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Monday, April 30, 2018

Leslie Wexler on the #MeToo Movement and Career Death Penalty

National Public Voice

#MeToo: Not Decapitation, but Possibly Lustration

On Wednesday, Page Six broke news of a possible Charlie Rose-hosted television series focused on the stories of other powerful men exposed as harassers and sex criminals by #MeToo. Others such as Mario Batali, Louis C.K. and Matt Lauer are rumored to be plotting comebacks of their own. These efforts, and the coverage related to them, are important in thinking about the roles of exclusion and inclusion with regards to the #MeToo movement and the broad range of transitional justice tools potentially available for this moment.

Who is being excluded from the workplace and does it match who should be? In particular, I explore the narrative of the so-called career death penalty and consider the deployment of lustration as a mechanism to govern at least some of the high-profile harassers.
The Career Death Penalty Narrative Is Likely Empirically False

One of the concerns driving a #MeToo backlash is the fear that men will lose their careers, never to be restored. But even if that is a possible outcome, is that really a likely outcome for most, if any? While a few very prominent men accused of horrific acts, like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, have not yet returned to their careers, others such as the aforementioned Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., and Matt Lauer seem to believe that a six-month hiatus is sufficient and are eager to return to public prominence. And of course, many named and shamed in the #MeToo era seem to have suffered no or minimal job-related consequences, such as Ben Affleck, who has a number of future acting and producing projects and Adam Venit, who has already completed a mere 30-day suspension and returned to work after groping Terry Crews.

Focusing on the short-term consequences for a few high profile, egregious actors may not tell us much about the likely long term consequences for most offenders. And if it does tell us something, it is that the offenders themselves believe the period of reckoning ought to be quite short indeed.
The Career Death Penalty Narrative Generates New Harms to Women

While concerns about due process in the workplace are both appropriate and difficult to resolve to the satisfaction of all parties involved, the emphasis on possibly disproportionate consequences for men may encourage the creation of an additional set of harms on women in the workplace. Tony Robbins spoke for many when he suggested (and implicitly endorsed) the notion that men are refusing to hire women for fear either that they or someone in their employ will in fact harass these women or that men will be unjustly accused of harassing them.

This underlying concern motivating such behavior has been borne out in a lean-in study showing that the number of male managers who are uncomfortable working alone with a woman has doubled since #MeToo and approximately 1 in 6 male managers are now uncomfortable mentoring women. Giving outsized attention to the “plight” of the few men who suffer significant career consequences may reinforce this cycle when it is less visible women who are actually bearing most of the job-related costs. As men mistakenly believe that minor infractions or false accusations are likely to result in the end of their career, they are incentivized to isolate women rather than restructure the workplace or improve corporate culture or engage in bystander interventions. In addition to future costs on women in the workplace, some women responsible for bringing down their harassers are already facing additional employment barriers and finding it difficult to restart their stalled careers.

Any conversation centered on the harms to men who have engaged in harassment and/or criminal acts must be very careful not to lose sight of the impacts of such a conversation on the underlying victims. Equal attention must be paid on how to structure the workplace and change the culture to encourage hiring, mentoring, and promoting women in the workplace as well as enforcing protections and disincentivizing retaliation against those who choose to come forward.

As Lindsay Zoladz so eloquently wrote: “To welcome someone like C.K. or Batali back into the fold not six months after these accusations broke is to intimidate other victims from speaking out, because it will make them think their stories don’t matter, or that the power granted to them by the #MeToo movement was just a temporary spell. To write about them sympathetically, to give them more ink than the names and achievements of their accusers, to run headlinessuggesting a “likely” comeback, is to participate in the very culture that allowed these men to behave badly in the first place. It is a failure to imagine a different story, a better world.”
Career Death Penalty May Sometimes Be an Appropriate Exercise of Transitional Justice

But what might that different story, that better world look like? Time will tell how many high-profile or other offenders will face criminal or other legal sanctions. While many laud the conviction of Bill Cosby, I suspect that convictions for other high-profile offenders will be a long time coming if they come at all. But the inability or unwillingness of the state to mete out punishments leaves space for the public sector to express its condemnation of such behavior in the form of lustration.

