GREECE, New York (WABC) -- An upstate New York woman said Monday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo grabbed her face and kissed her cheek at her home during a visit to inspect local flood damage, becoming the latest woman to accuse the embattled governor of inappropriate behavior.
Sherry Vill, a 55-year-old mother of three who has been married for more than 30 years, made the allegations during a Zoom news conference with attorney Gloria Allred, describing a spring 2017 visit to her Rochester-area home after flooding near Lake Ontario.
"(She) became the victim of the governor's unwelcome and unconsented physical contact with her, grabbing her face and kissing her in 2017," Allred said.
Vill lives in Greece, NY, where her home and business were severely damaged by flooding from Lake Ontario. Cuomo came to her neighborhood to tour the damage.
She said Cuomo first grabbed her hand.
"That's when the governor looked at me, approached me, took my hand and pulled me to him," she said. "He leaned down over me and kissed my cheek. I was holding my small dog in my arms in my arms, and I thought he was going to pet my dog. But instead, he went to squeeze between the dog...and kiss me on the other cheek in what I felt was a highly sexual manner. I wasn't expecting that at all."
She says he then told her, "That's what Italians do, kiss both cheeks."
"I knew I felt embarrassed and weird about the kissing," she said. "I am Italian, and in my family, family members kiss. Strangers do not kiss."
On his way out, she said Cuomo stopped and turned back.
"He turned to me and said, 'You are beautiful,'" she said. "That made me feel even more uncomfortable. I felt as though he was coming onto me in my own home."
After touring the damage and asking "Is there anything else you want?" Vill said Cuomo grabbed her face and kissed her cheek "again in a very aggressive manner."
"The way he looked at me and his body language made me very uncomfortable," she said. "I felt he was acting in a highly flirtatious and inappropriate manner."
Rita Glavin, who represents Cuomo, defended her client against the claims made at the press conference:
"During times of crisis, the Governor has frequently sought to comfort New Yorkers with hugs and kisses. As I have said before, the Governor has greeted both men and women with hugs, a kiss on the cheek, forehead or hand for the past forty years. I encourage everyone to look at other photographs from his visit to Greece, NY that day. Nothing described at today's press conference was unique in that regard. Three other related points concerning Gloria Alfred's press conference: (1) the July 19, 2017 letter from the Governor that Ms. Allred displayed was a nearly identical follow-up form letter sent to more than 30 people that the Governor visited to support and assist following the Lake Ontario flooding, and those form letters were signed with an autopen; (2) it is a practice of the Governor's office to send signed photos to people he meets with after events, and those photos are regularly signed with an autopen; (3) it is common for staffers to contact constituents after events and invite them to a future event on a related topic."
"I know the difference between an innocent gesture and a sexual one," Vill said. "I never felt as uncomfortable as the day Governor Cuomo came to my home. His actions were very overly sexual, highly inappropriate, and disrespectful to me and my family. The governor's actions have continued to bother me, and I have expressed that to my family many times in intervening years. However, I was always afraid to report it. I am still afraid, but I am no longer willing to remain silent. And that is why I am coming forward today."
Days after the incident, Vill said she received a call from the governor's office inviting her to an event. She declined.
Allred said Vill has not filed a lawsuit against Cuomo and has no plans to do so.
A series of women, some who worked for Cuomo, have accused him of making inappropriate comments about their looks, giving them unwanted hugs or kisses, or making comments they interpreted as gauging their interest in an affair. Among his accusers are two aides who still work in the governor's office.
One, who has yet to speak publicly, reportedly said the governor groped her at the Executive Mansion last summer.
Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately but said he's sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable. The governor has brushed off widespread calls for his resignation and asked that people wait for the results of an investigation overseen by state Attorney General Letitia James.
Allred said Vill would cooperate with James' investigation.
The state Assembly is conducting a separate investigation into whether there are grounds to impeach the governor.
The accusation Monday has similarities to allegations made by Anna Ruch, who told The New York Times that Cuomo touched her face and back and asked to kiss her moments after they met at a wedding reception.
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