Allegations of sexual harassment recently made against Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be investigated by a pair of attorneys from the private sector, including a former federal prosecutor who oversaw a public corruption case involving a former top aide to the governor.
The team of lawyers will be empowered to depose witnesses, subpoena the administration for testimony and documents, and retrieve other data relevant to the investigation.
Joon H. Kim, a former federal prosecutor from Manhattan who led the office when former Cuomo aide Joe Percoco was facing charges in a corruption scheme, will serve as one half of the team. He’s currently a partner at the law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.
Anne E. Clark, an employment and discrimination attorney, will also lead the probe. Clark is a partner at Vladeck, Raskin & Clark, P.C. in Manhattan.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office will now hand off the investigation to Kim and Clark, said both were credentialed to accomplish the task, which will include a public report of their findings at the end of the investigation.
“Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark are independent, legal experts who have decades of experience conducting investigations and fighting to uphold the rule of law,” James said. “There is no question that they both have the knowledge and background necessary to lead this investigation and provide New Yorkers with the answers they deserve.”
While both are accomplished attorneys, Kim’s selection is likely to raise eyebrows among political circles in Albany.
Kim was a leading prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District in Manhattan when former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was at the helm.
Bharara’s known for bringing federal corruption cases against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and former Senate Majority Lead Dean Skelos, a Republican, in 2015. Both lawmakers were ultimately convicted and are serving time in prison.
Bharara had also been rumored to be looking into allegations of impropriety in Cuomo’s office after the governor disbanded what’s known as the Moreland Commission.
The Moreland Commission was a special panel established by Cuomo in his first term to investigate matters of public integrity in state government. But after lawmakers approved a new ethics law, Cuomo said the commission was no longer necessary and shut it down.
Bharara never charged Cuomo, or his staff, with any wrongdoing while he led the office. He was ousted by former President Donald Trump in 2017.
Kim, then Bharara’s deputy, took over the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan in the interim, and led the team for about nine months until Trump’s pick was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
But during his short-lived stint at the head of the office, Kim oversaw preparations for the trial against Percoco, who was one of Cuomo’s closest aides at the time. Percoco was ultimately convicted in a bribery scheme and is serving time in federal prison.
Clark has an impressive resume herself. She’s admitted in four federal appellate courts, and each of the state’s federal trial courts, not to mention the state court system.
She previously worked at Legal Momentum, a defense and education fund for women. The organization has a history of handling cases involving workplace equality and gender discrimination.
Debra Katz, an attorney representing Charlotte Bennett, one of Cuomo's accusers, appeared to approve of the AG's selections to lead the probe.
"The selection of Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark to investigate claims of sexual harassment by Governor Andrew Cuomo demonstrates that Attorney General Letitia James is taking this matter very seriously," Katz wrote in a statement.
"We are encouraged by the experience and background of the attorneys who will be investigating Charlotte's claims and expect the investigation will extend to the claims of the other women who we know to be out there."
The timeline of the investigation is unclear, but the attorneys are required, by law, to issue weekly updates to the Attorney General’s Office until it’s done. A report on the probe will be made public after it’s over.
Dan Clark is host/producer of New York Now.