Letitia James, the New York State attorney general, will have wide-ranging subpoena powers to request documents and call witnesses to examine sexual assault allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).
The independent inquiry, which is likely to be months from now, may also scrutinize not just the sexual harassment accusations made by two former aides last week but “potential claims from other women as well,” according to a report.
A lawyer who specializes in employment law and sexual harassment cases, Nina Pirrotti, believes, “The end game is that a report that found him culpable would bring pressure to bear on him personally, on his regime, on the Legislature to act.”
But the harassment accusations could be even more damaging for Andrew Cuomo’s family, who has advanced protections for women in the workplace. Gov. Cuomo’s 17-year-old daughter raises awareness over sexual assault by selling T-shirts that read, “my having a good a– does not give you a right to be one.”
Investigators will ultimately produce a public report on the sexual harassment cases, “which is bound to include a summary and analysis of their findings, maybe even recommendations,” the New York Times cited. “Experts said the civil inquiry could look at whether Mr. Cuomo violated the state’s human rights laws and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a federal law that protects against harassment because of a person’s sex.”
Pirrotti added, “These women do have the option, potentially, to bring claims against their employer, the State of New York, for Governor Cuomo’s conduct.”
James, a Democrat, said her office would oversee “a rigorous and independent investigation” by hiring a law firm to spearhead it, a possible attempt to “avoid any appearance that politics would influence the investigation.” James had not selected an independent law firm as of Monday, according to the report.
Lawyers from the firm would be deputized and will have the power to subpoena witnesses and any documents, records, papers, and books relevant to the investigation. Failure to comply with a subpoena could result in a misdemeanor.
Hiring a law firm to perform the investigation may be a political calculation for the Attorney General, as she has been rumored as a potential candidate to challenge Andrew Cuomo in a primary next year when he would be up for re-election.
Meanwhile, Kathleen Rice (D-NY) on Tuesday called for Andrew Cuomo to step down amid the scandal:
The time has come. The Governor must resign. https://t.co/GjcvuNfpfQ
— Kathleen Rice (@RepKathleenRice) March 2, 2021
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also released a statement on Monday where she announced support for an investigation into allegations of sexual assault.
“These stories are difficult to read, and the allegations brought forth raise serious questions that the women who have come forward and all New Yorkers deserve answers to,” Clinton said in the statement. “I’m glad to see that there will be a full, independent, and thorough investigation,” she added.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) would not be left out, also calling for an independent investigation.
“Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter Sunday. “There must be an independent investigation – not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.”
Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read.
There must be an independent investigation – not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 28, 2021