8 Cuomo staffers announced plans to leave the administration this week

andrew cuomo leak
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

  • As a pair of scandals rock the Cuomo administration, at least eight staffers are on the way out.
  • Two more staffers announced plans to leave on Friday, bringing the weekly total to eight.
  • Notable departures include Gareth Rhodes, a former House candidate and fixture at Cuomo briefings.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Cuomo staffers are making their way for the exit doors as dueling scandals continue to hobble the New York governor’s administration.

With two aides announcing plans to leave on Friday, the weekly total is up to at least eight people who have declared their departures this week.

Six other Cuomo staffers announced plans to leave earlier this week, Anna Gonewold of Politico reported.

Current and former Cuomo staff members have been reckoning with their boss’ reported penchant for micromanagement and bullying being aired in the press over the past two weeks. “We’re all kind of waking up to the fact that we were in a cult,” one told Gothamist

Among the notable early week departures was Gareth Rhodes, who had been on Cuomo’s COVID-19 task force before announcing his plans earlier this week to return to his previous job as special counsel to the superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services.

Rhodes, a former congressional candidate and the groom at the wedding where a third woman accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, did not cite the sexual harassment scandal as his reason for departing.

“Last week as I approached one year since moving to Albany to join the NYS Covid task force, I decided it was time, given the progress of the vaccination program and continued decline of Covid numbers, to return to my previous role at the Department of Financial Services and I informed the Governor’s senior staff at the time,” Rhodes told Politico.

Like Rhodes, other staffers have cited non-scandal-related reasons for changing posts.

Press secretary Caitlin Girouard left the administration on Friday, according to Bloomberg News, but did not respond to a request for comment to provide a reason.

Interim policy adviser Erin Hammond also left the governor’s office on Friday, though Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told Bloomberg that exit had been planned for months so she could “focus on her family.”

Cuomo apologized for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable” on Wednesday in his only on-camera appearance for the week, though he denied any non-consensual touching and refused to resign.

As more Democrats have called on Cuomo to resign, impeachment has gone from a remote possibility to being actively discussed, with several Democratic state lawmakers telling Insider that they’re open to impeaching him if he won’t step aside.

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With a federal wealth tax looking unlikely, states like New York could enact their own

FILE PHOTO: New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio speaks to the media during a press conference In the Queens borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio speaks to the media.

  • New York’s Democratic lawmakers may be able to push through a state wealth tax, Bloomberg reports.
  • Debate over a federal wealth tax continues, but some areas are taking matters into their own hands.
  • Places like Arizona and San Francisco have already enacted their own taxes.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

New York legislators may be able to push through taxes on the ultrawealthy amidst the turmoil surrounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Bloomberg reports

Cuomo previously outlined a worst-case scenario where New York’s wealthiest would see the country’s highest income rate taxes if the White House didn’t step in to help with the budget deficit. During the pandemic, Cuomo has said he wanted to make sure New York’s tax base was preserved, and wealth taxes would not help in that regard.

Now, according to Bloomberg, New York’s Democratic lawmakers are considering a package that would “go further,” given that the governor is embroiled in a sexual-harassment scandal and a federal investigation into his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.

Progressives in New York have been champing at the bit to increase taxes on the wealthy. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio previously called for a progressive tax and a tax on billionaires in his final State of the City address. And New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has previously called to raise the top marginal rate on those earning over $10 million.

“New York City will fight for new progressive income taxes that establish brackets with increased tax rates for high earners and the ultra-wealthy,” de Blasio said in a release on the address. “And with more billionaires than any other city in America, New York City will push for a billionaires’ tax. The billions of dollars raised from these progressive taxes will go into investing in New York City’s schools, working families, and a recovery for all of us.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in mid-February that some Democratic lawmakers in New York were coalescing around what’s called a mark-to-market tax on billionaires. Those billionaires would pay capital gains taxes annually on appreciating assets, not just at their sales.

As talk of a federal wealth tax grows, some places have already enacted them

Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently renewed her calls for a wealth tax, introducing the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act with several other progressives. Under Warren’s plan, households with a net worth between $50 million and $1 billion would see a 2% tax, and households with a net worth over $1 billion would see a 3% tax.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that a wealth tax poses “difficult” implementation problems, and it’s not favored by President Joe Biden. But some places in the US have already taken matters into their own hands.

