Mayoral candidates are not the only ones calling for repercussions against Governor Andrew Cuomo after allegations of sexual misconduct and other controversies come full circle.
Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in Sunday morning following the revelation that former Aide Charlotte Bennett may have experienced similar inappropriate behavior from the governor who rose to nationwide relevance throughout the pandemic, only to meet with a multi-front battle against scandal.
“New Yorkers have seen detailed, documented accounts of sexual harassment, multiple instances of intimidation, and the admitted withholding of information on the deaths of over 15,000 people. Questions of this magnitude cannot hang over the heads of New Yorkers as we fight off a pandemic and economic crisis. It’s clear what must now take place,” de Blasio said.
State Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement she would be prepared to lead an investigation into the governor’s conduct.
“Allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously,” James said. “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 Cuomo administration was not resistant to the notion of an independent investigation, either, with special counsel to the governor Beth Garvey stating that James should lead a legal team in an inquiry to whether or not the findings are damning or vindicating.
“The Governor’s Office wants a review of the sexual harassment claims made against the Governor to be done in a manner beyond reproach. 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. “Accordingly we have asked the Attorney General of New York State and the 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. The work product will be solely controlled by that independent lawyer personally selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge.”
According to the mayor, lawmakers in Albany must strip the powers accumulated by Cuomo over the course of the pandemic in response to the crisis and a combo of two separate investigations be launched.
“The State legislature must immediately revoke the Governor’s emergency powers that overrule local control. In addition, two fully independent investigations must be held immediately into the deaths at nursing homes and the disturbing personal misconduct allegations,” de Blasio continued in a statement.
February has been a perfect storm for the governor who provoked a feeling of stability for many New Yorkers during the worst months of the health crisis in New York as Attorney General Letitia James concluded that nursing home death had been under reported by his administration by 50%.
He has also been accused of bullying by the mayor as well as Assemblyman Ron Kim as the nursing homes scandal unfolded.
“Precedence shows that investigations of the Governor must be completely independent of his office. The investigation into nursing home deaths must be free to examine campaign contributions from the nursing home industry,” de Blasio added. “And the investigation into sexual misconduct must be led by someone fully independent of the governor, not the former business partner of the Governor’s top advisor.”
Most of Cuomo’s critics at this time vocally agree that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, run by Cuomo appointees, is not the proper channel for the investigation.