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Federal Scrutiny of Cuomo Widens to His Office’s Treatment of Women

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Federal Scrutiny of Cuomo Widens to His Workplace’s Remedy of Ladies

Federal prosecutors have broadened their scrutiny of former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to incorporate a civil rights investigation after the New York lawyer basic’s workplace concluded that he had sexually harassed feminine workers and fostered a poisonous work tradition.

In a letter to state officers on Aug. 12 earlier than Mr. Cuomo formally left workplace, the Justice Division’s Civil Rights Division mentioned it had opened an inquiry into reviews of sexual harassment and retaliation within the governor’s workplace, in keeping with two individuals who reviewed the letter.

Investigators, the letter mentioned, had been searching for to find out whether or not the governor’s workplace had engaged in a “sample and follow of discrimination and retaliation” in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a federal regulation that protects in opposition to harassment primarily based on an individual’s gender.

The letter was despatched to Letitia James, New York’s lawyer basic, by the Justice Division’s chief of employment litigation after which forwarded to state officers. It mentioned the inquiry was being performed with the U.S. lawyer’s workplace in Brooklyn, which was already investigating Mr. Cuomo over different issues.

The investigation is only one of a number of state and federal inquiries which have engulfed Mr. Cuomo, the once-powerful Democrat who was hailed a nationwide hero amid the coronavirus pandemic however who was finally felled by a sequence of scandals that proved insurmountable.

The existence of the civil rights investigation grew to become public on Thursday with the discharge of a contract between the state’s govt chamber, which contains the governor and his high officers, and a outstanding regulation agency that was employed to signify the chamber in a number of investigations stemming from the final years of Mr. Cuomo’s tenure.

The $2.5 million contract with the agency, Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, mentioned the Justice Division had “undertaken an inquiry associated to the sexual harassment claims made in opposition to the then-governor.” The contract’s particulars had been first reported by the Instances Union of Albany, N.Y.

The seriousness and standing of the inquiry had been unclear on Friday, however Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, mentioned prosecutors had not contacted the previous governor’s legal professionals in regards to the investigation for the reason that letter in August.

“Our understanding is that the civil division opened an inquiry in August primarily based upon the A.G.’s politically motivated sham report and we now have heard nothing since,” Mr. Azzopardi mentioned, referring to a report issued by Ms. James, that precipitated Mr. Cuomo’s resignation.

A spokesman for the U.S. lawyer’s workplace declined to remark.

The 165-page report launched by Ms. James on Aug. 3 concluded that Mr. Cuomo had sexually harassed present and former feminine employees members. The office tradition within the govt chamber, the report discovered, was rife with concern and intimidation, normalizing Mr. Cuomo’s “frequent flirtations and gender-based feedback” and permitting sexual harassment to persist.

Mr. Cuomo’s workplace, the report mentioned, additionally did not correctly deal with accusations made by a minimum of one of many employees members, Charlotte Bennett, whose grievance was by no means investigated by state officers as required as soon as she reported it to her supervisor.

The report additionally detailed how Mr. Cuomo’s high aides and different allies had mobilized to disparage one other of his accusers, Lindsey Boylan, by leaking her personnel file to reporters.

When Gov. Kathy Hochul succeeded Mr. Cuomo in August, she instantly vowed to rework the chief chamber’s tradition and to undertake insurance policies for rooting out harassment, bullying and discrimination. She additionally mentioned she wouldn’t retain anybody who had labored for Mr. Cuomo and had been implicated within the lawyer basic’s report.

On Oct. 25, Mr. Hochul introduced a sequence of initiatives, together with the creation of a brand new human sources division within the chamber and the hiring of the regulation agency Calcagni Kanefsky to deal with any claims of illegal discrimination and harassment.

The chief chamber retained the Willkie Farr agency in September to signify it in different issues that the federal prosecutors in Brooklyn had been scrutinizing, together with Mr. Cuomo’s dealing with of nursing residence deaths through the pandemic and a ebook about management for which he was paid $5.1 million.

The regulation agency, which has been retained by way of September 2022, was additionally employed to deal with any requests associated to the investigation overseen by Ms. James in addition to to a broader impeachment inquiry by the State Meeting that concluded final month.

Each investigations corroborated claims by a number of ladies who mentioned Mr. Cuomo had engaged in a sequence of troubling conduct, together with inappropriate feedback, sexual harassment and groping. Mr. Cuomo has denied the accusations.

In late October, the Albany County Sheriff’s Workplace filed a prison grievance charging Mr. Cuomo with a misdemeanor intercourse crime for groping the breast of a feminine aide, Brittany Commisso, whereas the 2 had been alone within the Govt Mansion in December 2020. The misdemeanor, for forcible touching, carries a penalty of as much as a yr in jail.

Mr. Cuomo is scheduled to be arraigned on the misdemeanor cost in Albany Metropolis Courtroom on Jan. 7.

Rebecca O’Brien contributed reporting.

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