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Politics

Cuomo's office accused of violating its own sexual harassment policy


State Senator Liz Krueger attends a panel

State Senator Liz Krueger attends a panel. | Andrew H. Walker/Getty Photos for Ladies’s Marketing campaign Fund

ALBANY, N.Y. — A high-ranking Democrat within the New York Legislature and a lawyer representing one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s accusers say the governor’s office flouted its own guidelines on dealing with sexual harassment complaints.

An government order issued by Cuomo two years in the past requires such allegations towards state workers to be referred to the Governor’s Office of Worker Relations, which should conduct an investigation even when a sufferer declines to file a proper grievance with the office. State regulation additionally requires such an investigation.

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However Cuomo’s employees gained’t say if that occurred when Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old government assistant within the governor’s office, complained to Cuomo’s chief of employees, Jill DesRosiers, that the governor had questioned her about her intercourse life final spring. Bennett advised The New York Occasions she gave an announcement to the governor’s particular counsel and was transferred a short while later to a job as a well being care adviser in one other office within the Capitol.

Bennett is one of three ladies who’ve accused the governor of sexual harassment, two of whom are former aides.

State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), who chairs the highly effective Senate Finance Committee, mentioned the governor’s office didn’t act because it ought to have. She has sponsored many of the state’s new harassment legal guidelines and advocated for added protections.

“I don’t consider he adopted his own insurance policies or the regulation,” Krueger mentioned in an interview. “We handed an anti-harassment regulation particularly to deal with issues for workers of the state authorities in coping with circumstances of harassment by folks in positions of energy over them.”

Beth Garvey, a senior adviser and counsel to the governor, mentioned in an announcement Sunday that the grievance was dealt with “in accordance with relevant regulation and policy.” She mentioned the problem was “escalated” to a particular counsel, and Bennett was “completely debriefed on the details” and “consulted relating to the decision.”

However Garvey didn’t say the Governor’s Office of Worker Relations dealt with the case, nor did she say a proper investigation was carried out, as Cuomo’s order required. Requested immediately whether or not an investigation was carried out by the worker relations office, Garvey wouldn’t say.

The governor’s office, she mentioned, “won’t have additional touch upon this” till state Lawyer Common Tish James completes her investigation of the accusations towards Cuomo.

Debra Katz, an lawyer representing Bennett, mentioned in an announcement Wednesday that the lawyer basic’s probe will present that Cuomo’s office didn’t correctly deal with her consumer’s allegations.

“We’re assured that they made him conscious of her grievance and we totally anticipate that the Lawyer Common’s investigation will show that Cuomo administration officers didn’t act on Ms. Bennett’s critical allegations or to make sure that corrective measures had been taken, in violation of their authorized necessities,” Katz, a outstanding civil rights lawyer who represented Christine Blasey Ford, mentioned after Cuomo denied wrongdoing at a press convention Wednesday.

Krueger mentioned state regulation additionally requires a proper investigation in such circumstances.

“One might say that the minute she advised anyone, that ought to have triggered an investigation and that’s how we wrote that anti-harassment invoice,” Krueger mentioned. “As soon as she advised somebody, that somebody had an obligation to do one thing and that one thing they had been presupposed to do was not transfer her to a unique office.”

Cuomo in 2018 promoted the manager order on inner sexual harassment investigations as half of his efforts to fight misconduct within the office, positioning himself as an ally of the #MeToo motion. The directive comported with a state regulation he’d signed earlier within the 12 months that required all employers to undertake harassment insurance policies with minimal requirements, together with thorough investigations.

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As a result of that did not occur on this case, future victims are in danger, mentioned Erica Vladimer, a former legislative staffer who accused her then-boss of sexual harassment and co-founded an advocacy group to deal with a tradition of such habits in Albany.

“If you don’t observe protocols which can be there to maintain the system shifting and ensuring the system is there to maintain folks secure within the office… you’re establishing extra staff, extra workers to grow to be victims and be harassed and be abused,” Vladimer mentioned. “It doesn’t appear they adopted any of their inner procedures.”

Vladimir and different anti-harassment advocates say the governor’s failed effort to call his own investigator over the weekend moderately than instantly refer the allegations to the lawyer basic highlights the necessity for an unbiased physique to cope with harassment allegations.

Patricia Gunning, who’s suing New York state as a result of, she mentioned, she was fired from her state job after reporting sexual harassment to the office of worker relations, additionally mentioned New York wants an unbiased physique to analyze these varieties of accusations.

“I’m hopeful that Lawyer Common Letitia James will work onerous to guard the integrity of the investigation,” she mentioned in an announcement. “That integrity shouldn’t be one thing that’s presently assured to state workers in Government Companies whose complaints and the investigations associated to them… are dominated by conflicts of curiosity and the tight grip of the Governor’s Office.”

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