Mounting scandals have caused the governor to lose the confidence of the public and fellow lawmakers, dozens of Democratic members of the state assembly and senate charged in a Thursday letter.
ALBANY (CN) — Nearly five dozen New York lawmakers called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign in a joint letter demanding he hand over the office to his second-in-command for the remainder of his term.
Over the last two weeks, six women have come forward with allegations of misconduct against the 63-year-old, three-term governor, but Cuomo has steadfastly refused to resign amid the mounting allegations of workplace sexual harassment.
The most serious of the accusations came Wednesday night, by way of the Times Union of Albany, which quoted an anonymous source as saying an unnamed female aide reported that Cuomo reached under her shirt and groped her late last year after he summoned her to the Executive Mansion.
Cuomo has denied every allegation of harassment to date and called the details of the Times Union’s report “gut-wrenching.”
“I have never done anything like this,” he said.
Cuomo previously called the response to his sexual harassment scandal “anti-democratic,” and urged both the public and Legislature to await the findings of an independent probe overseen by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office.
But in the letter Thursday, members of both the New York Assembly and Senate said they do not see Cuomo’s immediate removal as any roadblock to James’ investigation. “We are fully confident in the attorney general’s ability to investigate this matter thoroughly, and know that no change in state executive leadership will impede or affect her office’s important work,” the joint letter states.
Then, referring to Cuomo’s deputy, Kathy Hochul, the lawmakers noted that New York has “a lieutenant governor who can step in and lead for the remainder of the term.”
“This is what is best for New Yorkers in this critical time,” the letter concludes. “It is time for Governor Cuomo to resign.”
Attorney General James announced earlier this week that the state’s investigation will be handled by two private attorneys: Joon H. Kim, a former acting U.S. attorney for Southern District of New York, and Anne L. Clark, who specializes in employment law and sexual harassment cases.
“Attorney General James has made clear that her independent investigation will continue and has already made an excellent choice in those picked to lead the investigation,” the lawmakers wrote Thursday of James’ referral to conduct the investigation.
The New York Constitution grants the 150-member state Assembly the power to impeach officials by the vote of a simple majority, or 76 lawmakers. Just one governor – William “Plain Bill” Sulzer – has ever been impeached in the state.
Historians believe Sulzer’s impeachment in 1913 stemmed from his refusal to end investigations into the corrupt political bosses of New York City’s Tammany Hall.
At the beginning of the month, a prominent billboard calling for Cuomo’s resignation appeared minutes away from the State Capitol in Albany, paid for alocal gun store owner.
Citing the latest allegations against Governor Cuomo, New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Thursday morning that he would meet with fellow members in conference to discuss “potential paths forward.”
Apart from the harassment scandal, Cuomo has also been weathering allegations that his office manipulated data on nursing home deaths from the novel coronavirus early in the pandemic. Thursday’s letter refers to this issue as well.
“In light of the governor’s admission of inappropriate behavior and the findings of altered data on nursing home Covid-19 deaths, he has lost the confidence of the public and the state legislature, rendering him ineffective in this time of most urgent need,” the letter states.
New York’s Senate and Assembly voted last Friday to revoke emergency powers granted to Cuomo at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The bill does not rescind any of Cuomo’s current directives, like a statewide mask mandate or limits on indoor dining, but it gives the Legislature power to repeal any executive order by simple majority.