As my co-authors and I have written, the current moment bears some important resemblances to those of transitional societies. And one of the way transitional societies have restructured themselves and signaled a departure from the past is by lustration, a process of purging or vetting individuals responsible for abuses of the state. For instance, the Czech Republic adopted a lustration system based on dismissals; Hungary sought to actively and publicly expose individuals; and Poland allowed individuals to come forward, answer questions about their misdoings and only if their answers were found to be truthful, were they allowed to hold a public office. Such lustration practices are designed not just to shame the individuals, but also increase collective trust in new state institutions.

Obviously, the setting of #MeToo and Time’s Up are different from those of post-Soviet societies—advocates for reform here are not calling for a new state, but these movements and this contemporary moment do share with transitional societies an awareness that certain harms are pervasive and structural and call for the reshaping of individuals’ relationships with the major public and private institutions within society. Having some form of private sector lustration can allow disparate and troubled industries such as Hollywood, venture capital, and technology to address high-level offenders and enablers by either permanently excluding them from positions of power or requiring a public accounting of their misdeeds. As others have noted, perhaps those high-profile and powerful individuals who have engaged in harassment no longer need serve as cultural or economic arbiters.

Of course, the implementation of private lustration programs raises a number of difficulties and concerns and I only raise a few of them here. Although industries are more diffuse than government, licensing or other professional accreditation organizations might serve this gatekeeper function, particularly when membership or licensing is essential to employment in a given industry. Should industries choose to take up this suggestion to lustrate the worst offenders and enablers, due process protections for a program with these sorts of high stake impacts are certainly appropriate. When a possible career death penalty is truly in the offing, designers must be very careful not to replicate the excesses of post-World War II purges or the 1950s blacklistings. But for those institutions deeply implicated in pervasive criminal behavior and coverups, such as USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee and Michigan State University, lustration provides a tool to publicly signal their commitment to a different story, to a better world.

This sort of public reckoning strikes me as more productive than rewarding Charlie Rose with a TV series and allowing other offenders to perform their atonement. At the very least, private lustration would provide space for questioning by those other than someone who is himself a wrongdoer. It also has a truth-seeking function that Charlie Rose’s atonement series seems unlikely to embody. All that said, these are preliminary musings and imagining a functional lustration process requires a deep dive into both history and specific industry settings.




Joseph Margulies Urges Amazon To Pick Boston As Its Second Headquarters

But he wants the administrators/politicians of the city which Amazon ultimately picks to be cautious and plan the transformation of the surrounding area appropriately.

We agree.

