Lindsey Boylan’s work history: A toxic bully who had an affair with her boss and blackmailed him with it: Lindsey Boylan worked for the Cuomo Admin 2015-2018. After employees complained about her being a bully and creating a hostile work environment, she was counseled regarding her behavior. Boylan walked out of the meeting and quit her job, begging unsuccessfully back for it a few days later. 2020-2021 she claimed falsely that she left because of a toxic work environment created by others and was only allowed to go after several attempts. According to witness testimonies and her own social media history, Boylan had very positive sentiments about Governor Cuomo. During her employment, she had a sexual encounter with her boss Howard Zemsky, which she later used to blackmail him into supporting her sexual harassment claims.
Lindsey Boylan’s political career: Failed candidate, threats to Cuomo staff, victimhood as campaign motto: Boylan ran 2 unsuccessful political campaigns. When Governor Cuomo shortened the petition period for primary election candidates in March 2020 to reduce the spread of Covid, she sent threatening text messages to his senior staff. After losing the primary in June clearly, she announced her candidacy Manhattan Borough President in November and started her allegations against Governor Cuomo and used his name to boost her profile and publicity. Her campaign platform was “I am Lindsey Boylan, a victim of Governor Cuomo”.
Lindsey Boylan’s false accusations, witness threatening and tampering, collaboration with other accusers: Boylan accused Cuomo of saying “Let’s play strip poker” during a flight on the state aircraft. All witnesses who were on the flight stated immediately and later also testified, that this did not happen, with one exception: Howard Zemksy, her former boss, who changed his recollection between his original statement aligned with all others and his official testimony, after Boylan threatened him to destroy his life. Boylan was in communication with Bennett who supported Boylan’s claims after offering her to help with her campaign. She also reached out to Ana Liss and Kaitlin M. to add to her story, which they did. Boylan also contacted several other women who did not support her claims about a toxic workplace and sexual harassment, some then also being threatened by her.
Lindsey Boylan’s bizarre stories that nobody takes seriously: Boylan included several other stories which do not constitute anything close to sexual harassment but indicate a distorted view of men and social behavior. She describes giving roses to female employees on Valentines Days as “exploiting power dynamics”, handshakes as “rape culture”, and a hand around her waist while taking a photo as something sexual she would not even do to her husband. She accused him further to have kissed her briefly on the lips as she walked out of the office. The door was open, but there is no witness to confirm this claim. However, multiple witnesses said during their testimonies that they never saw the Governor kiss employees on the lips and that it would be completely out of character and stupid. Nobody who knows Boylan and Cuomo takes her serious, something Letitia James told Melissa DeRosa at the beginning of the investigation.
Lindsey Boylan’s Work for the Cuomo Administration
Lindsey Boylan worked for the Cuomo administration at Empire State Development (ESD) from March 2015 to October 2018, first as Chief of Staff & Executive VP, then starting in March/April 2018 as Deputy Secretary for Economic Development & Special Advisor to Cuomo.
In September 2018, after several employee complaints about Boylan being unprofessional, a hostile bully, verbally abusive, yelling and treating staff like children, ESD senior management including then-counsel Elizabeth Fine (and current counsel to Governor Kathy Hochul) requested her termination. ESD CEO Howard Zemsky authorized the request to terminate Boylan. (Screenshot from Submission to AG, p. 22).
Alphonso David, Counsel to the Governor, met with her on September 26, 2018. He addressed not only her behavior towards employees, but also her failure to comply with policies and procedures regarding timely submission of expenses, timesheets, training records, and employee reviews as well as her improper solicitation of an administrative assistant’s resignation. Even though David neither indicated nor planned to terminate her or ask for her resignation at this point, Boylan’s reaction was to leave the meeting and to resign with immediate effect.
Four days later she asked for her job back, David did not agree, but told he would get back to her. Instead of waiting, she then tried to contact Cuomo through his senior aide, Stephanie Benton. In this call, Boylan said that she loved Cuomo. (Screenshot from Submission to AG, p. 25-26) Cuomo, after consulting David and others, did not respond as he was advised. Boylan did not get her job back because of her behavior. (Position Statement p. 4, Arnold & Porter Letter to AG).
