Letitia James defends probe of sex harass allegations against chief of staff

0 11

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has defended herself against allegations she dragged her feet investigating sexual harassment allegations against top aide Ibrahim Kahn Wednesday as one of the accusers publicly spoke out on the controversy.

One of the women who accused Kahn of unwanted sexual advances worked as press secretary for James up until June 2021, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed to the Daily News.

Sofia Quintanar, 33, claims that Khan, the attorney general’s former chief of staff, grabbed her and forcibly kissed her. At the time of the alleged incident, Quintanar was no longer working at the attorney general’s office.

Quintanar’s resume lists her as currently serving as chief executive officer of Peak Public Relations. Prior to that she worked as director of communications for Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and, more notably, she served as a deputy press secretary for the state attorney general.

Quintanar did not respond to messages left by the Daily News on Tuesday. She confirmed her accusations in an article published Wednesday afternoon in the New York Times.

Quintanar told the Times she decided to speak publicly about the allegations because she felt the attorney general was protecting Khan, who has worked for James since she served as the city’s public advocate.

James famously investigated sexual harassment accusations against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who ultimately resigned as a result.

“I find it just appalling to see how the office handled this publicly,” Quintanar said of the attorney general. “Me and the other victims, we deserve the same vindication that was given to these other victims that she stood up for.”

Quintanar told the Times that after leaving the attorney general’s office, she saw Khan at a fundraiser for state Sen. Zellnor Myrie at the Someday Bar in Brooklyn. The two left the bar because it was noisy, and outside, according to Quintanar, Khan then grabbed her by the shoulder and tried to kiss her.

“I don’t even know how to describe the feeling, honestly, just disappointment in someone that I considered a respected boss, a former respected boss, who just months ago the Cuomo stuff had just happened to,” she said. “I was just in pure shock. We just went through all of this with someone else. How can you think this was OK?”

Khan has not responded to repeated calls.

In a statement released Wednesday, James said she handled the accusations against Khan “aggressively.”

“First and foremost, I thank the women who came forward, and I want to assure them that they were heard and that I believe them,” she said in the written statement. “My office treated this matter as aggressively as every other matter that has come before our office. Within 24 hours, our office took disciplinary action and put Ibrahim Khan under restrictions, and within 72 hours, we engaged an outside law firm that began an impartial and exhaustive review of the allegations.”

The outside firm she referred to is Littler Mendelson.

James went on to point out that Khan resigned as the probe was still proceeding. In correspondence supplied to The News, he wrote in a letter dated Nov. 22, 2022 that he planned to step down from his job by the end of this year “to pursue an opportunity in the private sector.”

“When the process concluded, my office spoke with each individual and informed them that allegations were substantiated,” James said. “I am confident in the steps that were taken to swiftly review the allegations and in the integrity of the investigation.”

In an email dated Oct. 3, James’ general counsel, Larry Schimmel referred to a conversation between himself, Khan and James’ first deputy Jennifer Levy about “recent information sent to our office.”

“During this period of time, you are not to independently investigate any claims or interfere with the proceedings,” Schimmel states in the email. He also advised Khan to work remotely and refrain from socializing with any attorney general staffers.

“We must be clear in condemning sexual harassment wherever it arises,” she said. “There needs to be accountability, and it’s my understanding steps were taken toward that.”

Khan is a married father.

Two sources who worked with him in different capacities over the years said his marital infidelities were an open secret among colleagues.

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.