San Francisco voters passed a tax in November on business owners and top executives who earn at least 100 times more than one of their average workers. Those CEOs earning 100 times more than their average worker would be taxed an additional 0.1% on business tax payments. The surcharge also increases to 0.1% of however much more they earn. 

And Arizona passed an additional income tax on its high-earners; all of the money raised will go to public and charter schools. The creators of that proposition estimated that it could bring in $940 million annually.

In Washington state, lawmakers are considering a net-worth tax that could generate up to $4.9 billion in revenue. One millionaire, Dan Price, is out advocating for it. “I’ve been demanding to Washington State to tax me more,” he told Insider’s Hayley Cuccinello.

So, while there may not ultimately be a federal wealth tax, a patchwork of state and city taxes on the wealthy could arise to take its place.

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Cuomo’s advisers covered up high nursing home death tolls by pushing NY health officials to alter reports

andrew cuomo
New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference on September 08, 2020 in New York City.

  • Advisers to Cuomo tried to conceal COVID-19 nursing home deaths as early as last year, reports say.
  • They successfully pressured state health officials to undercount deaths in a July report.
  • Cuomo has been criticized recently for his pandemic response and allegations of sexual assault.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s advisers pressed state health officials to change a report last summer to hide the true count of COVID-19-related deaths at nursing homes, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

The report, compiled by the New York State Health Department, was released in July and looked at virus transmission in nursing homes. It was a response to criticism the state received over a March 25 directive that said people could not be denied access to nursing homes based on a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

Sources told The Journal the report initially included data on COVID-19 deaths that occurred in nursing homes, as well as those that occurred at hospitals after a person became infected at a nursing home. However, Cuomo’s top advisers successfully pushed state officials to leave out the hospital deaths.

According to the New York Times, Cuomo’s most senior aides rewrote the report, resulting in a tense confrontation with health officials that led to top-level departures from the Health Department.

The result was a significant undercounting of nursing home deaths, known to officials as early as July of last year. The report counted a total of 6,432 nursing home deaths, The Journal reported. The number is now higher than 15,000.

Cuomo has previously said he withheld data because he feared a politically-motivated inquiry from President Donald Trump. But the recent revelations show Cuomo’s team was concealing nursing home deaths before the federal government requested data, The Times reported.

In a statement provided to Insider by Cuomo’s office, Department of Health Spokesman Gary Holmes said the July report was intended to show how coronavirus entered nursing homes at the height of the pandemic. He said the report showed transmission from nursing home staff was the primary driver, rather than Cuomo’s March 25 directive.

“While early versions of the report included out-of-facility deaths, the COVID task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in-facility deaths,” the statement said, adding that the report was updated in February to include out-of-facility deaths.

The New York attorney general accused Cuomo in January of undercounting nursing home deaths by 50%.

In February, the New York Post reported a leaked call during which a top Cuomo aide said the team had withheld data on nursing home deaths. As a result, Democrats and Republicans called for Cuomo’s pandemic emergency powers to be stripped, with some calling for his resignation.

In addition to scrutiny over his coronavirus response, multiple women have come forward to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment, again prompting some lawmakers to call on him to resign.

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Some Cuomo staffers are ‘waking up to the fact that we were in a cult’ amid sexual harassment scandal, according to new report

andrew cuomo staff derosa
From Left to right: Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Director of the Budget Robert Mujica.

  • As scandals engulf Andrew Cuomo, more former staffers are opening up about his management style.
  • “We’re all kind of waking up to the fact that we were in a cult,” one told The Gothamist.
  • Cuomo’s penchant for micromanagement and peculiar tastes reportedly dominate the workplace.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Long the subject of hush-hush anecdotes and off-the-record tales, details of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s management style are increasingly emerging as scandals rock his administration.

 “We’re all kind of waking up to the fact that we were in a cult,” a former staffer told Gothamist in a new report published Thursday.

“A micromanager to the 100th degree,” another told the NYC web publication. “One of the worst I’ve ever seen.”

Speaking anonymously to protect against potential retribution from the governor and his allies in various corners of New York politics, the former employees explained the governor’s peculiar tastes and propensity to erupt over seemingly minor flubs.