According to witness testimonies Boylan was actively seeking contact to and interaction with Governor Cuomo, and during the time in which she later claimed she was working in a highly toxic work environment and sexually harassed, Boylan posted positive tweets about Governor Cuomo and his team (quoted tweets are from June – November 2018):
Gov Cuomo – Couldn’t be more proud 2 work4 NY’s leader …. proud to work for the politician @andrewcuomo responsible for this … Proud to work for a governor who takes women seriously … So proud of my boss @NYGovCuomo … So proud of my boss @NYGovCuomo and all of Team Cuomo … 💗💗💗 … New York’s Best Choice for Governor.
During a workplace event in a NYC bar in 2017, Boylan went to her then boss Howard Zemsky, sat on his lap, put her arms around him and kissed him, which led to a sexual encounter between them. Zemsky stated this in an informal interview with the investigators. This was not made public, and he was not asked about it in his following formal testimony.
The interview lasted nearly five hours and was conducted by three investigators; Joon Kim, a former acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan who helped lead the attorney general’s investigation of Cuomo, also was present for part of the interview. “Boylan came to sit on Zemsky’s lap, put her arms around his shoulders, and began to kiss him, which Zemsky reciprocated,” the interview summary states. “They kissed for ‘some minutes,’ in the presence of (a coworker) and others. Zemsky was sitting at the head of the table, and Boylan was turned away from the rest of the table when she sat on his lap.” The summary, describing Zemsky’s account, said he and Boylan kissed again on the bar’s rooftop terrace and then took a cab, eventually going to Zemsky’s apartment …”
The incident in the bar was witnessed by coworkers and reported. Alphonso David – then counsel to the Governor – interviewed Boylan and Zemsky about it. During this interview in January 2018 Boylan specifically stated that she had not been subject to sex discrimination, harassment, or retaliation AG report, p. 73, Screenshot).
This matter is relevant because Boylan used this sexual encounter to threaten Zemsky into supporting her false allegation and because the investigators and AG James suppressed this information even though Zemsky told them about the threat and how it changed his memory to support her story instead of as originally Cuomo’s.
Lindsey Boylan’s Political Campaigns
From April 2019 to June 2020 she ran an unsuccessful campaign for US congress to represent NYC’s 10th district. From September 2020 to June 2021 she ran another unsuccessful campaign for Manhattan Borough President. (LinkedIn).
On March 14, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order shortening the petition period for primary election candidates to reduce the spread of the Covid virus for all candidates. Boylan – a candidate with little name recognition – reacted by sending threatening text messages to senior Executive Chamber employees.
Absolutely not helpful please relay that while we are ok, I see what the point is here and I will find a way to respond. Life is long. And so is my memory. And so are my resources …. Absolutely not helpful specific response to a tragedy but please relay that while we are ok, I see what the point is here and I will find ways to respond to the message. The future is coming after assholes.
In June, Boylan lost the 10th District’s Democratic primary to Representative Nadler clearly. On November 23, 2020, she announced her candidacy for the Democratic primary for Manhattan Borough President. Less than 2 weeks later, she started to tweet about the “toxic” work environment she experienced working with Cuomo and his team, pretending that this was the reason she quit her job.
“Most toxic team environment? Working for @NYGovCuomo.” … “I tried to quit three times before it stuck” […] That environment is beyond toxic. I’m still unwrapping it years later in therapy! …. I have important work to do getting elected […] I will not be spending my days responding to the trauma men like @NYUGovCuomo have caused every day in power … if other women decide to come forward I will back them up and elaborate. For now, I am getting back to my important work that made me willing to live in hell so long working for you.” December 5, 2020 Screenshot#1. Screenshot#2. December 8, 2020 Screenshot#1. Screenshot#2.
A few hours after these tweets, Charlotte Bennett contacted Boylan, telling her that she too experienced a toxic work environment, that she has no job, and then Bennett offered to help with Boylan with her campaign, and Boylan responds that it would help her (Boylan) if Bennett spoke to journalists. (Screenshot#1, Screenshot#2, Screenshot#3). 5 days later, Boylan changes her story from “toxic work environment” to “sexual harassment” and tweets on December 13, 2020: “Yes, @NYGovCuomo sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched.” Screenshot#1. Screenshot#2.
