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Hochul Acknowledges She Didn’t Vet Adviser Accused of Sexual Harassment

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Gov. Kathy Hochul acknowledged on Thursday that she had not scrutinized the background of a longtime political adviser when she hired him to run her 2018 re-election campaign for lieutenant governor of New York, just months after he was fired for sexually harassing colleagues at a nonprofit in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Hochul said that she had seen no reason to vet the adviser, Adam C. Sullivan, because he had already managed her 2011 congressional race. In the absence of a thorough background check, the governor said she had no knowledge of the accusations against him until The New York Times reported them this week, long after Mr. Sullivan had risen to become one of her most trusted counselors.

“To ask for a résumé and go through a whole new process later for campaigns, that wasn’t what I was doing,” Ms. Hochul, a Democrat, told reporters of her 2018 hiring decision. “Had I known what I knew now, there would be a very different circumstance.”

The remarks were part of Ms. Hochul’s first extended account of her dealings with Mr. Sullivan, 43, whose close ties with the governor threaten to cast a cloud over her promises to clean up Albany after her predecessor, Andrew M. Cuomo, resigned amid his own sexual harassment scandal.

Ms. Hochul cut ties with Mr. Sullivan last week after an earlier report by The Times. That story questioned his stewardship of Ms. Hochul’s political operation, which he ran from his home in Colorado. It also documented his demeaning treatment of staff on her 2022 campaign, which she said she had not known.

On Wednesday, The Times published another article detailing the accounts of two women who said that Mr. Sullivan had sexually harassed them when they were working at the Hub Project, a Democratic advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

One of the women said he had cornered her at a bar near the group’s office and boasted about his sexual prowess and penis size, telling her how he would like to sleep with her. The other woman said that Ms. Sullivan made similar comments to her weeks later, repeatedly calling her a “hot girl” and demanding to know how frequently she had sex.

The women eventually filed formal complaints with the Hub Project. After a human resources officer investigated, Mr. Sullivan was fired in July 2017. A third woman described a similar experience to The Times, but said she did not report it to the Hub Project.

Mr. Sullivan nonetheless found a new job by April 2018, on the payroll of Ms. Hochul’s campaign for lieutenant governor.

“I believe the women,” Ms. Hochul said on Thursday. She said that she was also troubled by The Times’s accounts of Mr. Sullivan making similar sexualized comments to women working on her campaigns as recently as last year.

“For all the women who had to endure this, it is heartbreaking to me that occurred, perhaps in an environment associated with one of my campaigns,” she said. “I want to know more, absolutely.”

Ms. Hochul said she was not ready to announce whether she would appoint someone to investigate Mr. Sullivan’s conduct on her own campaigns. She said she did not even know what the Hub Project was, though The Times reported that she had helped recommend Mr. Sullivan for his job there.

“Our relationships were more one-on-one,” she said. “I did not see him in this environment.”

But her critics, including in her own party, were not persuaded.

Ron Kim, a Democratic assemblyman from Queens, said Ms. Hochul was falling behind on her promise to change the culture in Albany. He expressed concern that her most recent campaign had allowed Mr. Sullivan to be paid through a secretive arrangement that hid the more than $500,000 he earned from campaign finance filings.

“She’s missing out on an important moment as the first woman governor to usher in what a compassionate and caring state could look like,” he said. “It’s the same old Albany.”

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