In 2018, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill requiring all employers in the state to offer annual training to employees on workplace harassment issues.
But an October 2019 “attestation” form, which claims the governor underwent such training himself, includes the handwritten name “Andrew Cuomo” and a scrawled signature at bottom – both written by an aide, not Cuomo, a report says.
The use of an aide to sign the form on the governor’s behalf raised the question of whether Cuomo really participated in the harassment training program, The Journal News of New York state’s Lower Hudson Valley region reported.
The newspaper’s report emerged following a New York Post story this week claiming Cuomo had skipped work Wednesday to work on a strategy for salvaging his political career, and coincided with an Albany (N.Y.) Times Union story on Friday, claiming that Cuomo’s most trusted advisers, past and present, have worked on plans for Cuomo to fight off the sexual harassment allegations against him.
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Some former aides, however, have been stunned by Cuomo’s refusal to step aside, Politico reported.
The aide who signed the training form for Cuomo was identified as Stephanie Benton in New York state Attorney General Letitia James’ recently released 165-page report, which accuses Cuomo of sexually harassing 11 women.
Cuomo, who faces a torrent of calls to resign – as well as pledges from many New York lawmakers that they will impeach the Democrat if he doesn’t – has denied the allegations.
‘She was the one’
“(In) her sworn testimony, Ms. Benton admitted that she was the one who signed the 2019 sexual harassment training attestation form for the Governor, after they both claimed the Governor reviewed the training material,” James’ report says, according to The Journal News.
“Ms. Benton admitted that she was the one who signed the 2019 sexual harassment training attestation form for the Governor, after they both claimed the Governor reviewed the training material.”
On July 28, the attestation form, and 17 pages of harassment training material, were provided to the newspaper after USA Today Network New York, which includes The Journal News, requested the documents from the state in March, the newspaper reported.
The training material describes examples of workplace behavior that is deemed inappropriate, the newspaper’s report said.
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The Journal News notes that just several days after Cuomo purportedly reviewed the training documents, they became outdated because a new law took effect Oct. 11, 2019, that lowered the standard for proving sexual harassment. No longer would the behavior need to be “severe or pervasive” in order to be illegal, the report said.
The new, lower standard was signed into law by Cuomo prior to the date he purportedly underwent training, according to Anne Clark, a private lawyer who helped lead James’ investigation into the governor, the newspaper reported.
‘Meets and far exceeds’
Cuomo’s alleged conduct with his accusers, as described in James’ report, “clearly meets and far exceeds this standard,” Clark told The Journal News, referring to the updated standard.
Cuomo told James’ office that he did not recall undergoing sexual harassment training in any year other than 2019, the newspaper reported.
Charlotte Bennett, one of Cuomo’s accusers, told investigators she overheard a conversation in 2019 in which Benton claimed to have undergone the training in place of Cuomo – but both Benton and Cuomo testified that the governor himself completed the training, The Journal News reported.
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After James released her report on Cuomo’s alleged misconduct, the Democrat’s response this week included a pledge to improve sexual harassment training in the state.
“Now, the state already has an advanced sexual harassment training program for all employees, including me,” Cuomo said. “but I want New York state government to be a model of office behavior, and I brought in an expert to design a new sexual harassment policy and procedures, and to train the whole team, myself included. I accept responsibility and we are making changes.”