Thirteen women who worked for state government were sexually harassed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the course of an eight-year period, a civil rights settlement announced today by the Department of Justice found.
The findings, which concluded Cuomo retaliated against four of the women, are the latest allegations leveled against the former three-term governor who has not ruled out another run for elected office.
The agreement with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office found the governor’s office under her predecessor violated federal Title VII rules against discrimination and retaliation.
Cuomo “repeatedly subjected” women in his office to sexual contact that wasn’t consensual, ogled them and gave them gender-based nicknames.
The Justice Department’s findings were part of a broader agreement with Hochul to expand her office’s human resources department and create new policies and procedures for reporting.
Hochul had previously made a series of changes after taking office in August 2021, and she touted the efforts to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
“The moment I took office, I knew I needed to root out the culture of harassment that had previously plagued the Executive Chamber and implement strong policies to promote a safe workplace for all employees, and took immediate action to do so,” Hochul said in a statement.
“I am pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice has acknowledged the significance of those efforts, and look forward to partnering with them as we continue to build upon that success.”
Cuomo attorney Rita Glavin blasted the DOJ’s settlement announcement and insisted he never sexually harassed anyone.
“The DOJ ‘investigation’ was based entirely on the NYS Attorney General’s deeply flawed, inaccurate, biased, and misleading report,” she said. “At no point did DOJ even contact Governor Cuomo concerning these matters. This is nothing more than a political settlement with no investigation.”
And Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi in a separate statement blamed “Chuck Schumer’s handpicked U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District” and called the agreement “not worth the paper it’s printed on.”
Still, it’s not clear what elements of James’ report were used by the Department of Justice to reach its own conclusions. Details of the allegations against Cuomo were not released.
Additional questions remain: The 13 women the DOJ found were sexually harassed by Cuomo were all state employees. James’ report concluded 11 women were subjected to sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior; two did not work for the state.
“Today, the U.S. Department of Justice found that Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and created a hostile work environment, confirming what the New York Attorney General’s independent report found over two years ago,” James’ office said in a statement.
“Andrew Cuomo can continue to deny the truth and attack these women, but the facts do not lie.”
Lindsey Boylan, the first alleged victim to come forward publicly about Cuomo, wrote on X about the new report: “These things happened. These things happened to me and other women. And then a huge bureaucracy tried to bury us for telling the truth. Never again will I ever let anyone or any system harm me and other women that way.”
BILLS STADIUM UPDATE: Hochul joined Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula and Erie County local officials to announce new milestones in the construction of the Bills’ new stadium.
The facility, which will hold 60,000 people and is being designed by the Bills and the architectural firm Populous, is prepped to now receive large-scale structural steel work.
“The first beam hoisted into place will signify the impressive progress taking place at the site of the new Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park,” according to a press release from Hochul’s office.
“This major construction milestone is a testament to the union labor and local workers who have made this project possible. By creating thousands of jobs, this stadium has already proven to be an engine for regional economic development,” Hochul added.
Nearly 25,000 tons of steel — enough to build approximately three Eiffel towers — will be put in place by over 800 laborers working on the project.
The construction is set to be completed by 2026. — Shawn Ness
CANNABIS CASE: Officials from the state Office of Cannabis Management, including chief equity officer Damian Fagon, policy director John Kagia and general counsel Linda Baldwin, were spotted on an early morning Amtrak train from New York City to Albany.
The occasion? A hearing in a case seeking to halt the state’s cannabis licensing process yet again.
Remember, the state has already dealt with two injunctions that have stalled its troubled rollout of the adult-use marijuana market. Now, a new lawsuit is asking the court for another preliminary injunction on the cannabis licensing process.
The argument is that New York’s licensing process discriminates against out-of-state residents, violating the dormant Commerce Clause. While New York doesn’t have a residency requirement, other federal courts have applied the dormant Commerce Clause to state marijuana markets.
New York’s cannabis licensing rules give extra priority to applicants who meet certain criteria, including having a past cannabis conviction in New York. People who are residents of New York are more likely to have such a conviction, argued Jeffrey Jensen, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
District Judge Anne Nardacci methodically questioned both Jensen and assistant attorney general Ryan Hickey, who was representing the state’s cannabis regulators at the hearing.
A OCM spokesperson declined to comment on pending litigation.
So what’s next? Nardacci, a Biden appointee, did not rule from the bench, though an order is expected soon. It’s hard to say which way she was leaning by her careful questioning of both sides during the hearing.
But if Baldwin’s smile at the end was any indication, the state might be feeling good about its chances of avoiding another injunction. — Mona Zhang
ON THE RECORD: WNYC has run an ad campaign jokingly calling itself “in the pocket of big truth.”
So when City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams spoke on “The Brian Lehrer Show” today, she framed it as setting the record straight on the police stops bill against Mayor Eric Adams’ “misinformation.”
“It’s patently false that this law requires the NYPD to report every single encounter,” she said. “Ladies and gentlemen: casual conversations and interactions are not level one stops.”
The mayor vetoed the so-called How Many Stops Act, but has said he’d back a bill that exempted some or all of the lowest-level investigative encounters between cops and the public — known as level one — from reporting requirements. The speaker said again: She’s done negotiating.
“If we get rid of level one in this bill, the whole bill is gutted. It’s destroyed,” she said. “It makes no sense.”
Speaker Adams has said she has the votes to override the mayor’s veto. She said the mayor’s complaints that the law would waste officers’ time aren’t the council’s issue to fix, but the NYPD’s.
