New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at an event in his New York office on March 18, 2021.
Seth Little | AFP | Getty Images
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Katz said the decision to provide lawyers to employees to accompany them for interviews “will have a dissuasive effect on potential witnesses or other accusers” willing to cooperate with the investigation, but “feared work-related retaliation if they do tell the investigators about the governor’s sexual harassment behavior and the misconduct of those around him. “
Katz wrote that she spoke to witnesses who feared retaliation if they refuse to cooperate with Cuomo’s lawyers. They also feel limited in what to share with James’ investigators with attorneys present, she said.
“We believe this advisory offer is a deliberate attempt by the governor to disrupt the investigation of your office,” wrote Katz.
Cuomo’s press office and a recently hired lawyer by the governor did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A spokesman for James said Tuesday, “Survivors deserve their stories to be heard without interference. Our investigation will include a thorough and independent factual examination.”
“We will continue to work diligently and publicly announce our results so that transparency and accountability can be ensured on this matter without external influence,” said the spokesman.
James hired a team of outside lawyers to investigate allegations made by Bennett and other women that Cuomo sexually molested them or otherwise made inappropriate physical contact or comments. Prosecutors include former employees, including Bennett, and at least two current employees.
Bennett, 25, said she believed the 63-year-old governor was trying to establish a sexual relationship with her when he asked her about her sex life last year, if she had ever been associated with an older man and other questions, which resulted from it it is uncomfortable for her.
Cuomo has refused to behave inappropriately towards a woman.
In her letter to James, Katz also noted, as she had done in an earlier letter to the Attorney General, that the Albany Times Union had recently reported that Cuomo alleged that James had instructed the Executive Chamber – Cuomo’s office and cabinet – to keep its own conduct investigation into allegation he aggressively groped a current aide at the governor’s mansion last year.
Katz wrote that legal responsibility for investigating workplace harassment in the Executive Chamber rests with the governor’s office for employee relations. She said the Executive Department’s staff handbook specifically requires that complaints of sexual harassment be handled by GOER.
The attorney wrote that the report of the Executive Chamber’s so-called parallel investigation into the failure to address Bennett’s allegations last year clearly shows that the Chamber is unwilling to use the proper channels for reporting and investigating allegations of sexual harassment use . “
Katz asked James to make a statement that she had not been notified of the Executive Chamber investigation or had approved it.
“Otherwise, this unauthorized parallel investigation will continue to undermine the legitimacy of the thorough, independent investigation being conducted by your office,” wrote Katz.
The Times Union wrote last week that Cuomo’s acting attorney Beth Garvey said in a statement to the newspaper: “We have given the (Attorney General) full information on the required procedure with these types of allegations and they said they should The matter has been referred to GOER (Governor’s Office for Employee Relations) and (we) notified local law enforcement, and that is the full scope of the action. “
Cuomo has repeatedly refused to resign, amid increasing allegations against him.
A majority of the members of the Democratic Congress delegation in New York as well as numerous Democrats in the state parliament have called for Cuomo’s resignation.
The Judiciary Committee of the State Assembly has opened an investigation into whether Cuomo should be charged.