Lindsey Boylan, a former adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), alleged in an essay on Wednesday that the governor kissed her without consent, made inappropriate comments and fostered a hostile workplace for women.
“Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected,” wrote Boylan, who is running for Manhattan borough president. “His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right.”
In her essay, Boylan accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior, including asking her to play strip poker while flying home together from a work event and consistently going out of his way to touch her on her back, arms and legs. She also accused him of telling fellow staffers that he had a “crush” on her.
“As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” Caitlin Girouard, Cuomo’s press secretary, wrote in a Wednesday-afternoon statement.
Girouard also included the manifests of all the governor’s flights during the month of October 2017 in order to dispute one of Boylan’s claim, although it’s not immediately clear that the manifests do that. The press statement also included a comment attributed to four other Cuomo staffers who allege they were on the flights.
“We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen,” the four staffers said of the specific accusation that Cuomo asked Boylan to play strip poker on one flight.
Boylan declined to be interviewed on Wednesday.
Boylan said Cuomo’s alleged behavior came to a tipping point in 2018 after she had been promoted to deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor. She wrote that Cuomo kissed her without her consent.
“We were in his New York City office on Third Avenue,” she wrote. “As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking.”
She added that she was not the only victim of the governor’s alleged harassment and inappropriate behavior. “The Governor’s pervasive harassment extended beyond just me,” Boylan wrote. “He made unflattering comments about the weight of female colleagues. He ridiculed them about their romantic relationships and significant others. He said the reasons that men get women were ‘money and power.’” Boylan mentioned other women who allegedly experienced harassment at the hands of Cuomo, but did not offer specific names or examples.
Boylan began working in the same circles as Cuomo in 2015 when she became the chief of staff at Empire State Development, a state economic development agency. Boylan said she “didn’t truly fear” Cuomo until December 2016 after a work holiday party where the governor had made a speech. She said she received a call from one of Cuomo’s security guards who asked her to come to the governor’s office because the governor wanted to see her.
“I made my way through the underground connection that linked the Plaza to the Capitol,” Boylan wrote. “As the black wrought-iron elevator took me to the second floor, I called my husband. I told him I was afraid of what might happen. That was unlike me. I was never afraid.”
Boylan wrote that nothing inappropriate happened during the interaction, during which she and the governor were alone, but she was so scared before the meeting that she asked the security guard if there were cameras in the governor’s office.
In 2018, Boylan was promoted to the deputy secretary and special adviser role. Boylan said the harassment only got worse the closer she worked with the governor.
Boylan said that she resigned in September 2018 after the alleged incident in which Cuomo kissed her without consent.
HuffPost’s Nina Golgowski obtained internal documents in December that indicated that Boylan resigned from her position with Empire State Development in 2018 after multiple colleagues accused her of abusive behavior ― not because of any alleged misconduct from Cuomo. In complaints filed to human resources, Boylan was accused of bullying and treating staff “like children.” Two employees asked to file their complaints anonymously because they had “a significant fear of retaliation,” the report states.
According to an internal memo, Boylan resigned in an “employment counseling” session in 2018, during which the latter complaints were raised.
A former Empire State Development employee told HuffPost in December that she witnessed Boylan yelling at staff and threatening to fire employees.
“Some of the words she used were just not acceptable, and it could be heard throughout the whole entire floor,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “I don’t think she has any footing to speak about toxicity or any kind of harassment when that is what she did to many people.”