Betsy Combier 

Joseph Margulies: The Amazon Shuffle

This is another article about Olneyville, the low income, predominately Latino neighborhood on the west side of Providence, Rhode Island, that I have been studying for over a year.
In case you haven’t heard, Amazon is on the hunt for a second headquarters. The company wants to build a new facility that could become the professional home for as many as 50,000 employees who earn an average of $100,000 a year. When Amazon issued a request for proposals last fall, it was deliberately vague about what it wanted, simply noting a preference for metropolitan areas of over a million people, “a stable and business friendly environment,” locations that would “attract and retain strong technical talent,” and communities “that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options.” Cities and metropolitan areas from across the country submitted bids, and late last year, the company announced the 20 finalists. Amazon is expected to choose the winner later this year.
Adding 50,000 high paid, high tech jobs to any metropolitan area has enormous transformative potential. The possible upside is obvious. The city that wins this contest will experience an immediate boost, and not simply from the huge influx of quality jobs. As Berkeley labor economist Enrico Moretti argued in his 2012 book, The New Geography of Jobs, high tech centers tend to attract other high tech talent, which means that Amazon’s decision will likely draw other high tech companies, both well-established firms and start-ups, who want to place themselves in an area with access to a rich and continually refreshed supply of talent. Indeed, this phenomenon is reflected in Amazon’s preferences; they could go anywhere but said they want to be where they can find and keep “strong technical talent.” A metropolitan area that does not already have this high tech infrastructure in place, such as Orlando, is at a comparative disadvantage.
And then there are the benefits that ripple far beyond direct employment in high tech. Young people with discretionary income attract and support an entire economic ecosystem of restaurants, bars, movie theaters, bookstores, fitness centers, home furnishing stores, etc. Moretti estimated that every high tech job tends to create five more in the service sector. Some economists disagree about the size of the multiplier, but most everyone agrees it is substantial. In addition, the people who occupy high tech jobs tend to be net contributors to a municipality’s bottom line, paying comparatively more in all kinds of taxes (property, income, and sales), but using fewer municipal services, like police, public health, and public assistance. High tech jobs thus help replenish a city’s tax base, replacing the revenue that was once provided by heavy industry. Along with life-sciences and higher education, the tech sector has been key to the revitalization of several post-industrial cities like Pittsburgh, Boston, and of course, Seattle (the home of Amazon’s first headquarters).
Yet there is also an ominous potential downside to Amazon’s decision that has received far less attention. Last week, Zillow, the real estate site, released a study that estimated the likely impact of Amazon’s choice on rents in each of the 20 locations. According to Zillow, Denver and Nashville would see the biggest increase, followed by Los Angeles, Raleigh, and Pittsburgh. By contrast, a move to Chicago or Indianapolis would have almost no effect on rents because housing costs are kept comparatively low by ready access to land. In addition, though this did not figure in Zillow’s research, the tech sector tends to favor white men. Because of differential access to education and other professional opportunities that happen upstream, relatively few high tech jobs go to women and under-represented minorities, especially at the executive level. Quite apart from rising rents, therefore, the influx of high tech jobs may further divide rich from poor, men from women, and white from black and brown. (Ironically, Zillow may itself be an example of this phenomenon. Its website lists 12 corporate officers, ten of whom are white men. The other two are white women.)
And this is where Olneyville comes in. Boston is among the 20 finalists for the new Amazon headquarters, and the Zillow study found that if Boston were to win, rents in the metropolitan area would rise considerably—not as much as in Nashville or Denver, but considerably more than in most other cities. Rents in the Boston area are already among the highest in the country, and as housing becomes unaffordable downtown, people in the city move to surrounding towns and suburbs, creating upward price pressures that extend outward from an increasingly unaffordable core. (Boston is hardly unique in this, as anyone who has tried to buy or rent in Manhattan or San Francisco can readily attest). Gradually, those at the bottom of the economic ladder are pushed farther and farther away, since they are least able to absorb the rising costs that radiate out from the city center. Providence, less than an hour from Boston, is exquisitely sensitive to this process, and if Amazon goes to Boston, rents in Providence will rise immediately.
As is always the case, the disruptive effect of this increase will be felt most acutely by those least able to pay higher rents—viz., the working poor. And that means Olneyville, where many residents already devote an excessive fraction of their income to shelter. According to a 2016 study by the Center for Housing Policy, over 90% of Providence households making less than $23,805/year are “severely cost burdened,” which means they spend more than half their income every month on housing. According to the Census Bureau, the median annual household income in Olneyville at this time was under $25,000. One in five households in the neighborhood survives on income of less than $10,000 per year. Let’s be blunt: These renters simply cannot afford to pay more, and if rents rise even modestly, a great many of them will be displaced. And if rents rise as much as predicted by Zillow, the neighborhood—at least as it is now—will be destroyed.
I know what some people are thinking: What about all those new jobs created in the service sector? Won’t they raise wages enough to cover the cost of higher rents? Unfortunately, probably not. One of the most important stories of the new economy has been the disappearance of wage growth. After controlling for inflation, wages are only 10% higher in 2017 than they were in 1973, representing an annual real wage growth of below 0.2%. Though economists argue about why wage growth has disappeared, and a number of factors seem to be at play, no one credibly challenges this basic, sobering fact: workers make basically the same wages today as they did 45 years ago.
At the same time, there has been a dramatic shift in the nature of work. As the service sector has eclipsed manufacturing, the United States has seen an increase in what some scholars call “bad jobs.” Workers are more likely to face periods of unemployment, and even when they have jobs, they are less likely to have benefits such as health insurance or child care. And once again, though every sector of the economy has felt this shift from employment security to insecurity, the “bad jobs” are held mostly by the working poor, who predominate in the service sector. So contrary to what we might hope, the shift to a high tech economy has not raised wages, though it has made work far more precarious, especially for the working poor employed in the service sector.
In some cities, community advocates have taken a hard look at all this and concluded that Amazon will cause more harm than good. The crisis in housing is simply too dire to warrant throwing their support behind their city’s bid for the new headquarters. I do not know enough about the local conditions to judge whether they are being wise or foolish.
In Providence, however, I come down differently. Though the risk to Olneyville and low income neighborhoods like it is exceedingly grave, I hope—for the city’s sake—that Amazon goes to Boston. The upside potential is simply too great to pass up. But at the same time, Providence has a profound moral obligation to take concrete steps that will mitigate the risk to places like Olneyville. Providence must make firm, non-negotiable, legally binding commitments to protect and preserve affordable housing in Olneyville, and to make sure that the benefits that will accrue to the city from Amazon’s decision flow equitably to all of her residents. Indeed, planning for this eventuality has to start now, and not wait for Amazon’s decision.
The Amazon shuffle will be transformative. But a city must do more than merely hope the transformation is positive. Hope won’t pay the rent.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

New Sexual Harassment Policies Are Enforced - or Not

The saying goes: "a law is only as good as its' implementation".

