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Since he wrote this on Facebook in a post open for the world to see, I figure I can freely quote Gene Lyons, the syndicated columnist who lives in Little Rock:
“Dear Gov. Cuomo: If you’re a sixty-something smitten by a lovely twenty-something at the office, there are two important considerations:
This is an Opinion
“One: It’s crucial to wait for her to make the first move.
“Two: Don’t hold your breath.”
That’s good advice for New York’s governor — except the “at the office” part. At last count, 10 women had accused 63-year-old Gov. Andrew Cuomo of inappropriate behavior, mostly workplace subordinates. It is rare for a young woman and a much older man to be of similar rank in a professional setting, and that imbalance of power is central to Cuomo’s problems.
It’s also at the center of the report released last week by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General regarding James Hendricks, who quietly retired last year as a special agent in charge of an FBI field office in Albany. (What is it about New York’s capital?) Hendricks, who is 50, appears to have preserved his full retirement benefits even though the OIG substantiated claims of sexual misconduct by eight subordinate women.
This is from a report by The Associated Press, which confirmed Hendricks’ identity as the unnamed subject of the OIG’s report:
“Even Hendricks’ male colleagues considered him ‘creepy’ and one described how he simulated masturbation once when an attractive woman left the room. But like many female agents, they did not report him for fear of retaliation.”
Other similarly icky allegations were in the report. Leering. Groping. One woman said Hendricks pressured her into a sexual relationship. “He was in a powerful position,” the OIG reported, “and she worried about what he would do if she did not respond to his advances.”
And Hendricks wasn’t alone in being credibly accused of sexual misconduct in the workplace or in avoiding disciplinary action. The AP reported in December on a pattern of sexual misconduct allegations against six high-ranking FBI officials who faced no official repercussions; Hendricks was among them.
(Creepy old dudes aren’t limited to the public sector, of course. You may recall that 70-something Terry L. Fleming, the founder of PerfectVision Manufacturing of Little Rock, has been accused in four civil lawsuits of human trafficking and sexually exploiting younger women. Fleming’s accusers were not employees of the company, from which he subsequently resigned as CEO, and he has not been charged with any crime.)
Affairs of the heart can be tricky. FBI policy, as the AP reported, permits consensual sexual relationships between supervisors and subordinates — but they must be disclosed to higher-ups to determine “whether remedial action, such as reassignment, is necessary to prevent interference with the FBI’s mission.” Separate from the misconduct allegations against FBI officials, the AP’s investigation found a “growing number of high-level FBI supervisors who have failed to report romantic relationships with subordinates in recent years.”
A fuzzy policy regularly violated compounds the question of whether a relationship between a superior and a subordinate is truly consensual. That was the case with at least one of Hendricks’ victims. Did he understand that their sexual relationship was coercive? Did he even care?
According to the OIG, some of Hendricks’ colleagues concluded that his creepy behavior was somehow the mark of a “Southern gentleman” since he had been a police officer in western Kentucky before joining the FBI in his late 20s. Any true Southern gentleman would certainly be offended by that assumption, and it makes me fear for women he pulled over for traffic violations in western Kentucky.
Back to Cuomo. It’s hard to believe that, in the third decade of the 21st century, he has the nerve to suggest that women in his office just failed to appreciate his playful banter. Kissing subordinates, or asking for kisses, or suggesting a game of strip poker — dude, no one believes that you didn’t know better.
Some people simply cannot be trusted with authority.
Bottom line: Gene Lyons is right. Assume that sweet young thing sees your paunch and bald spot and thinks you are about as attractive as her father will be in another 10 years. Sure, it’s possible that you’ll get lucky. But it’s also possible that you will win the Powerball. Don’t hold your breath.