A report from New York state’s ethics commission clears Governor Andrew Cuomo’s former high-level economic development official Sam Hoyt of sexual harassment charges, but the report leaves many unanswered questions.
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, where Cuomo appoints the majority of commissioners, found no evidence that Hoyt sexually harassed a woman to whom he paid $50,000 after having an extramarital affair. The woman did not cooperate with the probe, which leads some, including Susan Lerner, with the government reform group Common Cause, to question how the commission could have reached its conclusion.
“It really should not be considered a reliable solution to the allegations,” Lerner said.
Lerner says the ethics commission does not employ any experts on investigating claims of sexual harassment, and she says the cases are substantially different from questions about potential ethics law violations or campaign finance errors.
“It’s a very specific area of the law,” she said. “There’s absolutely no indication that anyone at JCOPE has any expertise in sexual harassment and the current state of the law.”
The ethics panel also concluded that Hoyt had tried to help the woman get a job with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, but concludes he did not use his official positon to do so.
The governor’s Republican political opponent, Marc Molinaro, called JCOPE a “kangaroo court” and says its exoneration of Hoyt should be viewed with “deep skepticism."
Hoyt is a former Assemblyman from Western New York who was disciplined in 2008 for having an affair with one of his interns.
Hoyt resigned from his job last October with the state's Department of Economic Development, where he was regional vice president.
A spokesman for JCOPE, Walter McClure, said he could not comment on the report, citing JCOPE’s own rules limiting public disclosure. The report was given to Hoyt’s attorneys, who posted it online.
A spokeswoman for Cynthia Nixon, the actor and education advocate who is challenging Cuomo in a Democratic primary, had this reaction:
“We are shocked, shocked that an ethics board Andrew Cuomo created found Andrew Cuomo's appointee innocent,” said Nixon spokeswoman Lauren Hitt.