At least that is what my dad, assistant attorney general under Louis Lefkowitz and others for 30 years, told me, over and over again.

So what we are seeing in America is the door swung wide open to women who claim sexual harassment by the men they worked for or with. Whether their stories are correct or not is still up in the air somewhere.

I think the hysterics have gone too far, for many reasons, but certainly one in particular. At this time, any person can make any claim about anyone, get the social media and news to pick it up, and boom....suddenly, the person who allegedly did the bad acts, is tainted for life, or at least until there is a proper investigation and which gets the facts to appear above the rumors in a Google search.

The NY POST asked me to comment on what I thought of NYC Mayor DeBlasio's claim that as far as sexual assault claims are concerned, "The Department of Education led the way with 471 complaints, of which only a mere seven, or a little over 1 percent, were substantiated."

My response is here:
NYC Department of Education headquarters, Tweed Courthouse
Department of Education stifled sex harassment claims: ex-union rep
 , April 26, 2018

It was set up to fail.
 The Department of Education office that substantiated just 1.5 percent of 471 sexual harassment claims was established to keep complaints from going to the more forceful federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to a veteran union rep.
“They wanted control over these complaints, so they invented a subsidiary of the DOE to control the initiation and outcome of a case,” said Betsy Combier, a former United Federation of Teachers rep who now advises teachers facing charges by the Department of Education. “The [DOE Office of Equal Opportunity] is there to make sure no one goes to the EEOC, where the case would actually get an independent hearing.”
A rep for the EEOC said New York City agencies may refer cases to it, but he could not provide numbers for how many actually were.
The DOE office substantiated just seven of 471 sex harassment claims it investigated between July 2013 and 2017.
Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the paltry number Wednesday, claiming there is a “hyper-complaint dynamic” and a culture of people lodging complaints with ulterior motives.
Advocates slammed de Blasio on Thursday for the retrograde defense.
“What he should have said is that addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault are top priorities and that, as the leader of our city, he is fully committed to restoring women’s trust and ensuring their safety,” said the National Organization for Women’s New York City chapter president Sonia Ossorio, adding de Blasio’s remarks were “disappointing” and a “disservice.”
A lawyer who represents sexual harassment victims said it was hard to believe the mayor’s comments came from the same guy who travels around the country to spread a progressive agenda.
“That’s crazy. You may expect that more from a large corporation than from a man who considers himself the most liberal person on the planet,” said Maimon Kirschenbaum of Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP, which handles discrimination cases.
City officials insisted all harassment complaints are “thoroughly” investigated.
“The DOE’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management treats every allegation of discrimination with the utmost seriousness and thoroughly investigates complaints,” said spokeswoman Toya Holness.
The city is hiring 11 new OEO investigators, which will bring the total to 18, officials said."
And there's the rub. Where are the facts? Let me give you a current example.

Veteran NBC Reporter Tom Brokaw was recently accused of sexual misconduct with a former News staffer Linda Vester. Suddenly, more than 60 female journalists came forward with a signed letter of support for him. We, the public, don't know what happened, but everyone "knows" that people can be found guilty or innocent depending on how the media coverage tells the "story" - if indeed there was one in the first place:
from Linda Stasi, NY Daily News April 29, 2018:
"Maybe you too but not #MeToo. More than 60 female journalists signed a letter of support for Tom Brokaw in response to allegations of sexual misconduct by his former colleague, Linda Vester.
Rachel Maddow, Maria Shriver and Andrea Mitchell were among those signing the statement that he "treated each of us with fairness and respect."
Brokaw meantime, called Vester's claims, "an ambush," which is pretty much what she said of him.
Bottom line? Just because he didn't try to kiss them doesn't mean he didn't try to kiss her. Just saying."

