A current aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo has accused him of sexual harassment, while also claiming that he tried to cover-up a separate groping allegation involving one of her colleagues.
Alyssa McGrath, a 33-year-old assistant who works in the executive chamber, told the New York Times that Cuomo ogled her breasts, kissed her on the forehead, and dubbed her and a co-worker “mingle mamas." That second coworker was reportedly groped by Cuomo late last year. McGrath said that the co-worker — who has not been identified or spoken publicly — confirmed the incident to her shortly after it was reported by the Albany Times Union.
“She froze when he started doing that stuff to her,” McGrath told the Times, adding that the governor pressured the woman not to discuss the interaction. "He told her specifically not to tell me."
A spokesperson for Cuomo deferred comment to private attorneys, who didn’t return a request for comment right away. At attorney for McGrath didn’t return a request for comment either.
"None of this is remarkable, although it may be old-fashioned," an attorney for Cuomo, Rita Glavin, told the Times. "He has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone.”
McGrath is the only current employee to speak publicly about Cuomo’s behavior toward women. Several other former employees have described an array of inappropriate workplace conduct by Cuomo, ranging from inappropriate kisses on the hands and cheeks to forcible kissing.
Meanwhile, the federal investigation into Cuomo’s handling of nursing home residents at the height of the pandemic has begun to take shape, according to multiple news reports. Investigators are reportedly probing whether Cuomo’s administration falsified data it sent to the U.S. government regarding the deaths of New Yorkers living in nursing homes, and how a controversial change in law that shielded nursing homes from liability, made its way into the state budget last year.
Spokespersons for the Eastern District of New York and the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have not yet returned a request for further comment.
According to the news site THE CITY, part of the federal investigation is aimed at looking at how and why state lawmakers passed a controversial immunity provision that shields nursing home operators and hospitals from liability for COVID-19 deaths. The Greater Hospital Association of New York, which has deep political and financial ties to Cuomo, boasted in a now-deleted press release that it “drafted and aggressively advocated for this legislation.”
Lawmakers have since rolled back some of that immunity, though families who lost loved ones at the height of the pandemic are still not able to sue. Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor to Cuomo, defended the immunity provision.
"This legislation was passed in 27 states because, in order to fight this unprecedented pandemic, we had to realign our entire health care system using every type of facility to prepare for the surge,” he said, adding the law enabled hospitals and nursing homes to bring in volunteers to assist during the surge which they might not have done otherwise.
In a separate report, the New York Times said federal investigators have contacted attorneys representing Cuomo and his aides, subpoenaed documents from his office, and interviewed health officials to determine if the state provided false information on nursing home resident deaths to the Justice Department after it requested data last year.
Elkan Abramowitz, a criminal-defense attorney hired to represent Cuomo’s executive office as it faces three separate investigations, denied that the state data sent to the federal government was inaccurate.
"The submission in response to DOJ's August request was truthful and accurate and any suggestion otherwise is demonstrably false,” he said in a statement.
The state had deliberately withheld the full count of deaths of nursing home residents up until late January, several hours after State Attorney General Letitia James released a report confirming the undercount. Members of Cuomo’s COVID-19 task force had also removed the count of nursing home residents who died in hospitals from early drafts of a health department report on nursing homes, claiming the information wasn’t sufficiently vetted.
Beyond the federal probe into his administration’s handling of nursing homes, James is reviewing allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct by the governor, and has interviewed at least three of the women who allege inappropriate conduct by him: Ana Liss, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, according to the women and their attorneys.
The State Assembly has also launched their own investigation that could be a precursor to an impeachment vote, though critics have called it a stall tactic by Cuomo allies.