“One staffer described an incident in Buffalo in 2017, where an aide briefly left his side, and Cuomo walked out onto the stage before being formally introduced by the loudspeaker. Embarrassed, he’d retreated back into the wings, ripping into the young staffer,” WNYC’s Gwynne Hogan wrote for Gothamist. “Cuomo fired the man on the spot, another staffer described, though his bosses kept him on without the governor’s knowledge.”

Cuomo also reportedly demands that all of his indoor events be conducted at a temperature between 67 and 71 degrees, with aides known to scramble for an AC unit at the last minute in an effort to accommodate for the governor’s ideal climate. At Cuomo speaking events, a pair of fans can often be spotted behind him.

How staff dressed when the governor was in the building – either the capitol in Albany or Cuomo’s NYC field office – was of utmost importance, the aides said. The proverbial “black dress” worn by women in the Cuomo administration was one of the key components, along with high heels and, for the men, spotless dress shoes.

“I knew by looking cute, and not being obstinate or opinionated, and doing what I was told and looking polished… That is the only way I would survive there,” one of the former staffers said.

Another former aide told Gothamist that they were abruptly flown back from a vacation so they could finish a task for the governor, and that having a “go bag” was just as much of a necessity as a Blackberry was in the Cuomo administration.

The effects of working in such an intense environment came with a personal toll, a former aide under the alias of Sarah told Gothamist.

After being told the governor “likes blondes,” Sarah said she was told “You gotta wear heels when he’s in Albany sweetie, that’s the rule.”

“I hate the fact that I viewed it as a professional, personal failure that I couldn’t survive because of how f—-ed up and mean and nasty everyone was,” she recalled. “Power was the number one goal. It wasn’t really about making things right or making things better for New Yorkers.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi pushed back against Gothamists’ reporting, including over a detail that the women in the NYC office identified as “mean girls,” calling it a “sexist and offensive” characterization.

“Yes, they have seen him get impatient with partisan politics and disingenuous attacks,” Azzopardi responded. “We have a top-tier team and the Governor is direct with people if their work is subpar because the people of New York deserve nothing short of excellence from us.”

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Jeffrey Epstein’s New York home is about to sell for $50 million, more than $40 million under asking price

epstein new york townhouse interior

Jeffrey Epstein’s New York City townhouse is under contract to sell for $50 million, The Wall Street Journal reported. The deal would be one of the most expensive in New York over the last year.

Jeffrey Epstein’s lavish New York townhouse and Palm Beach residence hit the market for a combined $110 million in July. The New York home was originally listed for $88 million, while the Palm Beach house sold in December for $18 million, $4 million under the asking price. The Palm Beach estate is set to be demolished.

The proceeds from the sales will go to Epstein’s estate, which has established a victim’s fund for the women accusing Epstein of sexually abusing them when they were minors.

jeffrey epstein new york townhouse 2

Epstein was accused of luring young girls and then sexually abusing them at both properties.  Last July, investigators said they found “hundreds” of nude photos of girls, some of whom appeared to be underage, at his New York townhouse. And in 2018, the Miami Herald reported that dozens of girls were routinely abused in his Palm Beach mansion. 

In June, a compensation fund, bankrolled by Epstein’s multi-million dollar estate, opened for victims of Epstein’s abuse. Victims can apply for these funds outside of court and there is no cap on claims. 

Epstein’s Upper East Side property is one of the largest private homes in the city, with 7 stories and 28,000 feet, according to Modlin Group, which is brokering the deal.  It’s more than twice the width of a standard row home.

jeffrey epstein new york townhouse 3

 “It’s definitely a trophy property,” said Kyle Egan, a New York-based real-estate agent not involved in the sale. “Does it have a recent, very negative past? Totally. But I don’t think that will give buyers pause. A property like this comes up so infrequently.”

Epstein’s estate has been valued at more than $600 million, and also features a private island in the US Virgin Islands, and properties in New Mexico and Paris.

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Cuomo says kissing and hugging people is his ‘usual and customary way of greeting’ but apologizes ‘if they were offended by it’

Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on September 29, 2020.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his “usual” way of greeting people involves hugging and kissing.
  • “You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people,” Cuomo said Wednesday.
  • Cuomo apologized for his behavior with women who have recently accused him of sexual harassment. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday responded to sexual harassment accusations against him, and said that his “usual and customary way of greeting” involves kissing and hugging people and apologized if the behavior offended anyone.

