Another former Cuomo staffer charges sexual harassment

Another former Cuomo staffer charges sexual harassment
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a COVID-19 vaccination site in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Source: AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - A second former aide to Governor Cuomo is accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment.

Charlotte Bennett told the New York Times Cuomo “asked her questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men.”

The newspaper reports Bennett was an executive assistant and health policy advisor to Cuomo before she left her job last November.

Cuomo said in a statement Saturday night “I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate. The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.”

Cuomo said he is seeking an independent review of Bennett’s accusations. Former federal judge Barbara Jones will lead the review, Cuomo’s office said.

Bennett’s accusation is the second complaint of sexual harassment in less than a week. Lindsey Boylan, a former state economic development official, charged Cuomo kissed her on the lips, touched her and suggested they play strip poker.

North country congresswoman Elise Stefanik, in a statement Saturday night, renewed her call for Cuomo to resign.

“The New York Times article recounting Governor Cuomo’s sickening workplace sexual harassment and grooming of Ms. Bennett is so horrific it makes your skin crawl,” Stefanik said in her statement.

The New York Times report Saturday night details Bennett’s accusations that Cuomo sexually harassed her.

“Ms. Bennett, 25, said the most unsettling episode occurred on June 5, when she was alone with Mr. Cuomo in his State Capitol office,” the newspaper reported.

“In a series of interviews this week, she said the governor had asked her numerous questions about her personal life, including whether she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships, and had said that he was open to relationships with women in their 20s — comments she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.”

According to the newspaper account, Cuomo complained to Bennett about being lonely because of the pandemic. Cuomo never tried to touch her, Bennett told the newspaper.

““Ms. Bennett was a hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID. She has every right to speak out,” Cuomo said in his statement.

“When she came to me and opened up about being a sexual assault survivor and how it shaped her and her ongoing efforts to create an organization that empowered her voice to help other survivors, I tried to be supportive and helpful. Ms. Bennett’s initial impression was right: I was trying to be a mentor to her,” Cuomo said.

After the June encounter, Bennett told Cuomo’s chief of staff what happened and was transferred to the health policy advisor job on the opposite side of the Capitol.

A statement from Beth Garvey, senior advisor and special counsel to Cuomo, noted ““Ms. Bennett’s concerns were treated with sensitivity and respect and in accordance with applicable law and policy.

“The matter was promptly escalated to special counsel. Ms. Bennett received the transfer she requested to a position in which she had expressed a long-standing interest, and was thoroughly debriefed on the facts which did not include a claim of physical contact or inappropriate sexual conduct. She was consulted regarding the resolution, and expressed satisfaction and appreciation for the way in which it was handled.

“The determination reached based on the information Ms Bennett provided was that no further action was required which was consistent with Ms Bennett’s wishes,” Garvey said in her statement.

The accusations of sexual harassment have only added rocket fuel to a difficult few weeks for Cuomo. His administration is accused of severely undercounting the number of nursing home residents who died of COVID 19, because they were trying to conceal the effects of a policy which let COVID spread in New York’s nursing homes.

Cuomo and his top aides have denied both undercounting COVID nursing home deaths, and that the policy - which led to nursing homes taking COVID positive patients - caused more nursing home deaths. But both Republicans and some Democrats in the state legislature have called for an investigation of the state’s nursing home COVID policy, and the U.S. Justice Department is reportedly also investigating.

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