Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aides ignored his own executive order requiring formal investigations of sexual harassment complaints against state employees, when it came to a complaint against their boss, according to a report Thursday.
Under terms of the order, a June complaint against Cuomo by then-executive assistant Charlotte Bennett, 25, should have been referred to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, the Albany Times Union said, citing unidentified sources familiar with the process.
Instead, the matter was handled by Beth Garvey, Cuomo’s special counsel and senior adviser, the Times Union said.
An executive order that Cuomo signed in August 2018 — and which went into effect the following Dec. 1 — made the GOER “responsible for conducting all investigations into employment-related discrimination complaints.”
At the time, the state said the move would “promote more effective, complete and timely investigation of complaints of employment-related protected class discrimination in agencies and departments over which the Governor has executive authority.”
“These investigations include complaints filed by employees, contractors, interns and other persons engaged in employment at these agencies and departments concerning discrimination, retaliation and harassment under Federal and New York State law, Executive Orders and policies of the State of New York,” according to the GOER website.
In a report published Saturday, Bennett said she notified Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, within a week of a June 5 meeting during which Cuomo, 63, allegedly sexually harassed her by asking questions that included whether she’d had sex with older men.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she told the New York Times.
Bennett also said she gave a lengthy statement to Judith Mogul, a special counsel to the governor, in late June but didn’t insist on an investigation because she liked her new job and “wanted to move on.”
Bennett left the Cuomo administration in November and now works as director of operations for Primary Maternity Care, a start-up health care consulting company, according to her resume on the LinkedIn website.
In a statement issued in response to the Times’ report, Garvey said, “Ms. Bennett’s concerns were treated with sensitivity and respect and in accordance with applicable law and policy.”
“The matter was promptly escalated to special counsel…The determination reached based on the information Ms. Bennett provided was that no further action was required which was consistent with Ms. Bennett’s wishes,” Garvey added.
On Sunday, Garvey also issued a series of statements that culminated in her announcement that Cuomo had “asked Attorney General Tish James to select a qualified private lawyer to do an independent review of allegations of sexual harassment.”
In one of her statements, Garvey said, “We will have no further comment until the report is issued.”
When Cuomo’s office was asked for comment Thursday on the Times Union’s report, it issued a statement in which Garvey said, “As previously stated, we will not have further comment on this until the AG’s review is complete, and we cannot comment on this at this time.”