NEW YORK — A former federal prosecutor and a prominent job discrimination lawyer will lead the effort to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Letitia James announced late Monday afternoon.
James named former Acting U.S Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon H. Kim and employment discrimination attorney Anne L. Clark as the two lead attorneys in the independent investigation.
The two will be joined by three other attorneys: Jennifer Kennedy Park, Abena Mainoo, and Yannick Grant round out the team.
“We are committed to an independent and thorough investigation of the facts,” said James, in a statement. “Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark are independent, legal experts who have decades of experience conducting investigations and fighting to uphold the rule of law. There is no question that they both have the knowledge and background necessary to lead this investigation and provide New Yorkers with the answers they deserve.”
The legal team will be able to subpoena documents, phone records, and other evidence in its investigation. The team will also have power to compel people to testify, including the governor. Five women — Ana Liss, Karen Hinton, Lindsay Boylan, Anna Ruch, and Charlotte Bennett — have accused Cuomo of a variety of inappropriate or harassing acts.
The lawyer for Bennett responded to the news in a statement early Monday evening: “The selection of Joon H. Kim and Ann L. Clark to investigate claims of sexual harassment by Gov. Andrew Cuomo demonstrates that Attorney General Letitia James is taking this matter very seriously. We are encouraged by the experience and background of the attorneys who will be investigating Charlotte’s claims and expect the investigation will extend to the claims of the other women who we know to be out there,” said Katz.
“It is important that this investigation isn’t just centered around what Gov. Cuomo said and did,” the statement continues. “It must also focus on the culture of secrecy, abuse and fear that he fostered among his staff — frequently in violation of the very laws he signed to protect workers from sexual harassment. We look forward to cooperating with the investigators.”
Also on Monday, a group of Republican state legislators announced that they will introduce a bill that would begin the process of removing Cuomo from office.
“We think it’s time to commence impeachment,” said State Sen. Will Barclay, the Assembly minority leader, at an afternoon news conference in Albany.
It’s not clear that the group, which is definitely in the minority in the capitol, has the votes to make the resolution more than a gesture.
In fact, said Andrew Sidman, political science department chair at John Jay College, the Republican plan may be dead on arrival.
“One of the things that benefits Gov. Cuomo,” said Sidman, “is that Democrats have very firm control over the state. So that even while the press might be covering a lot of the scandal that’s brewing, he can still work with legislators to push an agenda forward.”
On Monday, 21 female Democratic state legislators made a statement late Monday afternoon condemning any calls for the governor to step down before the attorney general’s investigation is completed.
They argued that doing so undermines the authority of one of the most powerful women in the state, Attorney General James.
For his part, Gov. Cuomo had not commented about the probe on Monday evening. He did, however, spend the morning at the Jacob Javits Center mass vaccination site.
There, at an event with African American pastors — a loyal constituency — to promote vaccinations among residents of color, the governor repeated a statement he’s made a few times in recent days.
Whenever elected officials call for him to step aside, Cuomo has said the same thing he repeated on Monday.
“I don’t represent, or work for the politicians in Albany,” Cuomo said. “I work for the people of this state.”