ALBANY, NY – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was charged by a second former adjutant sexual harassment Saturday.
Ex-aide Charlotte Bennett told The New York Times that she repeatedly felt uncomfortable with Cuomo after joining the governor’s office in 2019.
In particular, the 25-year-old woman said the governor asked her questions about her personal life, such as whether age makes a difference in a relationship.
She told the newspaper that while the Democratic governor never tried to touch her, she felt he was inappropriate, especially after an exchange on June 5 at his office in the Albany State Capitol when she was on COVID -19 response from the staff worked.
She left the administration in November and had previously shared her concerns with her superiors, the newspaper reported.
She had originally viewed Cuomo, 63, as a mentor and even talked about growing up near his former home in New Castle, playing soccer against one of his daughters. He has three daughters, all in their twenties.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me and felt terribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And I was wondering how to get out of there and assuming it was the end of my job.”
In a statement, Cuomo denied ever attempting to woo Bennett, and his office said the state would conduct an investigation into the incident through former federal judge Barbara Jones.
“Ms. Bennett was a hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID. She has every right to speak up,” said Cuomo.
“When she came to me and found out about being a sexual assault survivor and how it shaped her and her ongoing efforts to create an organization that would empower her voice to help other survivors, I tried to support myself and to help.”
He added, “Ms. Bennett’s first impression was correct: I was trying to mentor her. I have not made any progress toward Ms. Bennett, nor have I ever intended to act in a way that was inappropriate. The last what I would ever do. ” I wanted her to feel one of the things that are being reported. “
The sexual harassment allegations were the second in a week against the three-time governor, who was first elected in 2011.
On Wednesday, former adjutant Lindsey Boylan wrote a post on Medium in which Cuomo sexually harassed her during her two-year tenure in the state government.
Boylan wrote in part: “Andrew Cuomo used his governor power to sexually harass me, just as he did with so many other women.”
Latest allegations against Cuomo
Bennett’s allegations led to another round of calls for an independent investigation by Cuomo and the Executive Chamber.
“The ongoing allegations are deeply troubling and worrying. The behavior described has no place in the workplace, “Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat, said in a statement.
“A really independent investigation needs to start immediately.”
It is uncertain whether a Jones review would be satisfactory for the legislature. Legislators have called for an investigation by Attorney General Letitia James or some other outside agency.
But for James to do a full investigation, she would likely need a referral from Cuomo’s office, which he didn’t.
Cuomos Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement: “Everyone deserves their voice to be heard and taken seriously. I support an independent review.”
The sexual harassment working group, which includes women who said they had been ill-treated while serving in the state government, said Jones’ appointment was not enough. Jones works for the same law firm as Cuomo’s former top aide and confidante Steven Cohen
“Questionable conflict of interest, or at least bias, with this judge. She worked for a company founded by Cuomo’s former advisor. Not good,” the group said wrote Saturday on twitter.
“We need an INDEPENDENT investigation.”
The new allegations will put extraordinary pressure on Cuomo, who it was even before demands for his resignation and impeachment from some lawmakers for handling COVID deaths in nursing homes, including count the deaths by about 50%.
More trouble for Cuomo
Bennett told The Times that the most disturbing episode occurred on June 5th, when she was alone with Cuomo in the Capitol.
“In a series of interviews this week, she said the governor had asked her numerous questions about her personal life, including whether age makes a difference in romantic relationships and that he was open to relationships with women in their twenties – Comments that she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship, “wrote the newspaper.
Bennett said that during the exchange, Cuomo talked about feeling lonely during the pandemic and said he “couldn’t even hug someone” and asked her, “Who was the last one I hugged?”
After the interaction, Bennett said she told Cuomo’s chief of staff Jill DesRosiers about it and was transferred to another work station less than a week later as a health policy advisor with an office across the Capitol.
Bennett said she then made a lengthy statement to Governor Judith Mogul to a special adviser, the newspaper wrote.
Beth Garvey, Cuomo’s special adviser, said in a statement Saturday that Bennett’s concerns were “treated with sensitivity and respect and in accordance with applicable laws and guidelines.”
Garvey added that Bennett received the referral she requested “in order to thoroughly discuss the facts, which did not include the right to physical contact or inappropriate sexual behavior. They were consulted on the solution and expressed their satisfaction and appreciation for the species and out how it was dealt with. “
The finding was that no further action was required, “which was Ms. Bennett’s request,” added Garvey.
In his statement, Cuomo said that “The situation cannot and should not be resolved in the press; I believe the best way to get to the truth is through a full and thorough outside scrutiny, and I direct all government officials to do it Efforts to adhere to. “”
He added, “I ask all New Yorkers to await the results of the review so that they know the facts before making a judgment. I will not comment further until the review is complete.”
Follow Joseph Spector on Twitter: @GannettAlbany