioned.

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