As accusations of sexual harassment by Governor Andrew Cuomo continue to emerge, a growing chorus of Brooklyn lawmakers are demanding formal action.
The latest such demand comes from a group of six state lawmakers, all Democrats affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America, who are calling for impeachment proceedings against the governor.
Five of the six legislators—State Senators Julia Salazar and Jabari Brisport, as well as Assembly Members Emily Gallagher, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Marcela Mitaynes—are from Brooklyn. The sixth, Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani, represents parts of western Queens.
“The accounts of sexual harassment from the women who have courageously come forward confirm what many in Albany have known for years: that Governor Cuomo uses his power to belittle, bully and harass his employees and colleagues,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement released today.
“The accounts add to recent revelations of gross misconduct. It is time for the legislature to demand accountability. Impeachment proceedings are the appropriate avenue for us to pursue as legislators to hold the Governor accountable for his many abuses of power and remove him from office.”
In the past week, two former staffers of the governor, both women, have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment in the workplace. And yesterday, Anna Ruch, who does not work for the governor, accused him of inappropriately touching her and asking if he could kiss her at a wedding in 2019.
As the allegations have trickled out over the course of several days, lawmakers and advocates have called for various measures ranging from an independent investigation to Cuomo’s immediate resignation. But a spokesperson for Salazar, Timothy Hunter, told Bklyner that impeachment proceedings were the most effective way to ensure a fair outcome.
“When it comes down to the resignation, that’s just asking him to leave,” Hunter said. “We’re not looking at consequences. We’re not looking at due process, That’s kind of what the Senators and the Assembly Members are calling for. They want the governor to be held accountable, and a resignation allows him to walk away from the accusations.”
Even before the harassment accusations emerged, Cuomo was facing intense criticism over reports his administration had undercounted the number of coronavirus deaths connected to the state’s nursing homes. Queens Assembly Member Ron Kim, who was allegedly verbally harangued by Cuomo on a private phone call after criticizing the governor’s role in the scandal, called last week for impeachment proceedings to begin.
“It is time to be brave, to hold him accountable, to investigate his cover-up of nursing home information,” Kim wrote in an op-ed for Newsweek on February 22nd. “It is time to undo the bad policies that led to unnecessary deaths. And it is time to start the impeachment process.”
Federal prosecutors were already examining how a coronavirus task force created by Cuomo handled the deaths in nursing homes and long-term health facilities. Now, State Attorney General Letitia James will oversee an independent investigation of the sexual harassment allegations, throwing another wrench in Cuomo’s imperiled political career.
Still, the feasibility of a formal impeachment remains unclear. The process in New York requires a majority vote from the state Assembly, followed by a trial in the state Senate. Two-thirds of state senators would then have to vote in favor of a conviction. A New York Governor has not been impeached since 1913, when Governor William Sulzer was removed after a battle with the state’s Tammany Hall political machine.