Michael Henry, a commercial litigator, was the Republican candidate for attorney general, losing to incumbent Tish James last month. Here, Henry reacts to the scandal that surfaced after the election.
Attorney General Letitia James built a “Believe All Women” brand by soaking up the spotlight on the sexual-harassment investigation of Andrew Cuomo that forced his resignation. Now her office is facing allegations of covering up — you guessed it — a sexual harassment scandal.
It’s only now, after the election, that the public has learned that James’ longtime Chief of Staff Ibrahim Khan’s resigned under the cloud of sexual harassment allegations.
Maybe this would have come during the campaign — if James had come out of hiding. Unfortunately, James was given a pass by many media outlets, simply because they believed she was untouchable. She turned down every offer to debate me. Had anyone peered behind the curtain of the Office of Letitia James, perhaps they’d learn why she avoided the press and the public for the entirety of the campaign. We now know why.
It’s not only her support of dangerous bail reform that she didn’t want to discuss, she likely didn’t want to talk about her “glistening” record on sexual harassment. Maybe she was afraid the story would leak and she’d be caught off guard. But the election is over and action must be taken.
Gov. Kathy Hochul must appoint a special prosecutor to conduct a thorough and independent investigation. To remind Letitia James in her own words: “No one is above the law.”
As Khan’s direct boss, James has the duty to report cases of inappropriate touching and sexual harassment — and we deserve to know the details of what happened inside this office. What are the allegations? Why were they not made public until after the election? And why was Khan allowed to resign?
First off, it seems her office deliberately circumvented the law by quietly hiring law firm Littler Mendelson, which employs former James’ staffer Johane Severin, to look into the allegations.
Despite seeking contract approval while investigating former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general did not seek contract approval from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for the handpicked, friendly law firm as required.
At least one of the allegations includes “inappropriate touching,” and that very well may be a criminal violation. Did Letitia James or anyone in her office report this to police to investigate in the interest of the victim?
Khan also appears to have a previous allegation history, including one claim from James’ days in the public advocate’s office when a staffer claimed Khan drugged and sexually assaulted her at a holiday party. This employee was called a liar and fired. This case must be reviewed again.
A special prosecutor must get to the bottom of how extensive this coverup is, if laws were violated and if James participated in putting herself before victims to protect her political career. It is certainly a violation of the public’s trust and unethical, if not illegal.
In the interest of the victims, transparency and the integrity of this important office, Letitia James shouldn’t fear any Hochul-appointed special prosecutor but welcome one. I encourage the Democratic leaders of the Assembly and the Senate, who supported James’ investigation of Cuomo, to support my call for a special prosecutor of James’ office in this serious matter and not be complicit in this coverup.
If Letitia James doesn’t believe she violated the law, she shouldn’t fear it.