NEW YORK — An upstate New York woman struggling to find a place to live and a job after ending an abusive relationship said a state employee helped her, only to use it as an excuse to sexually harass and assault her, and the governor knew and did nothing to stop it, according to a lawsuit.
The governor’s office denies the allegations.
Lisa Marie Cater, of Buffalo, says in court papers filed Saturday in federal court that she wrote to the Empire State Development Corp. in the fall of 2015 seeking help, and then-Regional President William 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.
She says he began to sexually harass and assault her; he turned up at her home uninvited where he kissed and groped her, according to her complaint.
He constantly sent her sexually harassing text messages and e-mails, including a nude photo of himself asking: ‘‘Do I look tan?’’
An attorney for Hoyt has denied Cater’s allegations. Cater says in court papers that Hoyt repeatedly 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 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 Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office about the abuse, but officials ignored or were ‘‘deliberately indifferent’’ toward her, charges the governor’s office said were untrue. And at one point, Hoyt said he called Cuomo, and the governor wanted the allegations to ‘‘go away,’’ the suit alleges.
Alphonso David, Cuomo’s counsel, said when Cater first reported the complaint in October 2016 it was immediately referred to the state Employee Relations Office for an investigation.
‘‘At the same time Mr. Hoyt was instructed to have no further interaction with the complainant and to cooperate fully with the investigation,’’ he said.
The case was referred to the inspector general’s office, later that October, but Cater didn’t comply with attempts to interview her, David said. The matter was referred to a third agency, the State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
In other developments:
■ A prominent neurologist, already charged with groping patients at a Philadelphia clinic, is facing a growing number of accusations that he preyed on especially vulnerable pain patients at medical facilities in three states.
Dr. Ricardo Cruciani is accused of using his impressive reputation as a healer to trap women in long-term doctor-patient relationships marked by abuse.
At least 17 women in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey have stepped forward to accuse Cruciani of sexual misconduct that goes back at least a dozen years, either reporting him to police or retaining an attorney to pursue civil claims, according to an Associated Press review of documents and interviews with the lawyer and three of the accusers.
Women who say they were sexually abused by Cruciani tell the AP they felt they had no alternative but to continue seeing the neurologist, who specializes in rare, complicated syndromes that produce debilitating pain.
■ An Ohio Supreme Court justice and Democratic candidate for governor has issued another apology on Facebook after a post Friday outlining his sexual history with women drew widespread condemnation.
In William O'Neill’s latest post Sunday morning, he admits he was wrong and that he was headed to church to ‘‘get right with God.’’ He apologized to his two daughters and two sisters and says he realizes he’s hurt family, friends, and strangers with his ‘‘insensitive remarks,’’ while damaging the national debate on sexual harassment and abuse.