Cuomo’s office says harassment by his aide crossed the line

The evidence included text messages between Cuomo and a longtime friend that showed the sexual and lewd exchanges between the two, his office told The New York Times.

Cuomo’s deputy chief of staff, Joseph Percoco, pleaded guilty in August to soliciting bribes from a Syracuse-area energy company in exchange for its help securing projects worth $315 million, including one that would have included a property on which a local rabbi had built a settlement home for immigrants from Latin America.

The messages between Cuomo and his associate “clearly show the desire to engage in improper conduct with these women,” two of Cuomo’s lawyers told the Times.

Percoco was sentenced to four years in prison. A search warrant released in September revealed that prosecutors had sought to question Cuomo but were blocked from doing so. The attorney general’s office reached out to Cuomo earlier this month, after the Times inquiry and the investigation by the state’s civil rights commission were reported, according to spokesman Jeff Gaffney.

Cecilia Tkaczyk, a Democratic senator from upstate New York, said in a statement, “I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for working tirelessly to ensure that justice is served on behalf of women and to hold those responsible for the actions of a few accountable. We owe it to victims to ensure that their experience is one of dignity and strength. This process should bring out the truth about past settlements and bring forward any future offenders who may be hiding in plain sight in state government.”

It was not immediately clear whether Schneiderman planned to issue subpoenas in connection with the investigation. The governor has said he will cooperate fully with any investigation into his activities.

The New York Board of Elections, the state Commission on Public Integrity and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York are looking into the matter, and the legislative watchdog group Kline and Specter is investigating the removal of a key aide of Cuomo’s who had signed off on the Cuomo administration’s $79,000 settlement of sexual harassment claims filed by former female employees in 2013.

Cuomo has denied any knowledge of Percoco’s actions, and said that he was “deeply troubled” by the reports about Percoco’s behavior. He has repeatedly said that sexual harassment is unacceptable and said he’s called upon state legislators to appoint a Commission on Institutionalized Harassment “so those who work in state government are able to have a safe and respectful work environment.”

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