ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s attorney general’s office has instructed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office not to erase any documents or materials that could come under scrutiny during her probe into sexual harassment allegations dragging down the three-term Democrat.
A spokesperson for Attorney General Tish James confirmed Friday the office sent an evidence preservation request to the governor’s office. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi responded in a statement saying the governor’s office received the request March 1 “and our counsel’s office acted promptly and notified all chamber staff of their obligations associated with that.”
The move by James comes after Cuomo, facing accusations of sexual harassment by two former staff members, cleared the attorney general on Monday to launch an independent investigation into the allegations.
It also follows a letter Friday from a lawyer for Charlotte Bennett, one of the former aides, who spoke publicly with CBS in an interview Thursday evening, calling for James to make the preservation request. Bennett’s attorney Debra Katz said her letter was sent to James with “heightened” urgency following new reporting from the Wall Street Journal that Cuomo staff had altered certain numbers in unrelated reporting on Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes.
Bennett has accused Cuomo of “predatory” behavior in which he asked about her sex life and if she, who was 25 at the time, had slept with older men.
The request is a fairly typical part of launching an investigation like James’ and includes requirements to preserve electronic correspondence among Cuomo staff and aides. But it signals publicly the attorney general is not waiting to dig into the investigation that many of the state’s top politicians — and Cuomo himself — have said will be key to forming opinions on the governor’s political fate.
The Cuomo administration has regularly employed ways of keeping communications from the public eye. Staff for years used specific Blackberry phones to communicate with the governor, and the governor and his top aides often save their most choice words for phone calls.