After Boylan began tweeting in December of 2020, there were phone conversations between her campaign consultant, Trip Yang and Ibrahim Khan, Letitia James’ chief of staff. Trip Yang was Letitia James’ consultant to her 2018 AG campaign. (Screenshot from Submission to AG p 33). Also several days after Boylan’s December tweets, her communications consultant, Lupe Todd-Medina, quit Boylan’s campaign, reportedly because Boylan’s allegations were the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and “[t]he Cuomo incident was the final straw”. See NY Daily News: “Ex-gov aide Lindsey Boylan loses press staffer over Cuomo sex harass allegations”).
On February 24, 2021, Ms. Boylan published a Medium essay making allegations against the Governor. In the month before publishing this article, financial records show that Boylan’s campaign paid 10,500 USD to a creative writer named Cade Leebron, who writes about rape, assault and trauma (see here, here, here, here.). More details on payments here.
After making her allegations, Boylan asked former female colleagues from the Executive Chamber to corroborate her story about a toxic work environment and sexual harassment. She threatened them after they did not comply with her wishes. (AG report p. 76, Screenshot).
Over the next weeks and months, Boylan’s accusations and increasingly aggressive attacks on Cuomo became the dominant, if not only, theme of her campaign.
I’m Lindsey Boylan. I’m a candidate for Manhattan Borough President, but you likely know my name from the headlines. […] It was an incredibly difficult decision to tell my story of harassment that I experienced while working for the governor …. I’m Lindsey Boylan. I’m running for Manhattan Borough President. . . [You] may have heard of me recently […] The Governor of New York is an abuser.
Boylan’s Twitter feed throughout her campaign is focused obsessively on attacking Cuomo, often in vile, absurd ways, instead of on her own platform and accomplishments.
March 6, 2021: “Resign you disgusting monster, @NYGovCuomo” Screenshot. March 11, 2021: “Everything with this man was always an abusive power play. Even a handshake – he had to enclose and crush your hands. Total rape culture creep.” Screenshot. March 24, 2021: “Abuser of power. Rape culture king. @NYGovCuomo” Screenshot. March 25, 2021: “Just the old office welcome to women in the governor’s office …” – posting a picture of Jabba the Hutt. (Screenshot). April 12, 2021: @NYGovCuomo’s office […]. Yet another gross abuse of power ..” Screenshot. April 26, 2021: Andrew “rape culture king” Cuomo. Screenshot. May 11, 2021: “@NYGovCuomo’s abuse, of systems & individuals, harms all of us.” Screenshot. May 13, 2021: @NYGovCuomo is using the power of his office to abuse and to validate abuse.” Screenshot. May 17, 2021: “Boylan Calls Out @NYGovCuomo for Abuse of Power …”. Screenshot.
Boylan not only attacked Cuomo, but also threatened Senators Schumer and Gillibrand (Screenshot#1, Screenshot#2) and even attacked President Biden and VP Harris (Screenshot). On March 12, 2021 she threatens about the consequences of her being not elected: “… you would be better served by me being in office. Me unrestricted, untethered and unaccountable is your worst nightmare.” Screenshot.
Lindsey Boylan’s Allegations
The report concludes Cuomo sexually harassed Boylan based on the following claims: Cuomo commented on her attractiveness, including comparing her appearance to that of an ex-girlfriend and on another occasion saying that she was more attractive than various actresses. He made comments and paid so much attention to Boylan that Howard Zemsky, her supervisor, told her that he thought Cuomo had a crush on her and asked her if he should intervene. Touched her waist, legs, and back. Said jokingly “let’s play strip poker” while on a plane. Kissed her on the cheeks and once on the lips. Interactions are described in detail further BELOW.
There are no witnesses and no evidence for Boylan’s claims that Cuomo touched or kissed her, and all other complaints are about ordinary behaviors: She received a rose (along with other female staff members) from the Governor’s office for Valentine’s Day. During an event, Cuomo and his then-girlfriend walked towards her and her husband and shook hands. He shook hands in a “creepy, weird” way. Touched her back during taking a photo in a “weird, sexual” way. Showed her a cigar box which was a gift from President Clinton. Purposely sat where he could see her. Said she resembles another woman and she looks like a classic Hollywood actress.
Lindsey Boylan’s recruited Co-accusers to support her
According to her own testimony, Boylan communicated with other accusers, specifically named are Bennett, Liss, and Kaitlin. None of the communications between them is included as evidence.
