Probe James’ handling of sexual-harassment allegations against her top aide
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was enmeshed in numerous scandals, including a coverup of nursing-home COVID deaths, yet it was state Attorney General Letitia James’ report on sexual harassment allegations against him that was key to his resignation. Now James’ office has its own sex-harassment mini-scandal; an outside investigator should probe it.
Unlike with Cuomo, allegations of harassment weren’t lodged against James but against her chief of staff, Ibrahim Khan, who stepped down on Nov. 22. That was the day a law firm her office hired, Littler Mendelson, substantiated allegations against him of unwanted kissing and touching.
Yet James knew of the complaints, from two separate women, as early as Oct. 2 — and kept them under wraps as the Nov. 8 election approached.
Critics are raising a raft of questions, most importantly: For how long was the AG actually aware of any alleged sexual harassment by Khan? Did she protect him in any unethical (or even perhaps illegal) way, especially given her duties to report such behavior?
Also: Was it kosher to keep the allegations secret for well over a month, until the election was over? At the very least, she deprived voters of that information before they cast their ballots.
Only now has the public “learned that James’ longtime chief of staff” resigned “under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations,” fumes Michael Henry, who lost in his bid to topple James in last month’s election.
“The Albany swamp is as noxious as ever. New Yorkers have a right to know whether the top law enforcement officer in the state suborned sexual harassment, covered it up or delayed addressing it to win an election,” adds Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R-Fishkill).
James’ office immediately ordered Khan to switch to remote work and cease communications with coworkers, but was that sufficient? Should he have been suspended? The AG also hired Littler Mendelson to look into the allegations, though that firm employs a former assistant attorney general. Nor did she get the state comptroller’s pre-contract approval before hiring the law firm, something she’d be required to do at some point if the firm’s fees topped $50,000.
James’ office insists it took all the appropriate steps: “An independent, impartial investigation was conducted, and the employee has since resigned,” AG spokeswoman Delaney Kempner says.
If so, then James should welcome an outside probe — which would only show she’s been nothing but upright.