New York AG says Cuomo statement is not sufficient for independent investigation

Zach Budryk for The Hill

February 28, 2021

Originally published in The Hill on February 28, 2021.

New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) office said Sunday that she did not accept an earlier statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office proposing that she and the state's chief appeals judge appoint an attorney to investigate sexual harassment allegations against him.

“To clarify, I do not accept the governor’s proposal,” James said in a statement. “The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral.” 

The statement on the governor's proposal came after she asked Cuomo's office to issue a referral authorizing an independent investigation into the allegations, citing state law. Cuomo’s office issued a response saying Cuomo will “leave all decisions concerning the investigation to be made in the discretion of the independent counsel selected by the Attorney General” and Janet DiFiore, the chief judge of New York's Court of Appeals, who was appointed by Cuomo.

“While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task, per Executive Law,” James said. “The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.”

Former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan accused him of harassment last year before publishing a Medium post last week outlining more detailed allegations, including claiming the governor kissed her without her consent. Cuomo has denied Boylan’s allegations.

On Saturday a second former Cuomo aide, Charlotte Bennett, told The New York Times Cuomo had made inappropriate advances in spring of last year.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D), meanwhile, tweeted Sunday that he intends to introduce legislation eliminating the need for James’ office to obtain a referral to begin an investigation. State Sen. Liz Krueger (D) called for the passage of similar legislation unless Cuomo provides a referral.