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How Cuomo’s sexual harassment, nursing home scandals unraveled

  • March 02, 2021

long-simmering accusations that his administration intentionally undercounted nursing home COVID-19 deaths to defend state policies, as well as mounting claims of an history of abusive behavior by Cuomo and his aides towards lawmakers, government officials and reporters.

What follows is a timeline of developments in the scandals gripping the Democratic governor.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State of the State address virtually from The War Room at the state Capitol, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Albany, N.Y.

Dec. 14, 2020

Cuomo denied an allegation from a woman who says he sexually harassed her while she worked as an aide in his administration.

Cuomo was responding to questions about recent Twitter posts made by Lindsey Boylan, his former deputy secretary of economic development and special advisor, who accused him of sexually harassing her “for years” but provided few details at the time about the alleged conduct.

underreporting nursing home resident COVID deaths by about 50% by excluding hospital-related deaths .

Within hours, Zucker released “preliminary” data showing at least 3,829 nursing home residents died of COVID-19 after being transferred to a hospital or hospice. The revelations came after state lawmakers and reporters had been requesting the numbers since last summer.

Feb. 3, 2021 

Judge Kimberly O’Connor rules that the state Health Department is in violation of the Freedom of Information Law in denying a request for the nursing home death data by the Empire Center, an Albany-based conservative thing tank.

Feb. 10, 2021

Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, acknowledged pausing the release of nursing home COVID data because the governor’s administration feared it could be “used against us” after the Department of Justice sent its request for information.

DeRosa’s comments came in a private meeting with state lawmakers and were reported by the New York Post; Cuomo’s office later released a transcript.

Feb. 15, 2021

During a press briefing, Cuomo offered a lengthy defense of his administration’s COVID-19 response, conceding state officials should have released the nursing home data earlier but struggled to do so because of the pandemic workload and politicized DOJ inquiry.

Feb. 17, 2021

On a conference call with reporters, Cuomo launched into a heated criticism of one of the most vocal critics of his COVID-19 nursing home policies, Assemblyman Ron Kim, D-Queens, who claims the governor threatened to “destroy” him on a private phone call.

a measure that would curtail the COVID-era powers of Cuomo.

The move comes as Cuomo’s administration is reportedly facing a federal investigation focused in part on its handling of the virus in nursing homes, as first reported by the Times Union of Albany.

Feb. 24, 2021

Boylan, the former aide to Cuomo, detailed what she said were a series of sexual harassment incidents she experienced while working for the governor’s administration, including an unwanted kiss on the lips by Cuomo himself.

Boylan wrote a 1,700-word post on the website Medium in which she said she was subjected to unwanted advances by Cuomo during her nearly two years working for the administration.

In one, she contended, Cuomo said to her, “Let’s play strip poker” on a flight back from western New York on a state-owned plane in October 2017.

In another, she accused Cuomo of kissing her on the lips after a one-on-one briefing in his Manhattan office.

“As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking,” she wrote.

Cuomo has previously denied broader allegations made by Boylan in December, when she wrote on Twitter that he had “sexually harassed me for years.”

In a statement on Feb. 24, Cuomo press secretary Caitlin Girouard said: “As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.”

accused by a second former female aide of sexual harassment.

The ex-aide, Charlotte Bennett, told the New York Times that she was repeatedly made to feel uncomfortable by Cuomo after she was hired in 2019 in the governor’s office.

In particular, the 25-year-old woman said the governor had asked her questions about her personal life, such as whether age makes a difference in a relationship and whether she practices monogamy.

She told the paper that while Cuomo never tried to touch her, she felt he was being inappropriate, especially after a June 5 exchange in his state Capitol office in Albany as she worked on the staff’s COVID-19 response.

She left the administration in November and had previously made her concerns known to her supervisors, the paper reported.

She had initially viewed Cuomo, 63, as a mentor, even talking about how she grew up near his former home in New Castle, Westchester County, and played soccer against one his daughters; he has three daughters all in their 20s.

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Ms. 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.”

cede control of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations lodged against him by two former aides, granting Attorney General Letitia James the ability to select a lead investigator after previously resisting calls to do so.

Cuomo, a Democrat, had faced increasing calls from elected officials of both parties to acquiesce to a truly independent investigation.

On Saturday night, Cuomo initially chose to break with recent precedent, declining to refer the matter directly to the Attorney General’s Office and instead directing it to former U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones, who once worked as partner at a law firm with one of the governor’s closest advisers.

By Sunday morning, Cuomo ditched his plan for Jones to investigate amid withering criticism.

But he still refused to give up total control, instead laying out a plan for James (who is independently elected) and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore (who Cuomo appointed) to jointly select a private attorney with no political affiliation to investigate — a plan James roundly rejected.

Cuomo apologizes amid harassment claims: ‘I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm’

More: How Cuomo’s COVID-19 nursing home scandal unraveled over the past year: Timeline, analysis

USA TODAY Network editors Jon Campbell and Joseph Spector contributed to this report 

David Robinson is the state health care reporter for the USA TODAY Network New York. He can be reached atdrobinson@gannett.com and followed on Twitter:@DrobinsonLoHud

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