Attorney General Letitia James receives referral letter to investigate Governor Cuomo

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NY Attorney General Letitia James (Photo by Todd Maisel)

State Attorney General Letitia James can move forward with an investigation against alleged sexual misconduct against Governor Andrew Cuomo as her office has received a referral letter from his administration.

After rejecting the governor’s initial recommendation for a federal judge of his choosing to assist in the investigation, James announced on Monday that her office had received the letter and launch an official inquiry in Cuomo’s misconduct as alleged by two female staffers.

“Today, the executive chamber transmitted a referral letter to our office, providing us the authority to move forward with an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment claims made against Governor Cuomo,” James said in a statement. “This is not a responsibility we take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously. As the letter states, at the close of the review, the findings will be disclosed in a public report.”

Special Counsel to the Governor Beth Garvey has been handling statements to the press since the second allegation from 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett surfaced in a New York Times article and was met with calls for Cuomo to resign or for an independent investigation free of influence from the New York executive.

“The Governor is hereby making a referral pursuant to Executive Law Section §63 (8) for you to select an independent law firm to conduct an inquiry into allegations of and circumstances surrounding sexual harassment claims made against the Governor,” the letter from Garvey stated. “All New York State employees have been directed to cooperate fully with this review. I will serve as point of contact for any witness interviews or document production for the Executive Chamber and will connect you with appropriate counsel in any other agency or entity for any documents or witnesses necessary for the review.”

The nature of the accusations has been verbal to the extent that the general public is aware and the governor contested in a statement on Sunday that his conduct had never been physical with any of his aides.

Cuomo, in the apology statement, explained that his jocular nature with those around him may have resulted in “misconceptions” about his intent with certain comments. 

With Monday marking the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, Cuomo has been keeping a low profile with a hiatus from his usual three-day-a-week press conferences for which he became nationally known – and widely celebrated, earning a special International Emmy Award.

Cuomo has not had a press conference since Feb. 22. March 1 would have been day 365 of his famous briefings.