“If the administration decides to intentionally create the outcome that is most burdensome for officers, that will be at their hands.” – Jeff Coltin
MORE MUDSLINGING IN NY-03: GOP House candidate Mazi Pilip is accusing her opponent, former Rep. Tom Suozzi, of associating with an individual Pilip claims is antisemitic and anti-Zionist.
Pilip claims the individual is listed as one of 12 hosts for a Feb. 3 Suozzi fundraiser in Queens. Neither Pilip nor anyone on her campaign said the individual’s name out loud during today’s press conference revealing the accusation.
Suozzi’s campaign called the accusation a “distraction” that “denigrates our common cause to combat antisemitism and support Israel.”
“I condemn all antisemitism. I am unequivocally pro-Israel. My voting record reflects both,” Suozzi said. “I am not aware of the comments referenced by my opponent, but if I find them to be antisemitic, I will condemn them as I have throughout my public life.”
Pilip’s campaign alleges the Suozzi-linked “fundraising surrogate” reposted a video on Facebook featuring a rabbi from the Neturei Karta, a fringe sect of Orthodox Judaism whose members reject the state of Israel and often accompany pro-Palestinian protesters at marches. Pilip says the video was antisemitic and denies Jews a right to self-determination.
“I served in the IDF to help protect Israel from terrorism, and I came to this country in search of (the) American Dream,” Pilip said today in Great Neck, where she was flanked by Long Island Republican Rep. Anthony D’Esposito.
“Yet antisemitism is still here, and we are feeling it, and it is unfortunate it has made its way to this race for Congress.”
Pilip is calling on Suozzi to boycott the Queens fundraiser, “rebuke” the alleged host and donate any of the funds raised at the event to a pro-Israel nonprofit.
The accusation that the individual — who the Pilip asserts is “a member of Team Suozzi” — is antisemitic, seemed to rely solely on the individual’s Facebook repost.
The event is just the latest example of the two candidates alleging an opponent is attacking their ethnicity.
Last week, Suozzi, an Italian-American, called on Pilip to stop using language that evokes the Mafia or other Italian aspersions after Pilip’s campaign spokesperson called Suozzi the “godfather of the border crisis.” – Jason Beeferman
REPEAT AFTER ME: Nobody in politics is more disciplined in their words than House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries — and he’s asking fellow Democrats and others to follow his lead when it comes to talking about abortion.
“There are many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who want to enact a nationwide abortion ban. That’s why reproductive freedom is going to be on the presidential ballot,” and the House and Senate races’ ballot too, Jeffries said at an Association for a Better New York breakfast today in Midtown Manhattan.
But in campaigning, “We want to take the abortion care issue and anchor it in a value: freedom. That is one of the reasons why it has become so powerfully resonant across the country,” he said.
So Jeffries appealed to the crowd of politically connected New Yorkers, most of them Democrats.
“Those of us who stand, I believe, on the right side of this issue, when we’re communicating it, always use the freedom frame,” he said. “And that gives us the best opportunity, not just to reach people on the progressive side, but certainly moderates, centrist, swing voters. It will be core in determining this election.” – Jeff Coltin
REDISTRICTING SPOT FILLED: Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins picked Dennis Walcott to fill a vacant spot on the Independent Redistricting Commission as it works to complete the next draft of New York’s congressional maps.
Walcott had top roles in New York City’s schools for two decades, including a stint as chancellor under Michael Bloomberg. He’s currently the Queens Public Library’s president. In 2022, he led the commission that drew new maps for the New York City Council.
He takes over for Medgar Evers professor John Flateau, who died in December.
“We are confident that Mr. Walcott will serve with the same dedication and integrity that marked Dr. Flateau’s tenure, and will be a valuable asset in the commission’s ongoing work to ensure fair and effective representation for all New Yorkers,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. – Bill Mahoney
FISCALLY STRESSED SCHOOLS COULD SEE CUTS: State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli flagged 16 school districts for financial stress, half of which are slated to receive cuts in Hochul’s school aid proposal.
The report sheds light on what schools are struggling to cover expenses or pay off debts. And while Hochul’s proposal for school aid is supposed to reflect district needs and changes to enrollment, several districts in the report are facing cuts.
Mount Vernon – which fell under the highest category of fiscal stress – was one of the districts that could see a $2.9 million cut in Hochul’s proposal. When asked about the school aid runs, Hohcul stressed that overall school aid is increasing by $825 million. – Katelyn Cordero
STATUS OF TEACHER EVALUATION NEGOTIATIONS: Consensus over how to transition the state to a revamped teacher evaluation system wasn’t agreed to late in the legislative session last year. This year, NYSUT president Melinda Person said she feels they are close to striking a deal, possibly even before the budget is approved in April.
While there’s been agreement on the broad sweeping details of what the new system will look like, how to move from the state’s old system to the new has been the sticking point in negotiations.
Questions on the timeline and logistics surrounding implementation are still being ironed out. Person said she would like to see legislation passed before the budget is done, or possibly as part of the budget.
“Everyone agrees on what the new plan is – which is the hard part – now it’s just the, ‘How do we get from Point A to Point B,’” Person told Playbook. – Katelyn Cordero
— An errant email has led to collusion accusations and subpoenas in the war for a New York casino license. (New York Times)
— Donald Trump walked out while a jury was hearing evidence during his defamation trial. (POLITICO)
— NRA chief Wayne LaPierre testified in a civil corruption case in New York City about the organization spending large quantities of money on private jets. (New York Times)