New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Monday she has selected Joon H. Kim, a former U.S. Attorney, and Anne L. Clark, an employment discrimination lawyer, to run the investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Kim had served as top deputy to Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who investigated New York political corruption, until then-President Donald Trump fired Bharara in 2017. Kim took over in an acting capacity, running the office for 10 months, until he was replaced in January 2018 by Trump appointee Geoffrey Berman.
Kim's tenure in the Southern District covered the investigation and initial prosecution of Joseph Percoco, Cuomo's former longtime campaign manager and confidant, who was convicted on corruption charges in 2018.
Clark is a private attorney who has "successfully represented plaintiffs in numerous sexual harassment and other employment discrimination cases" in the public and private sector, according to James.
"Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark are independent legal experts who have decades of experience conducting investigations and fighting to uphold the rule of law," James said in a statement. "There is no question that they both have the knowledge and background necessary to lead this investigation and provide New Yorkers with the answers they deserve."
The high-profile investigators will probe allegations made by several former Cuomo aides who say the Democrat made unwanted advances. One of them, Charlotte Bennett, called the governor a "textbook abuser" and said she was "terrified" while being in two one-on-one situations with him.
The governor has said that he "never made advances" toward Bennett and that his actions have been "misinterpreted" as "unwanted flirtation." He has denied claims by Lindsay Boylan, another former aide, that he kissed her without her consent. He apologized, but Bennett said Cuomo hasn't accepted responsibility for his behavior.
The allegations are just one of several controversies enveloping the governor, prompting Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and others to call for his resignation. Cuomo has said there is "no way" he'd resign and asked New Yorkers to await James' probe.
Meanwhile, Republicans have called for an impeachment resolution, citing the governor's refusal to resign, and some Democrats, siding with Cuomo, have said they want the investigation to reach a conclusion before taking any further action.
Amid all that, Cuomo's administration also is under federal investigation for its handling of COVID-19 data and nursing homes.
Additionally, state legislators approved a bill to curtail Cuomo's pandemic powers. Legislators cited the controversies but also had been chafing under the governor's near-total control of New York policies — such as venue capacities and closings — since the pandemic began.
James said Kim, Clark and three associates are charged with conducting a "thorough and independent" inquiry.
"This work will be comprised of — but not limited to — issuing subpoenas and related compliance; examination of relevant documents and records; interviews, including formal depositions, and analysis of data and information pertinent to the investigation," James said. Eventually, they will produce a report to be publicly released.
Subpoena power will be vital to the investigation, experts have said.
"It is a civil inquiry in which the governor could be compelled to testify," Eric Lane, a Hofstra University law professor and former counsel to the State Senate Democrats, told Newsday.
Debra Katz, Bennett's attorney, applauded the selection of Kim and Clark.
"We are encouraged by the experience and background of the attorneys who will be investigating Charlotte’s claims and expect the investigation will extend to the claims of the other women who we know to be out there," Katz said.
Cuomo initially tried to name his own investigators, making two different suggestions that were immediately rejected by James and legislators.
At a lengthy news conference last Wednesday, the governor said he was "embarrassed" by his behavior.
"I now understand I acted in a way that made some people feel uncomfortable and it was unintentional, and I truly and deeply apologize," the governor said last week. Using the word "sorry" multiple times, he said he never touched anyone inappropriately and said he was unaware his behavior "made anyone feel uncomfortable."
Check back for updates on this developing story.