Attorney General Letitia James on Monday formally received a referral letter from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office to begin an investigation stemming from sexual harassment allegations made by two former aides. 

It is an administrative, but important, step for James to appoint a special counsel with subpoena power to lead the investigation.

“Today, the executive chamber transmitted a referral letter to our office, providing us the authority to move forward with an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment claims made against Governor Cuomo," James said. "This is not a responsibility we take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously. As the letter states, at the close of the review, the findings will be disclosed in a public report.”

Cuomo's counsel Beth Garvey in the letter to James wrote the administration will cooperate with the investigation. 

"All New York State employees have been directed to cooperate fully with this review," Garvey wrote in the letter.

James is being granted the referral after Cuomo's office on Saturday and Sunday initially sought a greater degree of control over who would lead the investigation. Initially, Cuomo said former federal Judge Barbara Jones would be appointed, but the move was roundly rejected by Democrats and Republicans alike. Aside from picking his own investigator, Jones has ties to a longtime Cuomo advisor and friend, Steve Cohen. 

On Sunday, Cuomo proposed James and Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore pick the investigator. Legislators also rejected this proposal, pointing to the need for the special counsel to have subpoena power and the possibility of DiFiore residing over an impeachment trial. 

Cuomo as attorney general himself had been granted referrals to investigate his immediate predecessors in the governor's office, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson.  

Cuomo has denied the allegations made against him by Lindsey Boylan, a former economic developmental official and now candidate for Manhattan borough president. On Sunday, a day after former aide Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor made inappropriate remarks to her, Cuomo acknowledged he sometimes attempts to make jokes in the workplace, and apologized to anyone who may have felt uncomfortable.