New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday appointed former acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney
and employment-discrimination attorney Anne Clark to lead an investigation into alleged sexual harassment by
Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The appointment of two veteran lawyers marked an important new development in the controversy enveloping the Cuomo administration since several women have accused the governor of inappropriate touching and remarks. Mr. Kim and Ms. Clark will be given the power to issue subpoenas, conduct depositions and analyze relevant data and information as they investigate the circumstances surrounding the sexual-harassment allegations, including how Mr. Cuomo’s administration handled them, the attorney general’s office said.
“We are committed to an independent and thorough investigation of the facts,” Ms. James, a Democrat like Mr. Cuomo, said in a statement. “Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark are independent, legal experts who have decades of experience conducting investigations and fighting to uphold the rule of law.”
Mr. Kim, now a partner at firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, served as acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from March 2017 to January 2018, after former U.S. Attorney
was fired from his position by former President
During his time leading the office, Mr. Kim oversaw the trial and conviction of Las Vegas gambler William “Billy” Walters, who was found guilty of insider trading and sentenced to five years in prison.
Ms. Clark is a partner at Vladeck, Raskin & Clark, P.C., where she practices employment law. A lawyer from her firm and two from Cleary Gottlieb would assist with the investigation, the attorney general’s office said.
Three women have said the governor asked about their personal lives and behaved inappropriately toward them while they worked on his staff. Ana Liss, 35 years old, told The Wall Street Journal last week that Mr. Cuomo once kissed her hand while she was getting up from her desk at the Capitol.
Mr. Cuomo said Sunday that he never meant to make anyone uncomfortable. He asked people to reserve judgment until the completion of Ms. James’s review. The governor also rebuffed calls for his resignation by Republicans and a growing number of his fellow Democrats in Albany.
“These are serious allegations that demand a rigorous and impartial investigation,” said Mr. Kim in a statement provided by the attorney general’s office. Ms. Clark said the people of New York deserve an exhaustive and independent investigation.
Debra Katz, a lawyer representing one of Mr. Cuomo’s accusers, Charlotte Bennett, said the appointment of Mr. Kim and Ms. Clark shows the attorney general’s office “is taking this matter very seriously.”
“It is important that this investigation isn’t just centered around what Gov. Cuomo said and did,” Ms. Katz said. “It must also focus on the culture of secrecy, abuse and fear that he fostered among his staff—frequently in violation of the very laws he signed to protect workers from sexual harassment,” she alleged.
On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader
a Democrat from Yonkers, became the highest-ranking state lawmaker to call for Mr. Cuomo’s resignation. Assembly Speaker
a Democrat from the Bronx, said Mr. Cuomo should “seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York.”
Aside from the harassment allegations, the governor is also facing criticism over his administration’s handling of Covid-19 in the state’s nursing homes. Federal prosecutors are interested in how the governor’s top advisers pushed to alter a Health Department report to include a lower tally of deaths in long-term-care facilities, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
A lawyer for Mr. Cuomo said the alterations were made because there were questions about the accuracy of a higher nursing-home death toll.
Democrats who dominate the state Assembly remained split over Mr. Cuomo on Monday. More than 20 female members of the Assembly Democratic conference issued a statement saying Ms. James should “be allowed the appropriate time to complete her investigation rather than undermine her role and responsibility as the chief law-enforcement officer of the state of New York.”
Other women in the chamber have called for Mr. Cuomo to resign, including Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, a Democrat from Queens.
Republicans in the state Assembly said Monday that they will introduce an impeachment resolution, though with only 43 GOP members in the 150-member Assembly, they have little leverage to influence the decision.
“The governor’s lost so much credibility and trust that we don’t feel like he can go forward and govern,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, a Republican from Oswego County, said at a press conference.
Some Democrats support this position as well, including Assembly members Charles Barron of Brooklyn and Ron Kim of Queens.
The governor’s office confirmed on Monday that his counsel, Kumiki Gibson, was departing from the administration this week to take a position in the nonprofit sector. Ms. Gibson said she gave notice of her intent to leave a month ago. She is the second senior aide to leave the administration in recent days. Gareth Rhodes announced last week he would leave the state’s Covid-19 task force and return to his duties as deputy superintendent of the state Department of Financial Services.
Mr. Cuomo didn’t take questions from the press on Monday, but appeared at the Javits Center to talk up the state’s vaccination efforts. He was flanked by Black clergy and spoke of the state’s special efforts toward communities of color.
“We are now at the end, at the beginning of the end,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Why? Because we have a vaccine that can stop the virus.”
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Source: WSJ – US News