This is what is wrong with the #Me Too movement - my opinion as a woman - before, not after the media gets to say what really happened, please let's get the facts straight. Lets get professional investigators who know how to get to the "real" story, are trained in how to do that, and start from a neutral place where no side is favored. Let's stop the mobbing as a way to create facts.

Then we have laws that we can trust and lawmakers who can show us their mettle in standing up to a mob and say "stop".

Betsy Combier

Patricia Gunning’s retaliation complaint against her boss at a New York State agency was routed through several different investigative bodies and has yet to be resolved — a common fate for harassment complaints against state officials. CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

Sex Harassment Complaints in New York Fall Into an Enforcement Maze

In early April, with hundreds of New York City’s elite gathered at a power breakfast at Cipriani Wall Street, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo extolled the merits of the state’s new sexual harassment policies, calling them a model that would be “binding on every government in the State of New York.”

But while Mr. Cuomo and other lawmakers have lavished praise upon the new reforms, little has been said about a less glamorous question: Who, exactly, will enforce them?

There is no single investigative body or agency charged with hearing complaints of sexual harassment or abuse by state officials. Nor is there a uniform statewide definition of sexual harassment.

What exists is a tangle of commissions, offices and agencies, many with overlapping jurisdictions but different procedures and enforcement powers — and no clear framework for reconciling them.

In three recent harassment complaints against top state officials, no fewer than six different groups conducted investigations, an examination by The New York Times shows. All the cases were reviewed at least three times, sometimes with conflicting results.

In one case, an allegation went from the state’s Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations and then to the state inspector general.

In another, an allegation was handled by the inspector general’s office, then by the Division of Criminal Justice Services, and then by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. In the third, it went from the Office of General Services to the governor’s employee relations office to the inspector general, and finally to the public ethics commission.

The cases show that bringing a complaint in New York State government can be a clunky, unpredictable process. What policies do exist are not always followed. And for all the sleek uniformity that officials have promised in recent weeks, none of the new policies fully address how, in practice, it will be achieved.

Mr. Cuomo’s aides say the multiple reviews of each of the three complaints demonstrate how seriously they were treated.

“Complainants should have as many options as possible,” Alphonso David, the governor’s counsel, said in a recent interview. “If I’m a victim of discrimination, I want to have as many options available to me to seek redress.”

But ethics experts said the lack of clarity around procedure could undermine accountability and public trust.

“When jurisdiction becomes so bifurcated or attenuated that the ball just keeps bouncing from one agency to the next, that can become a tool for delay,” said Paula Franzese, a professor at Seton Hall Law School and former chairwoman of New Jersey’s state ethics commission. “That can promote delay and studied inaction and certainly inefficiency.”

‘He Should Just Watch It’

In 2016, Patricia Gunning had been at the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs for three years. As the agency’s special prosecutor, she was one of its highest-ranking officials, and after months of feeling that the agency’s acting director had created a “frat-house culture,” including having an inappropriate relationship with a staffer, she confronted him.

The retaliation was immediate, according to Ms. Gunning. In June of that year, after the director, Jay Kiyonaga, shouted at her so loudly that several colleagues sent her emails afterward asking if she was all right, she reported him to the Justice Center’s general counsel.

The subsequent inquiry found that “everyone confirmed” Ms. Gunning’s account of Mr. Kiyonaga “raising his voice and swearing at you,” according to a recording of a conversation, obtained by The Times, between Ms. Gunning and the counsel, Robin Forshaw.

But the incident “didn’t raise with us the idea” that it needed to be reported further, Ms. Forshaw said.

“We’ve told him he should just watch it, and not do that kind of thing,” she said.

The agency had written a memo about the incident, but it would not go in Mr. Kiyonaga’s file. If Ms. Gunning wanted to continue pursuing the complaint, Ms. Forshaw said, she could “make a report of discrimination or retaliation with our affirmative action officer, the Division of Human Rights, the E.E.O.C.

“You could also, I guess, potentially make a workplace violence complaint, if that’s what your concern is,” Ms. Forshaw added.

Under a 10-step procedure devised by the governor’s office for state agencies, internal complaints are supposed to be investigated by an affirmative action officer. But Ms. Gunning said she did not speak to the Justice Center’s affirmative action liaison until after Ms. Forshaw’s call.

Ms. Gunning contacted the liaison herself, and the liaison referred the complaint to the Governor’s Office on Employee Relations. Investigators there, working with the Office of General Services, determined the complaint was “without merit,” according to Christine Buttigieg, a Justice Center spokeswoman. (Ms. Gunning said she was never informed of the results of that investigation.)

