A 10th woman has come forward with allegations that Gov. Andrew Cuomo behaved inappropriately toward her.
Sherry Vill of Greece said Monday that Cuomo grabbed her face and kissed her without her consent when he was touring her home after a flood.
Vill is being represented by veteran women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred. She said when Cuomo visited her, her husband and son in their home after it had been damaged by a Lake Ontario flood in May 2017, he grabbed her hand, and later kissed her on both cheeks, something she did not give him permission to do. She said it made her feel uncomfortable in her own home.
“He leaned down over me and kissed my cheek,” Vill said. “In what I felt was a highly sexual manner. I wasn’t expecting that at all. He said, ‘That’s what Italians do, kiss both cheeks.’ ”
Vill said she is also Italian, and while family members kiss, strangers do not. And she said she knows the difference between an “innocent gesture and a sexual one.”
Vill said as the governor left her home, he told her she was “beautiful,” and she said she felt Cuomo was “coming on” to her.
She said what happened next was even more unsettling. A few days later, a member of the governor’s staff contacted her and left a voice mail asking her to attend an event. She felt uncomfortable with that and did not attend.
“Notably, she did not say my husband and I, or my family and I, only specifically me,” Vill said. “I purposely did not respond to the invitation. I felt very uneasy about the call.”
She said she’s been “afraid” to speak out until now, when other women have come forward.
Vill and Allred displayed photographs, taken from a video shot by her son, that show the governor kissing Vill. They also displayed a letter sent a few days after the incident from Cuomo on official stationary thanking Vill for the visit, and an accompanying photo taken by the governor’s office depicting Cuomo grasping Vill’s hand.
Allred said Vill is not pursuing sexual harassment charges or criminal charges against the governor, though she said a case could be made for it.
“Technically if a person touches another person with the intent to touch that person, it’s a battery, civil, potentially criminal,” Allred said. “We’re not focused on the criminal aspect at all today.”
Allred said for now, Vill wants to present her allegations to New York Attorney General Tish James, who is investigating sexual harassment accusations against the governor by multiple women. Most of the state’s top elected officials have called on Cuomo to resign. Vill said she wants the attorney general to complete and report the results of her investigation first.
The governor’s lawyer, Rita Glavin, said in a Monday evening statement that Cuomo “has frequently sought to comfort New Yorkers with hugs and kisses” during crises.
Glavin's statement said Cuomo sent nearly identical letters to more than 30 other people impacted by the Lake Ontario flooding, and that it’s common for the governor’s office to send signed photos to people he meets after events.
“It is common for staffers to contact constituents after events and invite them to a future event on a related topic,” Glavin said.
Cuomo and his aides previously have said hugging and kissing is the governor’s customary form of greeting people, and Cuomo has said he never meant to offend anyone with his actions.
Allred said she is currently only representing Vill, but she would not comment on whether she has been contacted by other women with similar allegations. She said she finds the multiple allegations very concerning.
“I take it very seriously when there a number of women who come forward against the same powerful man,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.