Third former Cuomo Aide accuses governor of inappropriate behavior, reports allege toxic workplace

State News

(WIVB)– A third former aide of Governor Cuomo has come forward with accusations of inappropriate workplace behavior by the governor, according to new reporting by the Wall Street Journal.

Ana Liss, 35, was a policy and operations aide in the Cuomo administration for two years. She first joined in 2013 as part of a fellowship and left in 2015, according to the Journal.

Liss is the third former aide to come forward alleging the governor inappropriately interacted with them.

This includes former aide Lindsey Boylan and former health policy advisor Charlotte Bennett.  Anna Ruch, who was not an aide to the governor also came forward with accusations of inappropriate behavior.

In her interview with the Journal, Liss says the governor “asked her if she had a boyfriend, called her sweetheart, touched her on her lower back at a reception and once kissed her hand when she rose from her desk.”

The report notes that Liss originally believed her interactions with the governor were “harmless fun” and later found his actions patronizing.

“Ms. Liss and other current and former administration officials said the governor regularly asked them about their dating lives, touched them and commented about their physical appearance. Longtime staffers told some women they should wear high heels when the governor was in Albany, according to Ms. Liss and other former staffers. Mr. Azzopardi said no one was compelled to wear high heels.”

The Wall Street Journal

Liss keeps a framed photo of her and Governor Cuomo from a May 6 reception at the Albany Executive Mansion where she described one of the governor’s alleged inappropriate interactions with her, according to WSJ.

“She said the governor hugged her, kissed her on both cheeks and then wrapped his arm around her lower back and grabbed her waist. They turned to a photographer, who took a picture that shows Mr. Cuomo’s hand around her waist.”

The Wall Street Journal

News 4 reached out to the governor’s office and received this statement:

“Reporters and photographers have covered the governor for 14 years watching him kiss men and women and posing for pictures. At the public open house mansion‎ reception, there are hundreds of people and he poses for hundreds of pictures. That’s what people in politics do.”

 Senior Advisor Rich Azzopardi

Ana Liss works for Monroe County as the director of planning and development, the County Executive Adam Bello says she’s shown “tremendous strength” in coming forward.

“Ana has shown tremendous strength in speaking about her experiences and the emotional trauma that resulted from her time working for the Governor. She is a valued member of my team since joining Monroe County over a year ago. I support Ana fully, as well as the other courageous women coming forward to share their stories.

Sexual harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and degrading or abusive behavior can never be tolerated, whether in the workplace or anywhere else. The tone for workplace culture is set at the top, and it is the responsibility of any leader to build a culture of respect and dignity for all persons, where all employees feel safe and know they are valued.  We owe it to each of the women who have shared their experience to fully investigate their claims, and to expedite the investigation.  The people of New York deserve nothing less.”

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello

Earlier Saturday evening, the Washington Post dropped a story citing interviews with over 20 former Cuomo staffers alleging a toxic workplace, including an aide named Karen Hinton who said he “summoned her to his hotel room and embraced her twice – the second time after she had already pulled away –  during an uncomfortable encounter when he led HUD & she was a PR consultant for the agency.”

In a statement to our sister station PIX11 News, Peter Ajemian, Cuomo’s director of communications, denied Hinton’s account of her encounter with Cuomo in a hotel room.

“This did not happen,” he said. “Karen Hinton is a known antagonist of the governor’s who is attempting to take advantage of this moment to score cheap points with made up allegations from 21 years ago. All women have the right to come forward and tell their story — however, it’s also the responsibility of the press to consider self-motivation. This is reckless.”

The Post report also includes two male aides who worked for Cuomo in the New York governor’s office who say he routinely berated them with explicit language, as well as three women, all of whom worked in the governor’s office as young staffers in recent years, who say “Cuomo quizzed them about their dating lives. They say they did not view the encounters as propositions, but rather as part of an office culture they believed was degrading to young women.”

Azzopardi responded to those accusations in another statement sent to our sister station PIX11 News.

“The people of this state elected the governor to represent them four times during the last 14 years and they know he works day and night for them,” he said. “There is no secret these are tough jobs, and the work is demanding, but we have a top tier team with many employees who have been here for years, and many others who have left and returned. The governor is direct with employees if their work is sub-par because the people of New York deserve nothing short of excellence.”

These reports come after New York legislative leaders voted to modify Gov. Cuomo’s emergency COVID-19 powers Friday amid the ongoing investigations into whether his administration covered nursing home deaths, as well as multiple sexual harassment allegations.

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