Cuomo is being accused of sexual harassment by his new aide.
Alyssa McGrath, the aide, accused Cuomo of ogling her body, complimenting her beauty, and making suggestive remarks to her and another woman in his office.
He referred to her and a coworker as "mingle mamas." He asked about her lack of a wedding ring and the status of her divorce, she said. He told her she was beautiful — in Italian — and as she sat alone in his office waiting for dictation, he looked down her shirt and commented on a necklace she was wearing.
Alyssa McGrath, an employee of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office, described a series of disturbing encounters with the governor, telling The New York Times that Mr. Cuomo will ogle her body, remark on her looks, and make sexual remarks to her and another executive aide.
Ms. McGrath, 33, is the first current aide in Mr. Cuomo's office to speak out about abuse claims in the Capitol. Her story of casual sexual innuendo mirrors other recent reports of a demeaning workplace culture, especially among young women who worked closely with the governor.
Another current aide has accused Mr. Cuomo of groping her breast in the Executive Mansion, which is the most significant allegation levied against him. After the encounter was made public in a story in The Times Union of Albany last week, Ms. McGrath said the aide explained it in detail to her.
Ms. McGrath said, "She froze when he started doing that stuff to her," adding, "But who are you going to tell?"
She went on to say that the governor had asked her not to speak about the alleged incident because the two women frequently talked and texted about their encounters with Mr. Cuomo, according to the coworker, who has not been publicly named.
Ms. McGrath said, "He expressly ordered her not to tell me."
Ms. McGrath identified a trend of the governor combining flirtatious humor with more personal remarks, as well as a subtle and consistent cultivation of competitive relationships among female colleagues in his office, in several interviews conducted over the past week. It was something she said was normalized within the governor's inner circle, exacerbated and shielded by a demand for secrecy.
Ms. McGrath did not accuse the governor of having physical contact with her, but she did state that she thought his acts were sexual harassment.
Ms. McGrath said that the governor had cultivated an odd work triangle with her and her friend, the coworker he allegedly groped, over the last three years, blending a professional relationship with unwelcome publicity. There was paternalistic banter, but there was also a commanding, at times intrusive physicality.
Ms. McGrath said, "He has a way of making you feel very relaxed with him, almost like you're his mate." “But then you walk away from the experience or discussion thinking to yourself, ‘I can't believe I just had that conversation with New York's governor.'”
Ms. McGrath said she only became concerned about these interactions after the fact, a feeling that grew stronger with each new sexual assault allegation leveled against the governor and his blanket denials.
Ms. McGrath's counsel, Mariann Wang, said that "this would be intolerable conduct from any supervisor, much less the governor," and that Ms. McGrath's experience represented broader problems for women in Albany's power corridors.
“The women in the executive chamber are there to work for the State of New York, not to be his eye candy or potential girlfriend,” Ms. Wang said.
Several women, including former and current aides, have accused the governor of making offensive comments and acting inappropriately, including improper contact and sexual advances.
Mr. Cuomo, who is 63 years old, has denied any misconduct and indicated that his friendships with workers may have been misinterpreted.
Mr. Cuomo's lawyer, Rita Glavin, replied to Ms. McGrath's statements on Friday, saying, "The governor has welcomed men and women with embraces and kisses on the cheek, forehead, or hand." He has, in fact, posed for pictures with his arm around their necks. Yes, he speaks in Italian, using phrases like 'ciao bella.'
“None of this is remarkable,” Ms. Glavin continued, “although it may be old-fashioned.” He has said unequivocally that he has never made sexual advances or kissed someone inappropriately.”
The accounts of two former workers, Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development official, and Charlotte Bennett, an executive assistant and senior briefer, sparked the controversy that has consumed the governor and prompted several of the state's Democratic leaders to call for his resignation.
Despite the fact that Ms. McGrath does not work directly for Mr. Cuomo, she said she and her coworker were often called upon to work weekends and at the mansion from the pool of executive chamber assistants. Many of Mr. Cuomo's chamber assistants are women, many of whom are decades younger than he is.
Mr. Cuomo's surrogates will often ask Ms. McGrath — who has a small child — and her coworker to work on weekends at the Capitol building and the governor's mansion, according to emails obtained by The New York Times.
According to state payroll reports, the demands for support originated from a top scheduling official in the governor's office, which hires a vast staff of administrative assistants, many of whom are women who receive a base salary of $40,000 to $60,000 per year.
On Feb. 29, 2020, one email to the two women said, "Hey gals." “When he gets back to the book signing project, who wants to spend some time with him?”
Ms. McGrath and her coworker responded to the request on that day, the Saturday before the state's first reported case of coronavirus. They were alone in the Capitol with Mr. Cuomo when the topic of the two women's proposed trip to Florida came up.
At the time, Ms. McGrath was divorced from her husband. During their conversation, the governor asked the married coworker if she planned to try to meet men and "mingle" while they were in Florida.
