Sam Hoyt leaves ESD post amid sexual harassment investigation

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Sam Hoyt announced early Monday that he’s stepping down as the head of Buffalo operations for Empire State Development Corporation.

Within 24 hours, the reason for his abrupt departure began began coming into focus.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo picked Hoyt to lead the ESD in 2011 and he was a major player in the Buffalo Billion.

Hoyt stepped down from his post amid an ongoing sexual harassment investigation, according to the governor’s office, one that’s currently being led by the Inspector General Office.

New York State press secretary Dani Lever offered the following statement on Tuesday:

 

“All state employees must act with integrity and respect. When the complainant made these allegations, they were immediately referred to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations for an investigation.  At the same time Mr. Hoyt was instructed to have no further interaction with the complainant and to cooperate fully with the investigation.  Based on interviews and evidence reviewed, GOER identified information that warranted further review by the Inspector General’s Office and referred the matter accordingly. The IG conducted its own investigation, during which repeated attempts to interview the complainant were unsuccessful and the matter was referred to JCOPE for investigation.  With the investigation still pending, Mr. Hoyt separated from state service.”

 

 

In addition to his departure from ESD, News 4 has also learned of a settlement between Hoyt and a 51-year-old state employee. The agreement was signed on Oct. 11, 2016, when Hoyt agreed to pay the woman $50,000 as part of the settlement.

Hoyt issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

“I have made many mistakes in my life. Having a short term, consensual and inappropriate relationship with [complainant] was wrong and something I regret.  When I attempted to end the relationship, she threatened me. At that point, over a year ago, my wife and I agreed to a settlement to avoid public embarrassment to our family.”

The woman at the center of the sexual harassment allegations spoke to News 4 early Tuesday. News 4 is not revealing her identity because she is a part of an ongoing sexual harassment case.

The woman provided to News 4 copies of emails, text messages and more between the her and Hoyt. Like Hoyt, she agrees the relationship started as consensual. But she said it changed drastically during the late spring and summer of 2016, several months after she reached out to Hoyt for help.

“He helped me get an apartment, and he also got a position for me in the state, in a confidential management position, which I didn’t even interview for,” the woman said. “I just got the position.

“I just kind of assumed that was it,” she added. “But we maintained a friendship that turned flirtatious. And it was consensual in the beginning, only for the fact that, when you’re victimized, you feel like you owe somebody something when they do something for you. And that’s the way I felt. And that’s the way he made me feel, actually.”

The woman shared several emails between the two, some of which included language requesting Hoyt stop contacting her.

“I can’t continue this friendship anymore,” she wrote on Aug. 27, 2016. You have done a lot of very nice things for me, but, I have paid a price for each and every thing you did for me. …(T)o have you constantly sending pictures, emails, text that are and were so inappropriate boggles my mind.”

Among Hoyt’s emailed response sent the following morning, he says “Obviously, there was a physical attraction. As stated, I’m a flawed man who couldn’t control his emotions when it came to you. I wanted you, and tried anything to have you without realizing the repercussion of what could happen.

“I offered the money so yes, you don’t say what I’ve done,” the email continued. “And also not to humiliate my boys or myself from the public judgement as they endured before. If you care and respect the GOOD (sic) things I have done, take the money and start a new life. But, please consider me in it at some point.”

In 2008, Hoyt was barred from participating in the New York Assembly’s internship program, after admitting to having an affair with an intern in 2003-2004.

At the time, Hoyt was quoted as saying: “I accept the committee’s findings and once again apologize to my family and the people of the one-hundred-forty-forth assembly district,” according to News 4 archives. “I look forward to putting this matter behind me.”

The woman who brought the latest allegations against Hoyt told News 4 on Tuesday she quickly grew upset when she found out about his resignation from ESD.

“Sam Hoyt did not just resign,” she said. “And I will say it to anybody that will listen. He left because he had to leave. He left because the heat he was taking for what he did to me was coming to light. And that’s exactly what happened.

After reaching out to the state multiple times, she says the state began its formal investigation in January 2017. She said she had multiple meetings with representatives from the Inspector General’s Office in the spring, and then heard nothing, until early Tuesday, when a representative called to inform her Hoyt was no longer an employee of the state.

News 4 confirmed the phone call at 11:05 a.m.

“What he did to me was wrong,” she added. “And no one should suffer from that. I urge people to come forward if they’ve dealt with anything like this from any body. No one should be put through this. No woman or man should have to feel afraid, like they’re going to lose their job or lose their house because they don’t do what someone wants.”

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