New York Attorney General Letitia James has reportedly subpoenaed dozens of staffers to Governor Andrew Cuomo, including top aide Melissa DeRosa, for her investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by the governor.
A report by the Wall Street Journal on Friday says DeRosa, secretary to the governor since 2017, is among those to have been subpoenaed by James’s office early this month. Women who’ve accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior or sexual harassment told the paper that investigators with the attorney general’s office had questioned them about their workplace interactions with DeRosa, a fiercely loyal aide to Cuomo who had at one point served as director of communications. DeRosa reportedly contributed to a toxic workplace environment that resulted in staffers leaving government in disgust or even seeking therapy.
It’s unclear who were the other aides subpoenaed by James’s office. A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office declined to comment for this article.
Paul Fishman, an attorney with Cuomo’s office, said the subpoenas and any witness interviews should come as no surprise to anyone. “That happens in every investigation, and it’s wildly premature to speculate what it means. Good, thorough, and fair investigations take time,” Fishman told WSJ.
The investigation is part of a wide-ranging probe into allegations of inappropriate conduct and sexual harassment by Cuomo during his time as governor. It began shortly after Lindsey Boylan, a former staffer to Cuomo, had published a post on Medium describing instances in which Cuomo allegedly joked about playing strip poker, commented on her appearance to other staffers, and forcibly kissed her. Seven more women, including current aides to Cuomo, have come forward to accuse the governor of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior. One of the women, whose identity has been withheld, accused Cuomo of groping her inside the Executive Mansion, the official home of the governor. Cuomo, who said he did not intend to make women feel uncomfortable, has resisted calls to resign despite losing confidence in from elected lawmakers, including the New York State’s congressional caucus.
On top of James’s investigation, there are two other concurrent probes into the Cuomo administration. The state Assembly’s Judiciary Committee has hired outside counsel for an impeachment probe. A federal probe has also been launched over the administration’s handling of nursing home deaths during the early days of the pandemic after DeRosa claimed the administration “froze” in handing over nursing home data to the federal government to avoid a politically charged investigation. A Republican member of the Assembly has also filed an ethics complaint against Cuomo for reportedly arranging special access to coronavirus testing for family members and hand-picked lawmakers when testing was in short supply during the pandemic.
Cuomo has since continued with business as usual, holding in-person news conferences without inviting journalists. During telephone news conferences—in which reporters raise a virtual hand to ask a question—Cuomo’s staff limit questions.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Supporters of DeRosa have staunchly defended her reputation as a competent administrator, including Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Cuomo, who described DeRosa to the Journal as a “tough, hardworking, brilliant, meticulously prepared, and always fighting to improve the lives of New Yorkers.”