ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Special counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Beth Garvey, has submitted an official referral to New York State Attorney General Letitia James, granting her request to launch an independent investigation into sexual harassment claims against the governor.
The governor's office had said it was fully cooperating with the investigation over the weekend. However, the office responded to James' initial request for an official referral by asking that the attorney general select an independent lawyer with the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals-- a judge appointed by Cuomo. A referral allows the state attorney general's office authority to investigate without input from another party.
To clarify, I do not accept the governor’s proposal.— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) February 28, 2021
The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral.
The referral made by the governor's office Monday allows Attorney General James to select one or more private attorneys and designate them as special deputy attorneys general or assistant deputy attorneys general while they review the claims made against Cuomo. Under Executive Law, those deputy attorneys general have subpoena power and do not need to share their findings with the governor's office before sharing them with the public.
The letter from Garvey to Attorney General James indicates, "all New York State employees have been directed to cooperate fully with this review." Read the full letter here.
In a statement, James said:
Today, the executive chamber transmitted a referral letter to our office, providing us the authority to move forward with an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment claims made against Governor Cuomo. This is not a responsibility we take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously. As the letter states, at the close of the review, the findings will be disclosed in a public report.
Two former aides have accused the governor of sexual harassment in recent days. On Saturday, the New York Times published the story of Charlotte Bennett, who told the newspaper she was harassed by the governor last spring. Bennett said the governor asked “questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men.”
Late Monday, the New York Times released a new report with a third woman, recounting an encounter she had at a 2019 wedding with the governor.