The office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has retained a defense attorney as the state continues to grapple with COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, along with allegations of sexual harassment by staffers.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Elkan Abramowitz, a former federal prosecutor, confirmed he was representing the Executive Chamber—which comprises the governor and his closest aides—in both the sexual harassment and nursing-home matters. Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Mr. Cuomo, deferred comment to Mr. Abramowitz.
Cuomo faces an investigation overseen by State Attorney General Letitia James into whether he sexually harassed women who previously worked in his administration. The democratic Governor admitted to joking with his staff and making fun of a serious situation. He apologized if anyone mistook the lightheartedness for unwanted flirtation.
Over the weekend, a second sexual harassment allegation against Cuomo surfaced about his behavior toward female staff. The first one came from a woman named Charlotte Bennett, who told her story to The New York Times. The 25-year-old said that when they were alone in his office, Cuomo asked if she “had ever been with an older man.”
According to the Times, “The most unsettling episode occurred on June 5, when she was alone with Mr. Cuomo in his State Capitol office. 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 20’s — comments she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.”
“Mr. Cuomo said in a statement to The Times on Saturday that he believed he had been acting as a mentor and had “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.” He said he had requested an independent review of the matter and asked that New Yorkers await the findings “before making any judgments.”
Cuomo’s office is cooperating with three inquiries about nursing homes from the Brooklyn-based U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York as well as the Justice Department’s Civil Rights and Civil divisions, which are based in Washington.