BUFFALO, N.Y. — An investigation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics found claims former Empire State Development official Sam Hoyt abused his position and sexually harassed another state employee were not supported by the evidence. The commission notified Hoyt the matter was closed in a letter late last week.
"We were very pleased to see that JCOPE, after an intensive and extensive investigation, found that Mr. Hoyt had not violated any of the laws or had done anything wrong," Greenberg Traurig attorney Mark Glaser said.
Neither did the commission find Lisa Marie Cater's claims Hoyt physically assaulted her and threatened her employment were substantiated. Last fall, Hoyt resigned his position after admitting to an affair with Cater, but he rejected accusations of wrongdoing.
"Nobody wants to see their name dragged through the mud when the claims are false so to that extent he's upset about that, yes," Glaser said.
Hoyt is a close ally of the governor and the decision has spurred some criticism of the commission.
"I think any criticism of JCOPE is completely off base. This was the most professional investigation and in-depth, let me tell you," Glaser said.
Good government watchdog Common Cause NY said there are two issues. It does not believe JCOPE is truly independent and the governor and the legislature. Executive Director Susan Lerner also said an ethics commission was not the correct body to conduct the investigation.
"There's no expertise in this commission, a commission which is almost entirely made up of men to indicate that they have any familiarity with the necessary standards to be applied in determining whether or not sexual harassment has taken place," Lerner said.
Common Cause, in particular, took umbrage with the commission's questions about the accuser’s credibility. Lerner said it's very possible she was unwilling to participate because she did not trust the process.
"The referral of this claim to JCOPE, really whatever conclusion they come to, doesn't really answer the public's concerns and questions as to what actually happened," she said.
Cater still has a lawsuit against Hoyt pending.