Former Cuomo aide claims harassment by superior

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo 

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

A top official in Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration says she resigned because due to harassment carried out by her superior, the New York Post reports.

"As a longtime sex-crimes and special-victims' prosecutor, and as an employee who paid a high price for whistleblowing about an executive at a New York State agency for inappropriate behavior with a female subordinate, along with workplace violence directed at me for personally calling him out, my hope is that this conversation will be the beginning of a new era in [how] these issues are addressed by employers," Patricia Gunning told the paper.

Gunning was the special prosecutor/inspector general of the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. She had previously prosecuted sex crimes in Brooklyn and Rockland County.

Gunning, who resigned in August, said the target of her complaint was then-Justice Center chief Jay Kiyonaga. She says her complaints about Kiyonaga's behavior, which she was "terrified" to make, were "swept under the rug." Kiyonaga was in turn promoted to a "top level" position in the Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, according to Gunning, 

In a June email to Kiyonaga, Gunning accused him of "screaming and cursing loudly enough and for such a considerable amount of time that my staff was concerned for my well-being and my safety."

A spokeswoman for the Justice Center told the Post that Gunning's claims were "without merit."

"Each of the complaints described to you were investigated — one by our Counsel's Office, the other by an outside entity, and the Governor's Office for Employee Relations — and both were found to be without merit," the spokeswoman said.

Cuomo, who is up for re-election in 2018, is a potential candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. Gunning says she decided to go public with her accusations after Cuomo's chief of staff, Melissa DeRosa, opened up about her experiences with sexual harassment.

"So let's start with the truth. Sexism and misogyny is alive and well," DeRosa said in a speech in Brooklyn last week.