Metro

Hochul hires law firm to probe harassment in state government

ALBANY — They should call it the Cuomo rule.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday that her administration will hire an outside law firm to investigate any future claims of unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation in her office.

The move comes in the wake of her disgraced predecessor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation following a bombshell report that concluded he sexually harassed multiple women and fostered a toxic work environment as governor.

Hochul has promised she will “restore faith” in state government — a direct attempt to distance her administration from Cuomo and his scandals.

She declared there’s “no place for bullying or intimidation, sexual harassment, disparagement or mistreatment, period” in a nearly three-minute video addressed to all state employees released Monday.

“We’re also taking new steps to make sure the executive chamber is a workplace that is also free of harassment and hostility, including by bringing out outside reviewers and a new HR team,” she said in the message published to YouTube.

“Let me be perfectly clear about our policies, we will take every complaint of harassment and discrimination, seriously. We’ll do our best to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the investigation, and everyone will have the option to file an anonymous complaint.”

She’s directing her office to tap Calcagni Kanefsky, LLP — a Newark, New Jersey-based firm stacked with former federal and state prosecutors — to independently probe all claims made. The firm will report findings to her office’s internal counsel, as well as make recommendations for disciplinary action. 

A Hochul spokeswoman said the governor’s office plans to submit a contract with the firm to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s Office for review. 

“We have zero tolerance for any retaliation against anyone who files a good faith complaint or cooperates in any investigation,” Hochul added in the video.

Hochul's announcement comes after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned over multiple sexual harassment accusations.
Hochul’s announcement comes after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned over multiple sexual harassment accusations.
Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

Hochul’s office also said chamber staff — comprised of the governor’s top aides — will soon be required to take mandatory, in-person harassment courses.

Since August, almost 200 staffers have completed ethics trainings covering topics including the Empire State’s financial disclosure laws and the public officers law, her office said. 

State Attorney General Letitia James’ office released a 165-page report on Aug. 3, detailing the allegations of 11 women against Cuomo — including current and former staffers — concluding the ex-pol broke “multiple” state and federal laws. 

The complainants interviewed by AG investigators described the culture within the executive chamber as “rife with fear and intimidation and accompanied by a consistent overlooking of inappropriate flirtations and other sexually suggestive and gender-based comments by the Governor.”

Cuomo “enabled…harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment overall,” wrote the AG’s investigators.

Investigators also found Cuomo’s allies engaged in retaliation efforts against at least one accuser — Lindsey Boylan — by releasing her personnel files to members of the media after she spoke out publicly against Cuomo.

Lindsey Boylan accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. The probe also found his office retaliated against her.
Lindsey Boylan accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. The probe also found his office retaliated against her.
AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File

Although the report did not recommend charges against Cuomo, the analysis has since sparked five separate criminal investigations by district attorney’s across the state. 

A criminal complaint was also filed by Brittany Commisso — a current state worker who accused Cuomo of groping her in the Albany-based Executive Mansion during the work day — with the Albany County Sheriff’s Department.

That probe is ongoing in conjunction with the Albany County District Attorney’s office. 

Cuomo and his personal lawyer Rita Glavin have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing on his part, arguing Cuomo did not sexually harass any of the women who have waged allegations against him and declaring James’ investigation was tainted by her political aspirations to launch a 2022 gubernatorial bid in 2022.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James' probe found that Cuomo harassed several women.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ probe found that Cuomo harassed several women.
AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File

James has defended her office’s work and independence. 

Last week Glavin submitted a request for James to “amend” her report and appoint an outside reviewer to assess the demands. 

Meanwhile, the state Assembly Judiciary Committee has plans to release a report tied to their now-defunct impeachment probe assessing the sexual harassment claims against Cuomo as well as how his administration withheld the true number of deaths in nursing homes during the COVID-19 crisis and allegations that he misused state resources to write his $5.1 million pandemic-era memoir, ‘American Crisis.’


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