“You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people: women, men, children, et cetera,” Cuomo said during a news briefing in response to a newly circulated photo of him placing his hands on a woman’s face at a wedding reception in New York City in 2019. “You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people, men, women. It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

“It was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, referring to former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable. You want to reach out to them.”

“I kiss and hug legislators,” he added. “I was at an event in Queens the other day, hugged the pastors and the assembly members who were there. So that is my way to do that.”

The woman in the photo, 33-year-old Anna Ruch, has recently accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. She told The New York Times that their interaction made her feel “uncomfortable and embarrassed.” Two other women, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, both former aides to Cuomo, have also recently come forward with sexual harassment claims against the governor. Both alleged the governor had made unwanted sexual advances towards them.

Cuomo apologized on Wednesday for his past behavior with the women and said that he was “ashamed” over it.

“What I also understand is, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter my intent. What it matters is if anybody was offended by it,” Cuomo said. “And I could intend no offense, but if they were offended by it, then it was wrong. And if they were offended by it, I apologize.”

New York Attorney General Tish James is kicking off an investigation into the sexual harassment claims. Cuomo on Wednesday urged New Yorkers to wait for the results of the case before forming an opinion on the matter.

Several lawmakers have called for Cuomo’s resignation in light of the allegations, yet the governor on Wednesday made clear that he does not intend to step down. Some have also called for Cuomo’s impeachment.

“I apologized several days ago. I apologized today,” Cuomo said. “I will apologize tomorrow. I will apologize the day after.”

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New York Democratic lawmakers say they’re open to impeaching Gov. Andrew Cuomo

cuomo impeachment lawmaker comments
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under increasing pressure from fellow Democrats.

  • Several New York state lawmakers shared their thoughts with Insider on the fate of Andrew Cuomo.
  • While the Democrats largely agreed on wanting Cuomo to resign, they disagreed on impeachment.
  • Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, an influential progressive, said Cuomo should be impeached if he doesn’t resign.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

New York lawmakers from the Democratic side of the aisle are calling for accountability in the wake of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s growing sexual harassment scandal, but they say they differ on whether impeachment, resignation, or sticking with an independent investigation is the best route.

The left wing of the party has been the most aggressive, with six socialist lawmakers demanding the governor’s resignation in a letter obtained by Insider on Tuesday.

On the other end of the spectrum, leadership has resisted moving forward with impeachment or pushing for the governor’s resignation, with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, issuing a statement Tuesday that chastised Republicans for pursuing impeachment.

Despite members of his own caucus going public with their calls for impeachment, Heastie said Republicans are “trying to score meaningless political points” instead of helping New Yorkers struggling through the pandemic and economic malaise.

For Assemblyman Phil Steck, a Democrat representing the eastern part of Schenectady County in Upstate New York, impeachment poses a logistical problem with the state budget deadline approaching on April 1.

“Well I think calling for impeachment is not very sensible when we’re right in the middle of the budget,” Steck told Insider. “By the time the budget is done, I think we’ll be in a better position to see what the facts are with the governor.”

But Steck has also sought Cuomo’s resignation, and he said the governor’s sexual harassment and COVID-19 nursing home death scandals have rendered him ineffective as both an executive and de facto leader of the party.

“The reason I called for resignation is there is a consistent pattern of abusive behavior,” Steck said, with three women coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo. 

“I can’t predict what governor Cuomo is and is not going to do,” Steck added. “But honestly I think that in the best interests of the Democrats and the party, he should resign.”

Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, a Manhattan Democrat whose district includes the Financial District and Chinatown, said she does not expect Cuomo to resign, which means that impeachment should be on the table.

“He should resign, but because that is dependent on him, we also need to be willing and ready to investigate and impeach,” Niou told Insider.

State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, an influential progressive representing a sprawling Bronx district from North Riverdale to Pelham Bay and Throgs Neck, said impeachment is the proper remedy if Cuomo won’t resign.

“Right now I’m calling for the governor to resign, but I am not ruling out impeachment and believe it would be appropriate if he chooses not to step down himself,” Biaggi told Insider.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat whose district covers three upstate counties in the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley, said the legislature should “keep all options on the table” even after moving on Tuesday to strip Cuomo of his emergency powers.

 

“This is beyond removing emergency powers, this is about restoring a balance of power,” Santabarbara said. 

