Meet the Small Firm Hired to Probe Harassment Claims in the Top Rungs of New York State Government
New York Law Journal; November 04, 2021
Gov. Hochul announced that the state has retained the Newark, New Jersey-based Calcagni & Kanefsky to probe any complaints of harassment, discrimination or retaliation.
Investigative work by independent counsel helped drive former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is accused of touching women inappropriately and fostering a workplace ruled by intimidation, to resign from office.
His successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, is similarly calling in outside help to clean up New York’s Executive Chamber.
Hochul announced last week that the state has retained the Newark, New Jersey-based Calcagni & Kanefsky, a small—and relatively young—white-collar investigative boutique with a deep bench of ex-state and federal prosecutors, former assistant attorneys general and even a retired justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, to probe any complaints of harassment, discrimination or retaliation.
“We are often called upon to represent both institutions and executives in these … high-stakes investigations, as well as litigation and employment disputes,” Lauren Paxton, a partner at the firm who specializes in internal investigations and employment law, told the Law Journal.
The firm “will make findings without any interference from the Executive Chamber, report all findings to the Counsel’s Office, and will recommend appropriate discipline and corrective action. As part of this announcement, all Chamber staff were provided resources to educate them on the easy, confidential ways to file a complaint,” Hochul’s office said in a news release.
Founding partner Thomas Calcagni, who previously served as New Jersey’s first assistant attorney general, told the Law Journal that since the firm was formed in 2014, it has grown to just under 20 lawyers—and that what sets it apart from its much larger contemporaries that work in this area is its “focus and flexibility.”
“We’re also extremely good at what we do,” he said.
To investigate allegations against Cuomo by 11 women who said the three-term governor either harassed them or touched them inappropriately, New York Attorney General Letitia James brought on Joon Kim of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, who served as acting Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney; and Anne Clark, a gender discrimination attorney with Vladeck, Raskin & Clark, to lead the probe.
In less than six months after Kim, Clark and investigators from their firms took on the task, Cuomo, who has denied any wrongdoing, resigned from office.
Additionally, the New York State Assembly retained Davis, Polk & Wardwell to investigate the harassment claims against Cuomo as well as how his office reported coronavirus deaths in New York’s nursing homes, as it considered the possibility of drawing up articles of impeachment for the governor.
Calcagni said his firm has a national reach, but that it often represents companies and institutions involved in matters brought by the New York Attorney General as well as U.S. Attorney’s offices in New York. He said that it has also represented large state and local entities.
Calcagni said that larger firms tend to have just a “handful” of attorneys with backgrounds in government who take on the type of work that Calcagni Kanefsky considers its core business who are “one small piece of a much larger, multi-disciplinary firm, and with all the internal bureaucracy and rate inflexibility that comes with that.”
“Our deep bench of former prosecutors and government officials, in the sensitive, white-color and investigative engagements in which we focus as a firm, really forms the core of who we are. It’s how we define ourselves,” Calcagni said.
By: Andrew Denney