Ms. Gunning then approached the governor’s office directly. In an Oct. 26, 2017, letter to Mr. David and the governor’s secretary, Melissa DeRosa, she asked them to review her complaint, offering to share the recorded conversation. Mr. David replied to say he had referred her inquiry to the inspector general.

That investigation is still open. Ms. Gunning said she had heard from the inspector general’s office only twice since October.

“Here you have the governor talking about all this stuff, but you don’t see many state employees coming forward, right, because why would you?” Ms. Gunning said. “Given that I was at the top of my agency — if you witnessed what happened to me, why would you ever come forward?”

Mr. David said it was inaccurate to suggest that the state was trying to skirt accountability by referring complaints to different agencies.

“If an agency conducts an investigation, and they make a determination that the claim is unsubstantiated, the reason why the case is referred to another agency is because the complainant doesn’t like the result,” he said.

But Ms. Gunning said she had no choice but to bring her story to multiple agencies, because no single one provided a fair, thorough investigation.

“I literally had no idea where to go,” she said. “The burden should not be on victims of sexual harassment, discrimination or abuse to wade through multiple inconsistent and unsafe options.”

Two Inquiries, Two Findings

At the Division of Criminal Justice Services, after complaints surfaced against a senior official there, the referral order was reversed.

Last December, the state inspector general, Catherine Leahy Scott, wrote a letter informing the criminal justice agency’s deputy commissioner that the official, Brian J. Gestring, had created an environment “rife with incidents of sexual harassment, ageism, racism, and threats of retaliation and physical violence.”

But while the inspector general’s office was conducting its investigation, the agency had been conducting its own.

The agency’s conclusions contrasted starkly with the inspector general’s. The inspector general’s office found that Mr. Gestring, the director of the agency’s Office of Forensic Science, had told employees they needed to “hump more” and had threatened to hurt a female employee. It recommended that the agency “take action as you deem appropriate” against Mr. Gestring, according to the letter, which was first reported by The Albany Times Union.

The criminal justice division’s investigation, in contrast, concluded that the allegations were unsubstantiated, according to an agency spokeswoman, Janine Kava.

One employee who had testified against Mr. Gestring, Kimberly Schiavone, was transferred to another office within the agency, and another, Gina Bianchi, was fired and then reinstated to a demoted position. Mr. Gestring remained in his position.

After the women announced their intention to sue the state for retaliation and equal protection violations, Mr. David said he referred the retaliation claims to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; the harassment claims, as well as the conflicting findings of the two previous investigations, went to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Both of those inquiries remain unresolved.

John W. Bailey, a lawyer for the women, said the inspector general’s findings should have stood.

“It is clear that certain people are not happy with the inspector general’s report,” he said. “They want someone else to say, ‘We’ve taken a look at this, and we don’t agree.’”

New York’s statutes offer little guidance as to how these various investigative bodies are to coexist, and which might get priority over another.

The public ethics commission is responsible for investigating violations of the state’s public officers law, which does not explicitly refer to sexual harassment but requires officials to follow a “course of conduct which will not raise suspicion among the public.” The inspector general’s office investigates allegations including “abuse” in executive agencies. The Division of Human Rights prosecutes “unlawful discriminatory practices,” and the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations “promotes and maintains a safe and healthy workplace.”

Each state agency is also required to have its own procedures for addressing discrimination complaints.

Karl Sleight, the former executive director of the now-defunct New York State Ethics Commission, compared the development of state ethics bodies to the accumulation of shale.

“You have layer upon layer upon layer, and it’s reactionary. It’s by virtue of something happening — some kind of scandal,” he said. “That’s how these laws developed, how these agencies developed, and how their jurisdiction developed.

“It’s usually not with a clear central purpose. It’s to deal with the crisis du jour.”

Mr. David said that in the case of concurrent complaints, one agency might postpone its investigation until another’s had finished. But he acknowledged the potential for conflict.

“It may create confusion for an agency to do the same investigation where it’s interviewing the same people, reviewing the same documents, soliciting the same information,” he said.

And despite its investigative muscle, which includes subpoena power, the inspector general’s office has no enforcement authority; it can only recommend action. The public ethics commission can issue fines, but only for specific violations, such as improper financial disclosures. For others, including conduct that might “raise suspicion,” it too makes recommendations.