The fifth term assemblyman also opened up about his decision making in initially coming forward to call for Cuomo’s resignation, recalling his Democratic colleague, Assemblyman Ron Kim of Queens, disclosing a threatening phone call he says he received from Cuomo while giving his child a bath.

Santabarbara said he has also been on the receiving end of such calls.

“You know, it’s no secret that this governor has a history of bullying members of the legislature,” Santabarbara said. “It’s well known in Albany … And I gotta tell you, it’s a scary thing to get a call like that. You don’t know what’s gonna happen.”

Biaggi said she came to Albany to “break the culture of sexual harassment, abuse, and misconduct” in the Empire State capitol, and that Cuomo’s behavior cannot be tolerated.

“Based on the totality of information that we all know, there is a clear pattern of abusive behavior from our Governor that has lasted for decades,” she said. “The assertions made against the Governor by Charlotte Bennett, Lindsey Boylan, and Anna Ruch demonstrate this abuse.”

Steck added that the Cuomo allegations are “part of a pattern of an abuse of power,” and Democrats should not fall back on arguing there is a double standard for the governor compared to former President Donald Trump.

“I think if you’re comparing to Trump,” the upstate Democrat said, “you’re setting the bar too low.”

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New York lawmakers are calling for an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo

andrew cuomo leak
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

  • Top New York lawmakers have come out in favor of an independent investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
  • Two former staffers have publicly alleged they were sexually harassed by the New York governor.
  • Cuomo’s office said there would be an investigation, but critics worry his pick to conduct one will not be impartial.  
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

State and federal lawmakers are coming out in support of an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

In December, a former aide said she had been sexually harassed by the governor “for years.” At the time, Lindsey Boylan, who worked for the governor between 2015 and 2018, did not divulge specific information about the circumstances and declined to speak to journalists. 

But last week, Boylan broke her silence in a Medium post, said Cuomo had touched her inappropriately and kissed her without her consent

Cuomo’s office has repeatedly denied her claims. “As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” press secretary Caitlin Girouard said in a statement.

The New York Times on Saturday published the account of a second former aide who said Cuomo made unwanted sexual advances toward her multiple times. 

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Charlotte Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”

Cuomo’s office denied her claims and said the governor had always “tried to act as a mentor to Bennett.” His office also announced a “full and thorough outside review” into Bennett’s allegations.

Former federal judge Barbara Jones, who has close ties to a Cuomo advisor, has been tapped to carry out the investigation. Lawmakers are not convinced that her investigation will be fair and objective.

Instead, they’re calling for New York Attorney General Letitia James to determine the third party that conducts the investigation.

“The recent allegations of sexual harassment against Governor Cuomo are deeply troubling and deserve a thorough investigation,” said New York Rep. Jerry Nadler. “It must be transparent, impartial, and above all else, independent. As has become standard practice in the State of New York when allegations relate directly to the Executive, Governor Cuomo should refer the matter to the Attorney General, who should, in turn, appoint an independent investigator.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York also called for an independent investigation, saying in a tweet that Boylan and Bennett’s accounts “are extremely serious and painful to read.”

New York Rep. Antonio Delgado echoed those sentiments, saying Cuomo “should follow precedent by referring this matter to the Attorney General.”

“Breaking from past practices in the face of such serious allegations is not acceptable,” Delgado added.  

“The accused CANNOT appoint the investigator,” New York Rep. Kathleen Rice said. “PERIOD.”

Some state legislators are siding with the House dems as well. 

“I believe the Attorney General should make an appointment to ensure that it is a truly independent investigation,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie wrote on Twitter.

President Joe Biden on Saturday also indicated that he supports an independent probe into the allegations.

Cuomo’s office did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

James in a tweet Sunday morning said she stands “ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary” but awaits the governor’s call to initiate an investigation. 

“Given state law, this can only be accomplished through an official referral from the governor’s office and must include subpoena power,” James said. “I urge the governor to make this referral immediately.”

 

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A 2nd former aide has come forward to accuse Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment

andrew cuomo
New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference on September 08, 2020 in New York City.

