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An anti-sexual harassment group of former legislative staffers blasted the Democratic-led Assembly for stalling a package of bills that would protect abuse survivors and for “providing cover” for embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo over sexual misconduct accusations.
The Sexual Harassment Working Group sent a scathing letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine (D-Nassau) overseeing the Cuomo impeachment inquiry, complaining about foot-dragging on a package of bills that already passed passed the Democrat-run Senate.
Members of the group are former legislative staffers sexually harassed or who witnessed abuse by late Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez and other lawmakers.
“We are very familiar with the patterns of this chamber to block, delay, and run out the clock on survivors and the legislation that would protect them as a means of providing cover for serial abusers,” the Sexual Harassment Working Group wrote Thursday.
The group also criticized the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry of Cuomo, which includes examining harassment accusations female staffers leveled against the governor.
“And even now, the chamber appears to be providing that same cover for Governor Cuomo, the Assembly is running an ill-conceived, parallel investigation into nearly a dozen reports of sexual misconduct against Governor Cuomo … By failing to pass this package of bills … the Assembly is continuing a 20-year practice of protecting abusers and the institutions that shelter them,” the group said.
On the top of the list of bills the Assembly is accused of slow-walking is the Adult Survivors Act — which the state Senate unanimously passed earlier Thursday — which would give victims who were abused when they 18 or older recourse to file civil lawsuits against their abusers. It would create a one-year look back window for survivors to file civil suits — akin to the Child Victims Act.
Another proposed law authored by state Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) would prohibit the retaliatory disclosure of employee personnel files — in direct response to the Cuomo administration’s release of Cuomo accuser Lindsey Boylan’s personnel records. It passed the Senate unanimously.
Gounardes said the release of Boylan’s personnel files last December represents a “high profile” example of what the bill would prevent.
Boylan, a former state economic development adviser, accused Cuomo of sexual harassment last December and claimed the administration retaliated against her by releasing internal memos detailing work complaints during her time in state service.
Cuomo denied harassing Boylan and his office defended the release of the records as appropriate.
Other measures that passed the Senate last week but still are bottled up in Assembly committee include: extending the statute of limitations to file for employment discrimination from three years to six years: ban “no rehire” clauses in settlement agreements for workers that filed a harassment claim against an employer; extending anti-discrimination protections to legislative and judicial employees under the state Human Rights law; and bar financial penalties against harassment victims who speak out after signing non-disclosure agreements;
One member of the group, Elizabeth Crothers, who reported that she was raped by a top aide to now-imprisoned former Speaker Sheldon Silver 20 years ago, said it’s time for the Assembly to do the right thing and stop covering up for abusers.
“Twenty years ago, as a 24-year-old staff member of the Assembly, I was raped by the Chief Counsel to then-Speaker Silver. I was stunned when The Speaker told me that his first priority was to the ‘protect the institution,’ an institution that he and others continue to protect even after the same Chief counsel was arrested for raping another assembly staffer just two years later,” Crothers said in a statement to The Post.
“This is the very same institution that – bizarrely enough – tasked itself with investigating numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Governor Cuomo. And it is the same institution that thus far has failed to pass bills that would help survivors, such as the Adult Survivors Act.
Heastie and Lavine had no immediate comment.
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