Outgoing governor faces legal, political challenges following his resignation in face of sexual harassment allegations.
In his final public remarks as governor of New York on Monday, Andrew Cuomo complained about what he called the unfairness of the state investigation that concluded he sexually harassed 11 women who worked for him.
“You know me. I am a fighter, and my instinct is to fight this, because it is unfair and unjust in my mind,” Cuomo said in prerecorded remarks that aired on Monday.
Cuomo said he had decided not to contest impeachment proceedings in the state legislature because “prolonging this situation could only cause governmental paralysis”.
Join me as I deliver a farewell address to New Yorkers. Watch: https://t.co/xJFrYQbESJ
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) August 23, 2021
As Cuomo leaves office, New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, another Democrat, takes over, becoming the first woman to run the state of New York.
Hochul, 62, is due to be sworn in at the State Capitol in Albany at 00:01am ET (04:01 GMT), and has promised a change in style, saying no one would ever accuse her, as the attorney general did Cuomo, of creating “a toxic work environment”.
Hochul inherits challenges including a continuing COVID-19 pandemic as she takes over a state government that has faced criticism for inaction in Cuomo’s distracted final months in office.
Hochul, a Democrat, announced the appointment of two women to top positions in the governor’s office: Karen Persichilli Keogh will become secretary to the governor and Elizabeth Fine will be chief legal counsellor.
Hochul has said she will not keep anyone found to have behaved unethically during Cuomo’s tenure. At least 35 employees in the governor’s office have left since February, according to staff rosters.
Hochul, who did not work closely with Cuomo, has said she was not aware of the harassment allegations before they became public.
“I have a different approach to governing,” Hochul said last week in Queens.
“I get the job done because I don’t have time for distractions, particularly coming into this position.”
In March, after two women went public with accounts of harassment, Cuomo had referred the complaints to New York Attorney General Letitia James, for an independent investigation. Lawmakers in the New York Assembly began an impeachment investigation.
A damning report released on August 3 by James, a fellow Democrat, was the beginning of the end of Cuomo’s decade as governor, a tenure marked by a bruising, pugnacious approach to dealmaking that left him bereft of allies.
The outgoing governor faces a number of legal and political challenges even as he leaves public office.
James is investigating whether Cuomo improperly used state resources to secure coronavirus tests for family members and wealthy friends and to write a $5.1m book last year about the COVID-19 crisis in New York.
Cuomo no longer faces impeachment by the New York Assembly, but legislators said they would publish a report once they conclude their investigation.
State legislators and federal prosecutors are looking at why the Cuomo administration withheld data showing the true extent of nursing home deaths from COVID-19 in 2020.
Five state prosecutors have requested information from James, whose report concluded that Cuomo broke federal and state laws by kissing, groping or making unwelcome sexual remarks to 11 women, and by retaliating against one woman who had complained.