Mr. David conceded that the myriad complaint venues could have inadvertently negative effects. If two agencies arrived at different conclusions, complainants could lean on the one in their favor — “but be aware,” Mr. David said, that defendants could do the same.

“If you file a complaint with 30 different agencies, it may actually hurt you,” he said.

Turning a Blind Eye

In the third case, Lisa Marie Cater, an employee of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, dealt with multiple authorities after accusing Sam Hoyt, a regional president of the Empire State Development Corporation, New York’s main economic development arm, of sexual harassment and abuse. Ms. Cater filed a federal lawsuit against Mr. Hoyt and Mr. Cuomo in November, alleging the governor’s office had turned a blind eye to her complaint.

Mr. Hoyt, a former assemblyman from Buffalo, had previously been sanctioned after having an affair with an intern.

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Cater tried several times to report Mr. Hoyt’s harassment to the governor’s office but was consistently ignored.

Eventually, she was contacted by a lawyer with the Office of General Services, Noreen VanDoren. Ms. VanDoren, the lawsuit said, referred Ms. Cater to the inspector general’s office. From there, she was put in touch with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

The governor’s office, which has denied any wrongdoing, says it referred Ms. Cater’s complaint to the public ethics commission after she refused to cooperate with the inspector general’s office. It has consistently pointed to the multiple investigations as evidence that the lawsuit is baseless.

“The state launched three separate investigations in this matter, and any assertion to the contrary is patently and demonstrably false,” Mr. David said after the suit was filed.

The lawsuit is still active. The other complaints, too, remain unresolved.

Ms. Gunning resigned from the justice center last August. Ms. Schiavone and Ms. Bianchi remain in their demoted or transferred positions at the Division of Criminal Justice Services. Ms. Cater is on unpaid sick leave from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Mr. Kiyonaga is now executive deputy commissioner of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, the state’s second-largest agency. Mr. Hoyt resigned from the state development corporation; after he announced his departure, top state officials, including the lieutenant governor, praised his work record.

Mr. Gestring, at the Division of Criminal Justice Services, was fired on March 22 — but not because of the inspector general’s findings, according to an agency spokeswoman.

He was fired, she said, for a separate set of “inappropriate remarks.”

Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who leads the New York State Senate’s Democratic conference, is
among several leaders in Albany to propose legislation cracking down on sexual harassment; Gov.
Andrew M. Cuomo was the latest to do so. CreditNathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

A day before the start of what promises to be a contentious new legislative session, state policymakers signaled at least one area of possible agreement: cracking down on sexual harassment in New York government.

On Tuesday morning, a day before his annual State of the State address, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced plans to propose legislation that would block government officials from using taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment claims, ban confidentiality agreements related to sexual harassment in state and local government, and standardize anti-harassment policies across government agencies.

The plan is among 21 proposals in Mr. Cuomo’s annual address that he has unveiled since December, including his most recent: calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to look at improving transportation access to the Red Hook, Brooklyn area, including possibly extending subway service to a new station from Lower Manhattan. The governor also plans to preview legislation that would provide tax relief to property owners, a key issue in light of the federal move to reduce state and local property tax deductions.

The sexual-harassment proposals closely mirror others put forward by state lawmakers from both parties in recent weeks: In mid-December, Senators Catharine Young and Elaine Phillips, both Republicans, proposed bills that, in addition to banning secret settlements, would also codify the definition of sexual harassment in state law and expand harassment protections for independent contractors.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Democratic Conference, led by Andrea Stewart-Cousins, put forward its own slate of similar bills, which would also more clearly outline state agencies’ and supervisors’ responsibilities to address harassment in their ranks.

All told, the nearly identical proposals reflect an unusual degree of consensus among the notoriously divided state Legislature. Policymakers said the agreement illustrates the extent to which there has been a recent national reckoning on workplace equality.

“I don’t think anybody could have avoided this topic, as you saw person after person being put into the limelight because of questionable behavior,” Ms. Stewart-Cousins, the Senate minority leader, said in an interview on Tuesday. “It sounds like everybody’s talking about it, so it sounds like everybody wants to do something.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, and Senator Jeffrey Klein, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of renegade Democrats who often collaborate with the Republicans, also signaled their willingness on Tuesday to tighten policies against workplace sexual harassment.