  • A former Cuomo aide alleged the governor sexually harassed her last spring.
  • Charlotte Bennett, 25, said Cuomo made sexual advances and asked her inappropriate questions.
  • The news comes days after another ex-Cuomo aide wrote a Medium essay detailing similar allegations.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A second former aide has come forward to allege that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed her, asking deeply personal questions about her sex life and making strange comments about her experience as a sexual assault survivor.

In an interview published Saturday, Charlotte Bennett, 25, told The New York Times that Cuomo had made unwanted sexual advances towards her in several different encounters last spring.

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”

The news comes just days after another former Cuomo aide, Lindsey Boylan, published a Medium essay alleging several years of sexual harassment at Cuomo’s hands, including an unwanted kiss on the lips. Cuomo has denied Boylan’s allegations.

Cuomo’s office provided Insider with a statement denying that the governor made advances toward Bennett and saying he hadn’t intended to act inappropriately during their conversations. Cuomo’s statement also called for a “full and thorough outside review” of Bennett’s allegations and urged New Yorkers to withhold judgment until its findings are made public.

“Ms. Bennett was a hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID. She has every right to speak out,” Cuomo’s statement said, adding that he had tried to act as a mentor to Bennett. “When she came to me and opened up about being a sexual assault survivor and how it shaped her and her ongoing efforts to create an organization that empowered her voice to help other survivors, I tried to be supportive and helpful.”

Cuomo continued: “The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.”

Cuomo indoor dining mask
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Bennett said Cuomo responded strangely when she mentioned her experience as a sexual assault survivor

Bennett said the first disturbing incident involving Cuomo occurred on May 15 at the Capitol, when the governor asked her if she was romantically involved with other staff members. Later in the conversation, Bennett offhandedly mentioned her past as a sexual assault survivor and said that Cuomo had a bizarre reaction.

Bennett provided the Times with text messages she sent to a friend at the time about Cuomo’s remarks.

“The way he was repeating, ‘You were raped and abused and attacked and assaulted and betrayed,’ over and over again while looking me directly in the eyes was something out of a horror movie,” Bennett’s text said. “It was like he was testing me.”

Bennett told the Times another upsetting encounter occurred just weeks later, on June 5. On that occasion, she said Cuomo asked her personal questions about whether her romantic relationships were monogamous and if she had ever had sex with an older man.

Bennett said that Cuomo never touched her during these encounters but that she interpreted his comments as sexual advances.

The Times confirmed Bennett’s allegations with one of her friends, who was not identified, and Bennett’s mother, who she also told about the conversations.

Bennett said she told Cuomo’s chief of staff about the June 5 encounter just days later and gave a statement to a special counsel to the governor that same month. Bennett said she was then transferred to a new job, which she was happy with, and did not insist on an investigation because she “wanted to move on.”

A statement provided to Insider from Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior adviser to the governor, said Bennett’s allegations “were treated with sensitivity and respect and in accordance with applicable law and policy.”

Garvey said Bennett transferred to a job “in which she had expressed long-standing interest” and “expressed satisfaction and appreciation for the way in which it was handled.”

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New York cannabis M&A is already heating up

MedMen
Staff members work inside MedMen, a California-based cannabis company store serving medical prescription patients with cannabis products, on the store’s opening day on 5th Avenue in Manhattan in New York City.

  • Struggling cannabis companies with licenses in New York are likely acquisition targets.
  • Ascend Wellness said it would take a majority stake in MedMen’s New York assets.
  • There may be other deals to come as New York moves toward cannabis legalization.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As New York looks to legalize cannabis, companies are already making deals to enter what could be one of the largest markets in the US.

On Thursday, MedMen and Ascend Wellness said that they’d reached an agreement for Ascend to take a majority stake in MedMen’s New York operations. Following the $73 million deal, Ascend will hold an 86.7% stake in MedMen’s New York assets and have an option to acquire the rest.

Struggling companies that operate in New York’s medical cannabis market could be attractive acquisition targets for companies looking to enter New York, experts told Insider.

MedMen has struggled to turn its operations around in recent years and analysts have pointed to the possibility of such a sale as the company looks for ways to stabilize its balance sheets. Recently, MedMen hired investment bank Moelis & Company to look at “strategic alternatives.” Moelis served as the financial advisor to MedMen in this deal.

Several other cannabis companies are also likely targets

Click here to read more about the deals you can expect in New York as it looks to legalize cannabis. This article is available exclusively to BI Prime subscribers.

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