Reform measures that had languished for years moved with new urgency in the wake of protests over George Floyd’s death.
A group of 59 Democratic state legislators, along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, demanded New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation on Thursday in the wake of a new allegation that he groped an aide at the Executive Mansion last year.
“The specific allegation that the governor called an employee of his, someone who he had power over, called them to a private place and then sexually assaulted her, it’s absolutely unacceptable,” de Blasio, a Democrat who has publicly feuded with Cuomo, told reporters on Thursday. “It is disgusting to me, and he can no longer serve as governor.”
Separately, the legislators released a letter calling for Cuomo, a Democrat, to step down as his grip on power appeared increasingly tenuous. The top Democrat in the state Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie, said he will meet the members on Thursday on “potential paths forward” in light of mounting allegations.
In New York, the Assembly is the legislative house that could move to impeach Cuomo, who has faced multiple allegations that he made the workplace an uncomfortable place for young women with sexually suggestive remarks and behaviour, including unwanted touching and a kiss.
Nineteen senators and 40 Assembly members said in their letter on Thursday that it was time for Cuomo to go.
— Senator Michelle Hinchey (@SenatorHinchey) March 11, 2021
“In light of the Governor’s admission of inappropriate behavior and the findings of altered data on nursing home COVID-19 deaths he has lost the confidence of the public and the state legislature, rendering him ineffective in this time of most urgent need,” the letter said. “It is time for Governor Cuomo to resign.”
In the newest allegation against Cuomo, the Times Union of Albany reported that the governor had summoned the aide to his Albany mansion, saying he needed help with his mobile phone. After she arrived, Cuomo closed the door, reached under her shirt and fondled her, the newspaper reported.
NEW: Debra Katz, the attorney for ex-Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett, said Bennett was summoned to the Capitol on a Saturday under the pretense of helping Cuomo with his phone.
— Jon Campbell (@JonCampbellGAN) March 10, 2021
The newspaper’s reporting was based on an unidentified source with knowledge of the woman’s accusation, who said she first told the story to someone on Cuomo’s staff in recent days. The newspaper had not spoken to the woman and did not identify her.
Cuomo has repeatedly said he will not resign and urged the public to await the outcome of an investigation of his conduct by state Attorney General Letitia James. Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
“I have never done anything like this,” Cuomo said through a spokesperson on Wednesday evening, according to The Associated Press news agency.
“The details of this report are gut-wrenching,” Cuomo said, adding that he would not speak to the specifics of this or any other allegation, given a continuing investigation overseen by the state attorney general.
Cuomo has previously denied inappropriately touching anyone but has said he is sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable and did not intend to do so.
Several other women who worked for the governor in Albany or during his time in former President Bill Clinton’s cabinet, and one who met him briefly at a wedding, have also complained of inappropriate conduct.
Activists have taken to the streets of New York City, calling for Cuomo’s removal. The sexual harassment allegations, coupled with revelations his administration allegedly withheld COVID-19 death data, marked a swift turnaround for a governor lionised for his handling of the pandemic.
The state Assembly has 150 members. It could convene an impeachment trial against Cuomo with a simple majority vote. Until the new allegations surfaced, most of its members appeared to be leaning against trying to convene an impeachment or demanding Cuomo’s resignation until the attorney general’s investigation was complete.
The state Senate, which would join with members of the state’s top appeals court to hold an impeachment trial, has 63 members.