Albany has already been entangled in the recent surge of alleged sexual misconduct disclosures. In November, Lisa Marie Cater, a former state employee, filed a lawsuit against Sam Hoyt, a former Cuomo appointee and former Democratic assemblyman from Buffalo, accusing him of paying $50,000 to buy her silence after he sexually harassed her. Ms. Cater also accused Mr. Cuomo and the governor’s office of being “deliberately indifferent” to her complaints, a charge they deny.

When a public radio reporter asked Mr. Cuomo last month about the allegations against Mr. Hoyt and what he could have done differently to address such behavior in state government, Mr. Cuomo told the reporter, Karen DeWitt, that her question did a “disservice to women.”

“When you say it’s state government, you do a disservice to women, with all due respect, even though you’re a woman,” he told Ms. DeWitt.

After Mr. Cuomo’s comments attracted widespread criticism, his aides scrambled to clarify that he had meant to convey the prevalence of sexual harassment across sectors.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Cuomo said the past year had brought a “long overdue reckoning.”

“This year, we saw brave men and women across the nation shatter this silence and create a moment of reckoning that through these reforms we seek to turn into permanent protections,” he said.

Many of the various proposals wade into the private as well as the public domain. Mr. Cuomo’s planned legislation would require any companies with state business to disclose the number of sexual harassment cases they had faced each year, and would bar employers from forcing their employees into private arbitration. One of the Democrats’ bills would expand protections for employees of small businesses.

Ms. Young said the focus on harassment by celebrities and public officials, both in New York and nationwide, threatened to overshadow victims of sexual harassment whose accused abusers were less well known. She said her proposal to allow independent contractors, in industries ranging from hair styling to real estate, to sue their employers for sexual harassment could ensure protections for up to 40 percent of New Yorkers, the percentage she said work on a freelance or contract basis.

“This tackles the serial sexual predators of the rich and famous but also helps everyday New Yorkers who may find themselves in terrible situations,” Ms. Young said.

Lawmakers said the question of who to hold accountable for sexual harassment in Albany had been a topic of concern for years, citing the example of Vito Lopez, a former assemblyman whom two former aides accused of serial harassment in 2013. In 2015, Mr. Lopez settled with the women for $580,000, with the state paying $545,000.

But they agreed that the fallout from the revelations about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein had forcefully reopened the discussion.

“I think it was clear that women realized that this was a moment to really assert ourselves,” Ms. Stewart-Cousins, who is the first woman to lead a state conference in New York, said. “As a legislator, as a woman lawmaker, I couldn’t let this moment pass.”

Follow Vivian Wang on Twitter: @vwang3
By Dean Meminger  |  April 26, 2018 @10:27 Prrest records
By Dean Meminger  |  April 26, 2018 @10:27 Lawsuit alleges NYPD illegally uses sealed LBy Dean Meminger  |  April 26, 2018 @10:27 PM
The New York City Police Department is being accused of using sealed arrest records without a judge's approval — records that in most cases should never be seen again because they involve cases that were dismissed or defendants cleared of wrongdoing.

"The NYPD is using them to target people for new charges, for surveillance, they are giving them to prosecutors," said Bronx Defenders Deputy Director Jenn Borchetta.

Public defenders in the Bronx filed a class action lawsuit against the NYPD, charging the police have violated the rights of thousands of people by illegally using their sealed arrest records.

Borchetta says the lead plaintiff had his sealed records, including a photo, used against him in a robbery case.

"The photo should have been destroyed years before but an NYPD detective put his photo into an array, the witness identified him and he faced those charges a year and a half before the prosecutor finally recommended dismissing the charges. And it left him scared and left him feeling like a criminal even though he was innocent," Borchetta said.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Lawrence Byrne says he is comfortable with the way police handle sealed material and that they follow state laws.

"We have to isolate it," said Byrnes. "And some of the records actually have to be destroyed as opposed to sealed."

But Bronx Defenders says it found several instances of sealed records turned over to other law enforcement agencies.

"I'm not aware of it, that is not something that has been brought to the attention of the NYPD previously," Byrnes said. "And now we are looking at it. We are going to reevaluate and make sure our procedures comply with the law and that the sealed records are treated the way they need to be."

Bronx Defenders say that's what they're asking for — that the NYPD get a court's permission before opening up the sealed information.
Cuomo Takes Ungainly Dip Into Sexual Harassment Debate DEC. 13, 2017

Reversing Course, Cuomo Will Return Weinstein’s Money OCT. 12, 2017