The governor and the women both laughed off the challenge, but not before giving them a nickname.
“For the rest of the day, he called us ‘mingle mamas,'” Ms. McGrath said.
Mr. Cuomo had asked the coworker to pose for a picture with him on New Year's Eve two months prior and give it to Ms. McGrath, she said. The photo, which The New York Times checked, shows the governor sitting in a chair at the Executive Mansion with the aide, her face almost touching his.
With her arm draped over the governor's shoulder, the aide's wedding ring is visible on her palm. Mr. Cuomo is wearing a gray sweater and a T-shirt and is beaming.
Ms. McGrath, whose allegations were backed up by contemporaneous messages, emails, and social media posts, said she didn't know why the governor wanted her to see the photo, but she thought it was to "make me jealous."
She said that it was common knowledge in the office that Mr. Cuomo preferred female employees.
“From the beginning, we were told that was a typical step of his,” she said. “Can you tell me who the girl of the week was? “Who was the month's girl?”
Ms. McGrath said her tense encounters with the governor started shortly after she was hired in the middle of 2018. She was summoned to the governor's second-floor office in the mansion early the next year.
Mr. Cuomo asked Ms. McGrath if she spoke Italian — she does not, despite her Italian ancestry — and then made a joke in that language as she prepared to begin working. She later inquired of her parents about the meaning of the word.
She remembered being told, "It was commenting on how beautiful I was." (According to Ms. McGrath's counsel, the governor did not use the word "ciao bella.")
Ms. McGrath was summoned to Mr. Cuomo's Capitol office for a dictation session shortly after that encounter. She clarified that she was lonely and anxious, and that she wanted to do a good job. She sat across from the governor, ready with a pen and paper.
She explained, "I put my head down waiting for him to start speaking, but he didn't start speaking." “So I lifted my eyes to see what was happening. And he was staring down the front of my shirt.”
The governor "made a reference, a subtle reference, asking, 'What's on your necklace?'" she said, adding that he then "made a reference, a subtle reference, saying, 'What's on your necklace?'" Which was covered in my sleeve.”
Ms. McGrath confessed to feeling flushed and ashamed — “my face turned very hot,” she said — but she persisted in her work. She told a coworker about her experience at the time.
Ms. McGrath and her coworker texted and talked about the governor on a daily basis. They confided in each other in part because an unwritten rule forbade them from discussing Mr. Cuomo with others outside the executive chamber.
“Right away, we were told not to say anything to anybody as soon as we walked out of the office or as soon as we walked away from the governor,” she recalled.
The governor continued to pay attention to her and her coworker at an office Christmas party in 2019.
Ms. McGrath said, "He kissed me on the forehead." “And in the photo we took of him that year, he has a firm grip on our sides.” The mayor was photographed with the two women and the governor, who was laughing with his hands tightly around their waists, according to the New York Times.
Other women, including Ms. Boylan, have accused the governor of kissing them inappropriately, which he has categorically denied.
Ms. Bennett, 25, told The New York Times in late February that the governor had confronted her about her sex life and that “the governor wanted to sleep with me.” Other current and former aides have spoken out against what seem to be outdated standards including wearing lipstick, skirts, and shoes. According to the governor's office, there is no dress code at work.
Before making any decisions about the governor's actions, New Yorkers can wait for the findings of two separate inquiries into the abuse claims, one overseen by the state attorney general, Letitia James, and the other by the State Assembly.
Ms. Bennett's lawyer, Debra Katz, said on Monday that her client had provided investigators with more than 100 documents and four hours of testimony proving her charges against the governor, including that he developed a "sexually hostile work atmosphere" as part of "his concerted attempt to build rivalries and friction among female aides on whom he bestowed attention."
Other opportunities, Ms. McGrath suggests, may have been stifled by her proximity to the governor. When she applied for another job in state government in 2019, she was informed that the governor's preference for working with her would prevent her from taking the new job.
She remembered being told that she couldn't quit because she "helped out up front."
Ms. McGrath has continued to work despite other charges leveled against Mr. Cuomo. She reports that the executive offices are mostly silent, which is a far cry from the heady days of Mr. Cuomo's pandemic-related fame, when the Capitol was bustling with enthusiasm and intent.
Ms. McGrath said she was upset at the governor's claim that he never "touched someone inappropriately" after Ms. Bennett went public in The New York Times on March 3, and she watched the governor's first press conference after Ms. Bennett went public in The New York Times.
She shared her disbelief, saying, "It makes me very sad to hear him talk about this and absolutely refute all charges." “And I have no doubt that every single one of these accusers is telling the truth.”
Her coworker is one of the accusers. Ms. McGrath said she was afraid of backlash if she spoke up, but she and her coworker were angry at themselves for putting up with Mr. Cuomo's actions for so long.
“After the reality, her and I discussed it, and now we're like, ‘How did we not see this?'” Ms. McGrath shared her confusion about her experiences with Mr. Cuomo. “Because it's so simple and blatant.”