ALBANY, N.Y. — An upstate New York woman said Monday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo grabbed her face and kissed her cheek at her home during a visit to inspect local flood damage, becoming the latest woman to accuse the embattled governor of inappropriate behaviour .
Sherry Vill made the allegations during a Zoom news conference with attorney Gloria Allred, describing a spring 2017 visit to her Rochester-area home after flooding near Lake Ontario. Allred said Vill has long wanted to report the Democratic governor's conduct, but her family was worried he would “use his power to retaliate against her and her family.”
Cuomo kissed both of her cheeks in front of family members while inspecting her flood-damaged home in what Vill, who has been married for decades, felt was a “highly sexual manner.”
Then, Vill said, the governor “stopped and turned to me and said, ‘You are beautiful.’"
“I felt like he was coming onto me in my own home.”
He then inspected the damage with his staff and kissed her cheek again outside her home in a “very aggressive manner,” Vill said.
“While still holding one of my hands, he forcibly grabbed my face with his other big hand and kissed my cheek,” Vill said.
“I felt like I was being manhandled,” said Vill, now 55. Vill, who is about 5 feet (1.5 metres ) tall, said the governor towered over her.
“The way he looked at me and his body language made me very uncomfortable,” she said. “I felt he was acting in a highly flirtatious and inappropriate manner, especially in front of my family and neighbours .”
Vill shared a copy of a July 19, 2017, letter she received from the governor in which he said he'll help homeowners affected by the flooding.
“It was a pleasure to meet you recently,” he wrote.
The letter was only addressed to Vill, who questioned why it wasn't addressed to her husband or son, whom the governor also met.
She said she received a phone call “within days” from a female employee on the governor's staff who said the governor was having an event in town and asked if Ville would like to attend.
“Notably she didn’t say my husband and I, or my family and I, only specifically me,” she said. "I purposely did not respond to the invitation. I felt very uneasy about the call. I was the only one who received the call and the personal invite form the governor.”
There was no immediate comment from the Cuomo administration.
A series of women, some who worked for Cuomo, have accused him of making inappropriate comments about their looks, giving them unwanted hugs or kisses, or making comments they interpreted as gauging their interest in an affair. Among his accusers are two aides who still work in the governor’s office. One, who has yet to speak publicly, reportedly said the governor groped her at the Executive Mansion last summer.
The accusation Monday has similarities to allegations made by Anna Ruch, who told The New York Times that Cuomo touched her face and back and asked to kiss her moments after they met at a wedding reception.
Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately but said he’s sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable. The Democratic governor has brushed off widespread calls for his resignation and asked that people wait for the results of an investigation overseen by state Attorney General Letitia James.
Allred said Vill would co-operate with James' investigation, and that Vill will wait to see the results of the investigation before weighing in on what should happen next.
The state Assembly is conducting a separate investigation into whether there are grounds to impeach the governor. Allred said Vill has no plans to alert the law firm leading the Assembly judiciary committee's investigation and is focusing on the attorney general's office for now.
“We’ll have to see what if anything she’s willing to do after that,” Allred said. "This is not easy for Sherry. As I said, she’s been very brave. She’s never been involved in a situation like this before.”
The Associated Press