Common Cause: Albany Needs To Combat Sexual Harassment Too

Watchdog Group Cites Hoyt Case, But A Longer History Before Allegations Against Him

Dave Debo
November 27, 2017 - 5:41 am

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(WBEN) Even though most of the the talk of sexual harassment scandals are focused on either Washington or Hollywood---  there's at least one watchdog group that says  Albany has a problem too.

"This has been a persistent topic of discussion," says Susan Lerner with Common Cause NY, a government watchdog group.

Appearing on WBEN's Hardline program Sunday, Lerner said that the recent allegations swirling around former economic development official Sam Hoyt speaks to a larger issue, that needs to be addressed on more than a case-by-case-basis.

HEAR THE PROGRAM HERE:

"For sure Albany  is not exempt from what we see as a broader issue," she says, pointing to recent allegations against Hoyt, but also stretching back to 2013  when Assemblyman Vito Lopez resigned  from the legislature in disgrace over complaints that he groped his interns. It was later revealed that then Speaker Sheldon Silver authorized payments to his accusers. 

"Better systems, clearer controls, better complaint procedures would solve this problem, I think," Lerner said

Hoyt resigned abruptly earlier this month from his post as Governor Cuomo's regional point-man on economic development shortly after Lisa Marie Cater began making public allegations that she was sexually harassed by Hoyt.

 Lerner criticized the Cuomo administration for advancing Hoyt's career after he was barred from having any contact  with interns while an assemblyman. 

Cater, 51, says in court papers filed in  federal court that she wrote to the Empire State Development Corp. in the fall of 2015 seeking help, and then-Regional President William “Sam” Hoyt wrote her back directly saying he could help her find a job. He secured a position for her at the department of motor vehicles in Buffalo, she says. 

But Cater says in court papers that Hoyt reminded her that he could take her job away in a second if she complained or refused his advances. When she tried to tell him she couldn't’t handle the abuse anymore, he attacked her, grabbing and squeezing her crotch area, the court papers say.

“You know this is what I want!” he said, according to the complaint.

She says last fall, Hoyt offered her $50,000 in exchange for her silence, and she signed the agreement without a lawyer because she couldn’t afford one.

Cater says she tried to complain to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office about the abuse, but officials ignored or were “deliberately indifferent” toward her, charges the governor’s office said were untrue.

An attorney for Hoyt has denied Cater's allegations.

"Sam has previously acknowledged and expressed regret for a short term, consensual relationship with Ms. Cater," said attorney Terrance Connors. "These new allegations are totally inconsistent with her original story and contradicted by her own email and text message correspondence. If she persists with this lawsuit, we will seek dismissal at the earliest stage."

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