Justice Dept: Cuomo sexually harassed state employees

By Holmes Lybrand and Devan Cole | CNN

The Justice Department concluded Friday that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed state employees, supporting the findings of a previous state civil review of allegations against the former governor.

The department reached an agreement with the New York State Executive Chamber resolving the claims of sexual harassment and retaliation against the Democratic former governor, according to a release from the Justice Department on Friday.

The Justice Department found that during his time as governor, Cuomo subjected over a dozen women to a sexually hostile work environment, the department said Friday, reiterating many of the findings of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ 2021 report into the former governor.

“Governor Cuomo repeatedly subjected these female employees to unwelcome, non-consensual sexual contact; ogling; unwelcome sexual comments; gender-based nicknames; comments on their physical appearances; and/or preferential treatment based on their physical appearances,” the Justice Department found.

In August 2021, the New York attorney general’s office found that Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women and created a “hostile” work environment for women. Cuomo resigned a week after the state’s report was released.

According to the findings from the Justice Department, Cuomo’s senior staff were told about the harassment but failed to report the incidents “to the appropriate investigative body.”

The Justice Department also noted that “Cuomo’s senior staff were aware of his conduct and retaliated against four of the women he harassed.”

Additionally, during his time as governor, Cuomo’s office did not have an HR department, according to the Justice Department.

An attorney for Cuomo, Rita Glavin, said in a statement Friday that Cuomo “did not sexually harass anyone” and that the Justice Department’s investigation “was based entirely on the NYS Attorney General’s deeply flawed, inaccurate, biased, and misleading report.”

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Cuomo, said in a separate statement Friday that the Justice Department’s work “isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.”

Meanwhile, Mariann Wang, an attorney for two women who alleged Cuomo harassed them, said in a statement Friday, “We are pleased the US Attorney’s office and the Executive Chamber have taken serious steps to ensure nothing like the abuse Cuomo engaged in will happen again.”

“We hope these measures have real impact and prevent the kind of repeated abuse of power that resulted in so much harm to so many women,” Wang added.

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Debra Katz, an attorney for Charlotte Bennett, one of the first women to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment, similarly said Friday, “We are hopeful that this settlement with the DOJ will lead to lasting change that prevents any other woman from having to endure what our client has endured.”

The department said the agreement “memorializes” many of the reforms enacted by Cuomo’s successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, “as well as additional reforms aimed at preventing sexual harassment and retaliation in the Executive Chamber.”

The reforms include the governor’s office creating a new “process for complaints against senior officials” so that individuals lodging complaints can have “confidence that their complaints will be handled as independently as possible,” the Justice Department said. The governor’s office will also have to build an “anti-retaliation monitoring policy” to help shield complainants from reprisal.

“With this settlement agreement, the Executive Chamber under Governor Hochul is undertaking additional actions that will address system failures of the past while helping prevent the recurrence of systemic sexual harassment and retaliation in the future,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement.

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