New York state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is not calling for an investigation into how state Attorney General Letitia James and her office handled investigating sexual harassment allegations against her former chief of staff Ibrahim Khan, who resigned Nov. 22.
The attorney general is considering a criminal referral in the case, but is facing steep backlash after reports her office suppressed the investigation about Khan until after the Nov. 8 election. He was also previously accused of forcibly kissing a woman in 2014 while working for James, who was New York City's public advocate at the time.
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"On the surface of things that I've seen, I don't see anything that rises to the level of an investigation of the investigation," Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, said in the Capitol on Thursday.
"There was an investigation, there was a finding," he said. "Anytime that we have to deal with another issue of sexual harassment, it just shows we still have work to do in this state — particularly in protecting women. There should be a constant learning experience. There are always ways to do things that are better and more efficient."
The speaker did not rule out the possibility that legislative leaders could call lawmakers back to Albany for a special session before the end of the year to vote to give themselves a pay increase, but reiteraterd that conversation is not happening "at this moment." Lawmakers can only legislate a pay increase for a subsequent Legislature.
"I've not said anything about coming back for a pay raise, you know, at this moment," Heastie said.
Some lawmakers have discussed the possibility amid talks about who the governor will pick to serve as the next chief judge of the state Court of Appeals.
Heastie said some members were confused about what those discussions meant, but he didn't rule out the possibility.
"Personally, I believe that legislators need to be compensated for the hard work that they do," Heastie said. "People don't realize that the sacrifice that they make being away from their families, because there's not enough money int he world that can compensate you for being away from your family, but with that being said, At this moment, there's no discussion about coming back."
Members are discussing their priorities for the upcoming legislative session to begin Jan. 4 as they conference during their annual retreat in Albany this week.
Heastie did not give specifics about what those priorities might be.
"We're trying to map that out now," he said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed dozens of bipartisan-backed measures last week, including a group to improve adult group homes in the state and several other legislation convening a task force or study.
Democrats hold a veto-proof supermajority in the Legislature, but Heastie said they haven't talked about using that power to reverse the governor's decisions to date.
"We passed [the legislation], so you know, it's important to us," the speaker said. "They'll continue to be ongoing conversations between the governor and the Senate as well."
The speaker said he frequently speaks with the governor, but no substantive conversations about upcoming negotiations. He added their relationship hasn't changed since the election.
"We're working just as closely, you know, as we've done."