Caitlin who I know you talked to because I’ve spoken with her before all this escalated — not about anything she talked about with you, but I just know that she’s probably on your list … We overlapped and I actually reached out to her … There was a need to see if I could kind of help tell a bigger story … Two of the first people I reached out to were Ana Liss and Caitlin … [Q: You mentioned talking to Charlotte. Did you keep in touch with her after December?] … Yeah. I text with her all the time.
Boylan also reached out to several other unnamed women who did not contribute to her “bigger story”.
There was one [executive assistant] that I overlapped with … She said “I’ve been thinking about you, love you lots, but I had a good experience” … I reached out to … a blonde haired regional rep person. …. I found her on LinkedIn. Someone I don’t remember. She said she had a fine relationship … There were a few other younger women that I reached outed to. One or two I spoke with … They said, you know, “I hated the environment, but I didn’t have that specific experience” … There are one or two more … [name retracted] very attractive, similar coloring said “I am thinking about you, I would be happy to talk offline,” but then we never did. I think she got scared away. Then I did hear from [name retracted] … saying “I’m so sorry, I can’t do anything to help or speak up.” … I was really angry at her for not standing up for me.
The Interactions in Detail
Strip Poker Comment and Witness Tampering
Boylan alleges that, in or around October 2017, Cuomo said “let’s play strip poker” on a flight on the state plane. After Boylan claims this in her Medium article in February 2021, the Executive Chamber issued a statement of the 4 individuals who were on all flights with Cuomo and Boylan in this period of time, (John Maggiore, Howard Zemsky, Dani Lever, and Abbey Fashouer Collins) denying that this conversation ever happened.
During his testimony, Howard Zemsky (Boylan’s former boss) testified that Boylan sent him a threatening, jarring, disparaging text message and that he then re-read her story, which “kind of struck a note of familiarity”. Zemksy, after being threatened, then testified that he DID hear this comment. He justified this change of memory saying that he originally thought this was about a serious request to play strip poker or to even really play strip poker on the plane, not as a joke. The other 3 witnesses reaffirmed their original statements during the interview. (AG report p 70-72). Screenshot#1, Screenshot#2, Screenshot#3. Strangely, Boylan testified that she did not even remember Zemsky was on the plane (Screenshot, report p 71 fn#606).
Later that evening Lindsey sent me a message that was, you know, jarring,
threatening that […] I thought I’ve got to just kind of think about this, rethink it. It said, “I can’t wait to destroy your life, you shit follower.” […] She sent it in a — what’s known as an encrypted Confide message, Confide message application.
Note: Confide is a confidential messenger app that automatically destroys messages after reading and prevents screenshots.
3 witnesses supported Cuomo’s claim that he never made a comment about strip poker, the 4th witness Howard Zemsky changed his mind with an absurd explanation after being threatened by Boylan, which he informed the AG about. Still, the AG used Boylan’s allegation in her conclusion that Cuomo sexually harassed Boylan.
I have no recollection of the Governor making that comment to me. That would have been a bizarre and memorable comment. I also had conversations with other people that were on the flight, nobody else remembered him saying that. Also, it would have been inconsistent.
Also PSU commander Major Vincent Straface testified that he never heard Gov. Cuomo talk about Strip Poker, neither on the plane or any other occasion.
A Kiss on the Lips in passing by
During the summer of 2018, she claims that Cuomo kissed her at the end of a one-on-one meeting in his office when she was leaving. There are no witnesses to this accusation and Cuomo testified that he didn’t kiss her. The door was open when this allegedly happened, and Cuomo’s assistant was sitting right in front of it. (Boylan Medium article, position statement, p. 6).
A Myriad of “weird, creepy” Stories
Boylan mentions several encounters and incidents that she considers sexual harassment, creepy and weird. None of them indicates that Governor Cuomo did anything inappropriate or strange, but that it is, in fact, Boylan who either possesses or pretends to possess a distorted view and understanding of social behavior.
On January 6, 2016, at an event at Madison Square Garden, Cuomo greeted her “wrapping his hands around both sides of [her] hands”, which she felt was “weird” and “creepy”. (AG report p. 65-66).
