New NY Gov. Kathy Hochul vows culture change after Cuomo resigned over sexual harassment scandal

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New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference the day after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation at the New York State Capitol, in Albany, New York, August 11, 2021.

Cindy Schultz | Reuters

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday vowed to foster a “dramatic change in culture” in Albany, a message she delivered a day after her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, resigned over a sexual harassment scandal.

Hochul, the first female governor in New York’s history, in a video address highlighted her new administration’s top priorities: combating the spread of the Covid-19 delta variant, efficiently sharing pandemic relief funds and getting New York’s government “focused, without distractions.”

“And that begins with a dramatic change in culture, accountability, and no tolerance for individuals who cross the line,” said Hochul.

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The new governor announced she is ordering an overhaul of the Empire State’s sexual harassment and ethics policies, “starting with requiring that all training be done live, instead of allowing people to click their way through a class.”

Hochul committed to leading an administration that will “focus on open, ethical governing that New Yorkers will trust.” She also vowed to sign an executive order “requiring ethics training for every employee of New York State government, which shockingly is not required across the board.”

Her call for ethics reforms came soon after CNBC reported that her daughter-in-law is a top lobbyist for Biogen, a pharmaceutical firm that has sought to influence New York state lawmakers. Hochul’s husband, meanwhile, is an executive of a gambling and hospitality company that is headquartered in Buffalo, New York.

Hochul’s speech did not mention Cuomo by name. In a farewell address Monday afternoon, Cuomo said he believed that Hochul, a fellow Democrat who had served as lieutenant governor before being elevated to governor, will “step up to the challenge.”

Cuomo made the shocking announcement of his resignation two weeks earlier, as he dealt with the fallout of a bombshell report from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, in which 11 women accused him of sexual harassment.

Hochul said at the time she believed Cuomo’s accusers. Before leaving office, Cuomo remained defiant about some of the claims against him. “The truth will [come] out in time, of that I am confident,” he said.

Hochul on Tuesday also directed the New York state health commissioner to implement a universal mask requirement in all schools, public and private, if determined necessary. She will also pursue options for mandating vaccines for school employees.

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