Amid new allegations of inappropriate behavior by Governor Andrew Cuomo, local officials are urging an independent investigation into the governor’s behavior.
On Saturday, the New York Times reported that a second former aide to the governor is accusing him of sexual harassment, saying that he asked her questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men.
The aide, Charlotte Bennett, who was an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the Cuomo administration until she left in November, told The New York Times that the governor had asked her numerous questions about her personal life, including whether she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships, and had said that he was open to relationships with women in their 20s — comments she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.
Last week, another former aide - Lindsey Boylan, a former state economic development official - accused the governor of harassing her on several occasions from 2016 to 2018.
In response to the allegations, State Senator James Skoufis (D-Woodbury_ called for an independent investigation.
“Sexual harassment cannot be tolerated, regardless of how powerful the individuals involved are. The allegations made by, now, a number of women against the Governor are deeply disturbing and warrant an independent, outside, expeditious investigation, Skoufis said in a statement released Sunday. "In order to safeguard public confidence in the findings, neither the Executive nor the Legislature nor JCOPE can lead the inquiry. The investigation must be completely independent of potential influence and politics."
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, another Democrat, also called for an investigation.
“We must start by believing the brave women who have come forward,” Ryan said. “Their accounts are deeply disturbing and concerning. I support a full investigation and full accountability.”
Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (R-New Windsor) took the allegations a step further by calling for Cuomo’s resignation.
“The multiple disturbing sexual harassment and assault allegations against Governor Andrew Cuomo are unacceptable,” Schmitt said non a statement released Saturday. “These serious credible allegations coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 nursing home death coverup crisis make it abundantly clear that the Governor is unable to adequately fulfill his duties on behalf of our state. Due to the weight of these numerous allegations and mounting criminal investigations and the information we currently have available it is clear for the good of New York Governor Cuomo must resign immediately. “
Cuomo released a statement on his own behalf Sunday evening, suggesting that his behavior is nothing more than good natured teasing.
"I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends.
"At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way. I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business,” Cuomo said.
"I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.
"To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.
"That's why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.
"Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now - period."