According to Boylan in an interview (New Yorker, March 18, 2021) that in 2016, after the Madison Square Garden event, her boss, Howard Zemsky, told her that Cuomo had a crush on her. Zemksy did not respond to this claim after the interview, but during the investigation said that Cuomo commented on Boylan looking like “Hollywood actresses of the past”, whereupon Zemsky told Boylan that Cuomo had a crush on her.
On November 1, 2016, a senior staff member of Cuomo’s staff emailed Zemsky asking about Boylan’s attendance at an upcoming event. She felt that this was because he had a crush on her.
On December 14, 2016, Boylan emailed Cuomo’s senior aide Stephanie Benton to thank the Governor for letting her join in a trip that day. Benton responded “He said look up Lisa Shields. You could be sisters. Except that you’re the better looking sister.” Cuomo testified that he said something along the lines of her looking like a clone of Lisa Shields (or possibly a sister when confronted with this wording), but that he would not have called her better looking because he doesn’t compare the attractiveness of women. Benton testified that she doesn’t remember Cuomo saying the last part about looking like sisters and being the better looking sister and that she was possibly the one adding this to his comment in her email. There was no further exchange except this one email form Benton to Boylan over 4 years ago.(AG report p. 67-69).
At a holiday party in 2016 at the Capitol, Cuomo gave her a tour of a room in front of his office showing her memorabilia including a cigar box which was a gift from Bill Clinton. Boylan claims she interpreted this as an allusion to Clinton and Lewinsky. (AG report p. 67).
On December 31, 2016, Boylan and her husband attended the opening of NYC’s Second Avenue subway. Cuomo, also with his partner (and his mother and daughters) at that time, stopped to shake both their hands when passing by. Boylan felt singled out by this. (AG report p. 69).
In 2017, on Valentine’s Day, Boylan received a rose from the Governor’s office, which she found “creepy as hell” and as “exploiting the power dynamics with the women around him”. Cuomo’s office had been giving roses to female senior staff members for years. The list of recipients was created by Stephanie Benton. Cuomo testified he doesn’t usually see the list, but that in his understanding the top 20 or 30 women on the staff got a rose. (AG report p. 69-70).
“Over time”, Cuomo casually touched her lower back, waist, legs. There are no further details or witnesses to this. In her New Yorker interview, she lists as examples him touching her in passing when getting on and off the plane, and in her Medium article she mentioned that their knees were almost touching on the small, usually crowded state aircraft.
During 2017-2018 (date unknown), on a trip to Puerto Rico for recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria, Boylan claims that during an event, Cuomo purposly sat where he could see her, and after holding a speech, he touched her back while a picture was taken of them, which to her felt “weird” and “sexual”. (AG report p. 72, Screenshot).
In February 12, 2018, Boylan was at an event at the Mansion. Cuomo’s dog scratched her. Boylan claims that Cuomo said “Well, if I was the dog, I’d mount you too”. This was a crowded event with dozens of people present, including journalists (photo with Boylan in the middle of the crowd, far away from dog and man) where Cuomo introduced his new puppy Captain (video) to the public. Captain was taken out of the reception area after the speech, with Cuomo staying with guests (position statement & video). Of course there are no witnesses and Cuomo testified that he would never say this to anyone.
Based on Boylan’s public demeanor and statements on social media, as well as lack of consistency with facts and lack of corroboration from others, we find Lindsey Boylan’s claims not credible. Rita Glavin wrote in Cuomo’s statement, “Boylan’s agenda and motives are obvious“.
Witnesses who know both Cuomo and Boylan don’t find her allegations credible. Their statements were omitted in the report from August and only came to light after James started to release testimonies.
I didn’t believe them […] They didn’t seem credible to me […] The initial Tweet that I read […] seemed very inconsistent wit the type of behavior that I had observed the Governor performing … There was a description of an event where she alleged the Governor was going to play strip poker. I didn’t believe that.
We couldn’t believe it […] This is not him, I don’t see him forcibly kissing people in his office. The strip poker comment, too […] I don’t know where that would come from […] unless there is a different man that acts differently outside […] of the public eye. But for me, him coming out saying let’s play strip poker, is out of his character.
Boylan told Robert Mujica (Director of the Division of the Budget) that she was frustrated about her work at the Executive Chamber including inability to access or speak directly with Cuomo (AG report, p 73, Screenshot). This contradicts her narrative of Cuomo paying too much attention to her and singling her out.