State Attorney General Letitia James on Sunday called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to let her office oversee a probe into the “troubling” sexual harassment allegations lodged against him, and make any necessary appointments of investigators.
Cuomo’s office quickly made a counter-offer, saying that James and top state appeals Judge Janet DiFiore — a Cuomo appointee — could assign an independent investigator of their choosing to probe the accusations made Saturday by ex-staffer Charlotte Bennett.
“Allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously,” said James in a statement.
“There must be a truly independent investigation to thoroughly review these troubling allegations against the governor, and I stand ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary.”
James noted that such a move could not be made without an official referral from the governor’s office.
Cuomo had initially announced it was tapping former federal Judge Barbara Jones — a one-time colleague of former top Cuomo aide Steve Cohen — to conduct an inquiry.
On Sunday, the governor fired back a counter-proposal giving James’ office partial control.
“The Governor’s Office wants a review of the sexual harassment claims made against the Governor to be done in a manner beyond reproach,” said special counsel and senior Cuomo adviser Beth Garvey in a statement.
“We had selected former Federal Judge Barbara Jones, with a stellar record for qualifications and integrity, but we want to avoid even the perception of a lack of independence or inference of politics.”
“Accordingly we have asked the Attorney General of New York State and the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to jointly select an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report,” the statement continued.
“The work product will be solely controlled by that independent lawyer personally selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge. All members of the Governor’s office will cooperate fully.”
In a Saturday interview with the New York Times, Bennett, 25, accused the 63-year-old governor of engaging in a pattern of inappropriate conduct that left her convinced he “wanted to sleep with” her.
The bombshell came less than a week after another former Cuomo staffer, Lindsey Boylan, expanded on her own sexual harassment allegations against the governor, including an accusation that he kissed her without warning.
Cuomo has strongly denied any wrongdoing.