© Reuters. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo visits vaccination site in Brooklyn

By Gabriella Borter and Peter Szekely

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday called for an independent investigation into sexual misconduct accusations against Governor Andrew Cuomo made by a former aide to the governor who is now a candidate for Manhattan borough president.

Lindsey Boylan, who first made the accusations on Twitter in December, wrote a detailed essay published on the web platform Medium on Wednesday that the governor had made several “inappropriate gestures” towards her while she worked for the state government from 2015 to 2018, ranging from sending her a rose on Valentine’s Day to kissing her on the mouth.

Cuomo denied the accusations in December and issued another denial on Wednesday. Multiple attempts to reach Boylan were unsuccessful. Neither Cuomo nor Boylan immediately responded to a request for comment on de Blasio’s push for an investigation.

“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,” she wrote in the post on Wednesday, saying that at least two other unnamed female employees have confided to her that Cuomo had acted inappropriately around them but were afraid to speak up.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm her accounts and accusations.

De Blasio, who has frequently feuded with Cuomo, called Boylan’s allegations “really disturbing” on Thursday and said they should be investigated by an entity outside of Cuomo’s control.

“When a woman comes forward with this kind of very specific allegations, they have to be taken seriously,” de Blasio said at a news briefing. We need a full and independent investigation. I want to emphasize the word, independent.”

It is the second controversy in recent weeks to besiege Cuomo, who rose to national stardom for his leadership at the start of the pandemic, when New York was the country’s COVID-19 epicenter.

A report from the state attorney general’s office last month cast doubt on the Cuomo administration’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes, claiming the state health department had significantly undercounted the toll and implemented policies that may have contributed to it.

Later, a top aide to Cuomo admitted to lawmakers that the administration had delayed providing requested data about the state’s COVID-19 death toll among nursing home residents for fear of a politically motivated investigation by the Justice Department under the then-president, Republican Donald Trump.

The nursing home controversy has spawned some bipartisan criticism of Cuomo among New York lawmakers, and Democratic State Assemblyman Ron Kim of Queens is leading a call for Cuomo’s impeachment. A few Republican members called for Cuomo to resign after Boylan’s accusations surfaced on Wednesday.

“As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” Caitlin Girouard, a spokeswoman for Cuomo, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Girouard did not address many of Boylan’s claims but denied her account of a plane trip in October 2017 when she alleged that Cuomo suggested they play strip poker. Several government officials who were on each flight with Cuomo and Boylan that month said they did not hear such a conversation, according to the statement.

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