On Monday, the lawyer for one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s accusers sent a letter to Attorney General Letitia James asking that she “preserve the integrity of the independent investigation” into the numerous sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo.
In her first interview on Capital Tonight, attorney Debra Katz criticized the “parallel investigation” the Cuomo administration is conducting on itself looking into these allegations, asking that the attorney general issue a statement saying that this review does not have her support.
Katz represents Charlotte Bennett, the second woman and former aide to Cuomo to come forward and accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment. Bennett alleges that Cuomo would ask her about her sex life and made her feel that he was trying to sleep with her.
“Instead of letting them do their jobs, the Governor’s Office is conducting a parallel investigation, which of course is not going to conclude that he engaged in any improper behavior,” Katz explained “How could it?”
Katz also asked that the attorney general make it clear that it is “inappropriate” for the governor to send his own attorneys to accompany staffers on their interviews with investigators.
“If they say no to the offer of representation that suggests they are disloyal to the team, they are not assisting the governor, their current employer, or that they have something that they are prepared to tell the investigators,” Katz explained. “If they take the governor’s lawyers along to this interview what it does is it shows their ability to tell the investigators honestly what they’ve observed, because of course, it would get immediately back to the governor and his inner staff.”
Cuomo’s acting counsel, Beth Garvey, sent a statement in response to the letter, saying "these are the facts: Outside counsel was hired to represent the Chamber. Employees have been advised that, if they want to be represented by a lawyer in this matter, they may choose private counsel or the outside counsel that is representing the Chamber."
Although Bennett’s team has full faith in the AG’s investigation, Katz said they are concerned with the impeachment investigation that was launched by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
The Assembly hired the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell to lead the investigation and has already drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle since the firm has strong ties to Cuomo.
“I understand that there are individuals who have indicated that they won’t cooperate and that’s really a serious problem,” Katz said.
When pressed, Katz said that speaking primarily for Charlotte Bennett, there is a huge concern about the impartiality of the Assembly’s investigation.
“We have registered our complaints and concerns. No one has contacted us to make us feel anything other than concerned. And Charlotte Bennett is determined to cooperate with any appropriate governmental investigation, but we do so with a great deal of trepidation," Katz said.
Cuomo has not denied Bennett’s accusations, but has apologized if he has made anyone feel uncomfortable.
If anyone has experienced sexual harassment or witnessed sexual harassment in the governor’s office, Katz said they are encouraging people to leave a voicemail: 212-225-3100 Text: 518-545-0870 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.