State Assembly's investigation into Cuomo finds sex harassment, hostile work environment

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, November 22, 2021
Cuomo investigation finds sex harassment, hostile work environment
Dave Evans has more on the legislative investigation on Gov. Andrew Cuomo which found "overwhelming evidence" that he sexually harassed women.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A legislative investigation released Monday found "overwhelming evidence" that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed women and that he ordered state workers to help produce his book on pandemic leadership during work hours.

The report also found that Cuomo's staff "substantially revised" a state health department report on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes to exclude statistics that might have dimmed his reputation as a pandemic leader.

The report was completed by lawyers from Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP, on behalf of the New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee.

In March 2021, the Judiciary Committee was charged by Speaker Carl Heastie with determining whether evidence existed to support a finding that the governor had engaged in acts that constituted serious and corrupt conduct in office that may have justified articles of impeachment.

The scope of the investigation included examining allegations of sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct, the publication of former Governor Cuomo's October 2020 book, information provided by former Governor Cuomo and his administration regarding the effect of COVID-19 on nursing home residents and information regarding safety concerns about New York State bridges.

"This has been a profoundly sad chapter in New York's history," Heastie said. "I commend Chairman Charles Lavine, the members of the Judiciary Committee, and the team at Davis Polk for their hard work and diligence in completing this investigation. I also want to acknowledge everyone who participated in all of the investigations for their cooperation, particularly the brave women who stepped forward. As we have throughout this process, we will continue to cooperate with all relevant investigative bodies to provide them with the evidence we have uncovered."

The detailed report concluded that the governor engaged in multiple instances of sexual harassment, including by creating a hostile work environment and engaging in sexual misconduct.

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The report also says Cuomo used state resources and property, including work by Executive Chamber staff, to write, publish and promote his book - a project for which he was guaranteed at least $5.2 million in personal profit.

"One senior state official explained that Book-related assignments were given by superiors and expected to be completed, and the work was not voluntary," the report said. "Another senior state official complained in a text message to a colleague that work on the Book was compromising the official's ability to work on COVID-related matters."

Junior and senior staff members told investigators they were asked to perform book tasks during their work day, including transcribing dictations, printing and delivering documents, and attending meetings with agents and publishers.

Finally, the report concluded that the former governor was not fully transparent regarding the number of nursing home residents who died as a result of COVID-19.

Junior and senior staff members told investigators they were asked to perform book tasks during their work day, including transcribing dictations, printing and delivering documents, and attending meetings with agents and publishers.

The law firm says it investigated hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, including photographs, texts messages, BlackBerry PIN messages, emails, recordings of phone calls, social media accounts, video recordings, memos, transcripts and other materials.

They also used the depositions and interviews from more than 200 people to come up with their findings.

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Cuomo's attorney, Rita Glavin, said the report is full of flaws:

"The Assembly's report simply parrots the Attorney General's flawed report, failing to engage with the many errors and omissions in the AG's report and her one-sided, biased investigation. And, like the AG, the Assembly refused to provide the former Governor with access to all the evidence, again denying the Governor due process and a meaningful ability to respond. This is disappointing, but hardly surprising."

Governor Kathy Hochul said she had not read the report but was focused on more pressing issues in a new administration.

"We've changed the culture from day one," she said. "A culture of transparency, accountability, and ensuring everyone feels respected in the workforce. Anyone who works for my administration knows that it's a whole new day, and I'm proud of that."

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi released the following statement after the release of the report.

"Any report that uses the Attorney General's politically biased investigation as a basis is going to be equally flawed. To date we have not been allowed the opportunity to review evidence in the Assembly's possession, despite requests to do so and due process was certainly not afforded here. Once again, the fact that an employee entered and exited the Executive Mansion as part of her job was never in dispute and once again this report offers no evidence to support any allegation. What is interesting is that the Assembly didn't even try to prove Tish James' bogus "11 legal violations," and instead only focused on two. When all the facts are fairly weighed there will be none.

"To be clear, the people who volunteered to work on the book were people mentioned in the book and therefore they were involved to make sure the representations concerning them were accurate. Staff who volunteered took time off, evidencing that they were volunteering and not on state time. Any suggestion to the contrary is Assembly hype. The people who volunteered were senior members in the administration and were highly sophisticated in terms of official activities and volunteer activities and had performed both many times in the past. During the time period in question Robert Mujica, Beth Garvey, James Malatras, Melissa DeRosa, Gareth Rhodes, and Stephanie Benton, all mentioned in the book, reviewed it at no cost to the state. Junior staff working on Covid materials were not helping on the book, but were helping on the state's COVID response.

"The Assembly report is hypocritical, revisionist and damns themselves as the Assembly effectively forces employees to volunteer on their political partisan campaigns as standard practice and if they want to debate it we welcome it. Let them start by disclosing which staffers also do political work. Will the Judiciary committee members that raised the issue disclose their staff members who volunteer to work on their campaigns and if not why not?

"They apparently couldn't find a similar distraction from priority testing after we pointed out the hypocrisy that multiple Assembly members, including members of this very committee, along with staff and family members, were provided testing when asked. That's why the matter was dropped altogether from the report. However, the Assembly's duplicity must not be allowed to go unanswered. They must disclose what members, staff and family members received priority testing. They were highly critical of priority testing, but are now silent on who in their house received such testing. They must stop their cover-up.

"The conclusions that the DOH report on nursing home COVID transmissions was accurate, that there was no evidence that the March 25 order resulted in additional fatalities and that we received constant reassurances from the Thruway Authority that the bridge was safe by no means suggests that this was a fair and balanced report.

"The truth will come out."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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