Complaint filed against state
Posted May 30, 2018 7:12 a.m. EDT
ALBANY, N.Y. _ An attorney who said she was sexually harassed and mistreated by a high-ranking state official filed a discrimination complaint on Tuesday against New York state and the agency where she alleges the former deputy director was never held accountable for treating women as sexual objects.
The complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission targets James "Jay" Kiyonaga, who has been the subject of complaints filed by women at various state agencies where he has worked since 2002.
Kiyonaga is the second-in-command at the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, the state's second-largest agency. He was the target of workplace complaints filed by women while previously working for the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, the Division of Budget and the Division of Criminal Justice Services.
The EEOC complaint filed by Patricia Gunning, a former high-level attorney at the Justice Center, cited a "complete failure of the governor's office and the state to deal with this serial sexual harasser and discriminator. ..."
"By September 2017, Mr. Kiyonaga's 15 years in state employ had a consistent pattern," the complaint states. "He fostered a boys' club atmosphere in the agencies where he worked. He favored women he found attractive. He retaliated against women who complained."
The EEOC complaint also alleges Kiyonaga repeatedly made sexually charged comments to Gunning about female staff members.
The complaint was filed less than three weeks after a Times Union story raised questions about how state agencies and the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have dealt with the complaints against Kiyonaga and others embroiled in workplace misconduct, including sexual harassment.
Gunning's complaint alleged Kiyonaga engaged in repeated sexual harassment, favored or promoted women who "were a willing recipient of his sexual advances" and "distorted Justice Center policy to accommodate his romantic liaison."
Gunning said the Justice Center's general counsel told her that a report on Kiyonaga's conduct was going to be kept on file in their office, but would not be made part of his personnel file _ the same way that DCJS handled a similar matter involving Kiyonaga in 2012.
"Sexual discrimination and retaliation have no place in the workplace. Not in Hollywood, not in the boardroom and certainly not in New York state government," said Ilann M. Maazel, a lawyer for Gunning. "We are calling on Gov. Cuomo to take swift and appropriate action."
In 2012, a few female employees at DCJS filed a complaint about inappropriate and sexually charged conversations that took place in Kiyonaga's 10th-floor office. Wanda Troche, a former affirmative action officer for the agency, said her investigation was overtaken by the agency's human resources director, Karen Davis, and Mark Bonacquist, the agency's first deputy commissioner.
Troche said she later was told that a sealed envelope apparently documenting something about the case _ she wasn't told what it contained _ was placed in Kiyonaga's personnel file.
The envelope had a notation that it could be opened only by Bonacquist or Davis, she said.
Troche, who retired from the agency in 2015, said the incident was part of a pattern in which the agency's human resources director intervened in matters involving high-level appointees such as Kiyonaga, who transferred to another state agency not long after the incident.
In a federal complaint filed in 2011, Lynn A. Rowe, who worked with Kiyonaga at the Budget Division, said he mocked the way she walked and also made belittling remarks about her hearing. Rowe, according to the complaint, suffers from a serious muscular disease that affects her motor skills, including her ability to walk.
Gunning, a former prosecutor who was appointed by Cuomo as a special prosecutor and inspector general at the Justice Center, filed formal complaints against Kiyonaga that included an accusation he screamed at her in front of colleagues several months after she accused him of manipulating policy decisions to benefit a subordinate who was his romantic interest.
"He repeatedly retaliated against me before he got moved along (to another agency)," Gunning said in a recent interview, adding that she was forced to resign, in part, from the fallout of the agency's inaction.
Gunning said she also complained that Kiyonaga had made sexually charged comments about female members of her staff as well as other inappropriate comments related to sex. Again, she said, nothing was done.
Spokespersons for the Justice Center and Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, referred Gunning's allegations to the inspector general's office after Gunning contacted her several months ago. Gunning contacted the governor's office, she said, after Justice Center officials had stated publicly that they investigated the allegations and determined they were unfounded, even though some of the incidents were witnessed by other employees.
On Friday, a female attorney for DCJS filed an unrelated federal lawsuit against multiple state officials, including Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott, alleging her civil rights were violated when she was terminated from her job at the agency _ but ultimately demoted _ for cooperating in an unrelated sexual harassment investigation involving a former forensics director.
The lawsuit was filed by Gina L. Bianchi against Leahy Scott, DCJS Commissioner Michael C. Green and two other DCJS leaders, general counsel John Czajka and Davis, the human resources director.
Bianchi said her confidential testimony as a witness to the former director's alleged misconduct was turned over to DCJS officials without her knowledge last year and was used to interrogate her before she was fired. Under state hiring regulations, she was allowed to fall back to a junior-level attorney's position but suffered a $44,000-a-year pay cut.