ALBANY — A former Cuomo administration staffer wrote in an online essay Wednesday that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo kissed her on the lips without her consent, part of what she called a pattern of sexual harassment by the governor.
Lindsey Boylan, a former high-ranking state economic development official who said she resigned after the alleged incident, had made more general claims on Twitter in December about Cuomo allegedly sexually harassing her. On Wednesday, she wrote in detail about her allegations on Medium.com, a social media and blog website.
A Cuomo spokeswoman said Boylan’s "claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false."
In the lengthy essay, Boylan, who is running for Manhattan borough president, wrote she was coming forward with specifics after Assemb. Ron Kim (D-Flushing) alleged the governor, in a phone call, threatened to "destroy" him for publicly criticizing Cuomo's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic — a clash that drew national media attention. She said she wanted to call out Cuomo's "bullying."
"Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected," Boylan wrote. "His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences."
Legislative leaders, Cuomo's fellow Democrats, said the report was troubling.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) called the report "deeply disturbing," and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said the essay made "serious allegations."
The allegations came while Cuomo, 63, now in his 11th year as governor, is facing criticism on multiple fronts.
His administration is under a federal investigation after his top aide acknowledged Cuomo officials withheld from the State Legislature data about the number of deaths of nursing home residents from COVID-19. Angry legislators are calling for stripping the governor of emergency powers granted to him to handle the pandemic. Some Republicans are calling for impeachment proceedings.
And some other former staffers are speaking out about what they called the governor’s bullying tactics.
In her essay, Boylan posted screenshots of emails from a Cuomo secretary about her looks, suggesting the governor thought Boylan was the "better looking sister" of another woman. Later, the governor began referring to her by the name of the other woman, which Boylan called "degrading."
Boylan alleged Cuomo said to her "let’s play strip poker" while they and others were on a government flight from Western New York in October 2017. She said she made a sarcastic reply to try to "play it cool."
Cuomo’s publicly posted schedules show Boylan was one of a number of administration officials who traveled with the governor on state aircraft to Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Rochester, as well as other upstate cities on multiple trips.
Caitlin Girouard, Cuomo’s press secretary, said Boylan's allegations are false and offered a joint statement by other staffers on the flights who denied any such conversation happened.
"In Ms. Boylan's latest blog post, she opens up with a story about a plane trip in October 2017 — the manifests of all flights from October 2017 can be found below — there was no flight where Lindsey was alone with the Governor, a single press aide, and a NYS Trooper," the press secretary continued. "Below is a statement that can be attributed to John Maggiore, Howard Zemsky, Dani Lever and Abbey Fashouer Collins, who were on all of these flights with her: "We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen."
Boylan said the kiss took place in 2018 after she gave him a one-on-one briefing about economic projects at Cuomo’s 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," Boylan wrote.
"After that, my fears worsened. I came to work nauseous every day," Boylan continued. "My relationship with his senior team — mostly women — grew hostile after I started speaking up for myself. I was reprimanded and told to get in line by his top aides, but I could no longer ignore it."
Boylan resigned in September of that year.