New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in 2018 requiring all employers to offer annual training on workplace and sexual harassment issues, but reports indicate that a form attesting he took the training the following year was signed by an aide, not by him, raising questions about whether he went through the training at all.
According to New York state Attorney General Letitia James’ report, the aide who signed the training form was identified as Stephanie Benton, reports Fox News.
The Journal News of New York state’s Lower Hudson Valley region, which initially broke the news about the report, said it got the proof and 17 pages of harassment training material after USA Today Network New York, a group that includes the newspaper, requested the documents back in March.
The training materials used in the seminars outline several examples of inappropriate workplace behavior. However, not long after Cuomo’s name popped up on the form, a new law taking effect on Oct. 11, 2019, lowered standards for proving cases of sexual harassment, saying that the behavior wouldn’t need to be “severe or pervasive” to be deemed illegal.
Cuomo signed the new standards into law, though, before the paperwork was signed about his training course.
The governor has denied all claims of sexual harassment and has refused to resign. He’s running for reelection in 2022, while facing a growing threat of impeachment through the New York legislature.
In her testimony, Benton admitted she signed the form “after they both claimed the Governor reviewed the training material,” James’ report says.
Former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett, who is one of his accusers, told investigators she overheard a conversation in 2019, during which Benton said she went through the training in place of the governor.
Cuomo, while denying the claims in James’ report, said he’d improve the state’s sexual harassment training programs.
“The state already has an advanced sexual harassment training program for all employees, including me, but I want New York state government to be a model of office behavior, and I brought in an expert to design a new sexual harassment policy and procedures, and to train the whole team, myself included,” Cuomo said. “I accept responsibility and we are making changes.”