NEW YORK - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's grip on power appeared increasingly threatened Thursday as a majority of state legislators called for his resignation and police in the state capital said they stood ready to investigate a groping allegation.
The Times Union of Albany reported Wednesday that an unidentified aide had claimed Cuomo reached under her shirt fondled her after summoning her to his official residence late last year. Cuomo said he never touched anyone inappropriately.
A lawyer for the governor said Thursday that she reported the allegation to police after the woman involved declined to do so herself.
Beth Garvey, the governor's acting counsel, said in a statement that as a matter of state policy, the woman who made the allegations was told she should contact her local police department.
"In this case the person is represented by counsel and when counsel confirmed the client did not want to make a report, the state notified the police department and gave them the attorney's information," Garvey said.
She said the state was obligated to do so under state law.
An Albany Police Department spokesperson, Steve Smith, didn't immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment, but he told The New York Times police had reached out to a representative for the woman and offered their services.
The possible involvement of police comes as more lawmakers called on him to resign over alleged misconduct with women.
At least 121 members of the state Assembly and Senate have said publicly they believe Cuomo can no longer govern and should quit office now, according to a tally by The Associated Press. The count includes 65 Democrats and 56 Republicans.
Cuomo's support in the state Senate was especially thin. Roughly two thirds of its members have called for the Democrat's resignation, including Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
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The top Democrat in the state Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie, on Thursday backed a plan for its judiciary committee to launch an impeachment investigation.
The committee can interview witnesses and subpoena documents and its inquiry could be wide-ranging: from alleged sexual misconduct to COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes. It won't interfere with a separate inquiry of sexual harassment allegations being conducted by state Attorney General Letitia James, according to Heastie and James.
"The legislature needs to determine for itself what the facts are," a member of the committee, Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, said. "For the people who want immediate impeachment, I think we say please be patient. The process is slow. This could be the next step."
In New York, the Assembly is the legislative house that could move to impeach Cuomo, who has faced multiple allegations that he made the workplace an uncomfortable place for young women with sexually suggestive remarks and behavior, including unwanted touching and a kiss.
"All of us are extremely disappointed," Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, a Democrat representing Orange and Sullivan counties, told The Associated Press. "I think there's no room in the world right now for that kind of behavior. He should have known better."
Gunther on Thursday became the ninth Assembly Democrat saying they'd vote for impeachment, alongside at least 37 Republicans.
Cuomo’s support in the state Senate was especially thin. Roughly two-thirds of its members have called for the Democrat’s resignation, including Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
A group of 59 Democratic state legislators, including 19 senators and 40 Assembly members said in a letter Thursday that it was time for Cuomo to go.
"In light of the Governor's admission of inappropriate behavior and the findings of altered data on nursing home COVID-19 deaths he has lost the confidence of the public and the state legislature, rendering him ineffective in this time of most urgent need," the letter said. "It is time for Governor Cuomo to resign."
Cuomo has repeatedly said he won't resign and urged the public to await the outcome of an investigation of his conduct by state Attorney General Letitia James. Cuomo's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
While Cuomo has denied inappropriately touching anyone, he has apologized for comments he made to women staffers. He has said he was engaging in what he thought was playful banter and didn't realize it was making people uncomfortable.
In the newest allegation against Cuomo, the Times Union of Albany reported that the governor had summoned the aide to his Albany mansion, saying he needed help with his cellphone. After she arrived, Cuomo closed the door, reached under her shirt and fondled her, the newspaper reported.
The newspaper's reporting was based on an unidentified source with knowledge of the woman's accusation, who said she first told the story to someone on Cuomo's staff in recent days. The newspaper hadn't spoken to the woman and didn't identify her.
"I have never done anything like this," Cuomo said through a spokesperson Wednesday evening.
"The details of this report are gut-wrenching," Cuomo said, adding that he would not speak to the specifics of this or any other allegation, given an ongoing investigation overseen by the state attorney general.
Several other women who worked for the governor in Albany or during his time in former President Bill Clinton's Cabinet, and one who met him briefly at a wedding, have also accused Cuomo of inappropriate conduct.
The state Assembly has 150 members. It could convene an impeachment trial against Cuomo with a simple majority vote. Until the new allegations surfaced, most of its members appeared to be leaning against trying to convene an impeachment or demanding Cuomo's resignation until the attorney general's investigation was complete.
The state Senate, which would join with members of the state's top appeals court to hold an impeachment trial, has 63 members.