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'Outside review' to determine Cuomo's dealings with former aide

UPDATED

Sat, Feb 27th 2021 07:20 pm

Following accusations of sexual harassment from his former aide, Charlotte Bennett, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released the following statement Saturday evening:

"Ms. Bennett was a hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID. She has every right to speak out.

"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. 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.

"This situation cannot and should not be resolved in the press; I believe the best way to get to the truth is through a full and thorough outside review and I am directing all state employees to comply with that effort. I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgements. I will have no further comment until the review has concluded."

Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior adviser to the governor, issued this statement:

"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.

"Although in no way required by law, the governor has requested an independent review and all staff will cooperate in that endeavor. Former Federal Judge Barbara Jones will lead the review."

The New York Time reported Bennett was an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the governor’s administration team.

Bennett is the second former aide to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment. Lindsey Boylan also has accused the governor of inappropriate behavior – claims the Cuomo camp refuted earlier this week.

Boylan, formerly a state economic development official, posted her recounting on the online publishing platform Medium.com.

On Wednesday, Boylan tweeted, “Today I am telling my story. I never planned to share the details of my experience working in the Cuomo administration, but I am doing so now in hopes that it may make it easier for others to speak their own truth.”

Cuomo Press Secretary Caitlin Girouard stated, "As we said before, Ms. Boylan's claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false."

A press release stated, “In Ms. Boylan's latest blog post, she opens up with a story about a plane trip in October 2017 – the manifests of all flights from October 2017 can be found (here) – there was no flight where Lindsey was alone with the governor, a single press aide, and a NYS Trooper. Below is a statement that can be attributed to John Maggiore, Howard Zemsky, Dani Lever and Abbey Fashouer Collins who were on all of these flights with her.

" ‘We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen.’ "

Bennett shared Boylan’s tweet, and added, “For those wondering what it’s like to work for the Cuomo admin, read @LindseyBoylan’s story.”

Boylan returned the favor Saturday, tweeting:

“You are not going to derail or destroy any more lives @NYGovCuomo.”

“I am so proud of you Charlotte.”

“I am with you Charlotte. We are with you. Always.”

Following the release of the governor’s statement, New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie issued this statement: “As I previously stated, all allegations of harassment must be taken seriously. A truly independent investigation is warranted.”

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins issued a release wherein she said, “The continued allegations are deeply disturbing and concerning. The behavior described has no place in the workplace. A truly independent investigation must begin immediately.”

Finally, Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt issued a statement that read, “The latest allegations about Gov. Cuomo’s conduct are incredibly disturbing. The review suggested by someone handpicked by the governor himself is an outrageous, completely unacceptable idea. We need a truly independent investigation, which is why I continue to support the calls of my colleagues for a special prosecutor appointed by the attorney general.

“I will be convening members of the Senate Republican conference tomorrow morning to discuss these egregious allegations and any next steps that our conference must take.”

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