Ex-legislative aide Gail Palmer said that the often-angry New York lawmaker would frequently use the n-word, as well as “smash things on the floor while ‘frequently cursing at and excoriating’ terrified staffers, who kept silent because they needed their jobs.”
The 80-year-old Democrat was prone to calling her workers “motherf- -kers,” and would make strange announcements like, “I’m feeling colored today,” or “I’m feeling n- - -erish,” according to court documents.
Cook derided Palmer as a “GeeChee” and “mulatto” after spotting a framed photo of Palmer’s mother on Palmer’s desk.
“’GeeChee’ can refer to a coastal population of black people in the South with Creole origins but can also be derogatory slang for those with biracial backgrounds.
“Palmer, 66, claims to have repeatedly begged Cook, to no avail, to stop using racial epithets.”
“This is my office, I can do whatever the hell I want,” Cook would say.
“It was degrading,” Palmer reported, “She thought it was cute.”
Cook, who also serves as the Queens County Democratic Committee chair, denied using those terms, but according to Palmer, Cook only used that type of language when she wasn’t around any ‘white people.’
“She was a different person in Albany,” Palmer said. “I was highly insulted that she would treat our people like this . . . She was an entirely different person when a Caucasian walked into the office.”
“Cook, who has served in her southeast Queens seat for 28 years, could be sweet or turn inexplicably violent, Palmer alleged in a $1.5 million discrimination lawsuit she filed in Queens Supreme Court last week.
“When an employee told Cook that staffers had been listening to Christmas carols in the Jamaica office during the holidays, an enraged Cook picked up the radio and slammed it to the floor, Palmer said.
“You never knew what you were coming to work to,” Palmer told The Post. “You woke up with knots in your stomach.”
“Palmer was shocked at the difference between Cook’s polished social persona and her low-life behavior as a boss, repeatedly calling Palmer a “whore” for wearing sleeveless dresses on hot summer days.
“I didn’t realize elected officials can do anything they wanted to do and get away with it — how she conducted her office, how she spoke to people, how people just sat there and accepted what was taking place,” Palmer said.
“Cook has skirted scandal for years.
“A nonprofit she founded, the Rockaway Boulevard Local Development Corp., came under federal investigation after The Post exposed its misspending of public money, including more than $2.5 million from the Port Authority.
“The group had used some of the cash to buy a vacant lot on Rockaway Boulevard, a few blocks from Cook’s district office, with a plan to build a business-resource center that never materialized.
“The charity folded in 2010, but a few years later it began renting out the land as a private parking lot for trucks and construction equipment. Cook told The Post in 2015 that the money would go to pay off back taxes but provided few specifics.
“The PA earlier this year joined a probe by the state Attorney General’s Office — separate from the federal probe — investigating the arrangement.
“In the first six months of 2017, she raked in $18,562 in per-diem payments plus another $3,714.31 for mileage and tolls, collecting more than Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
“Even though it is illegal for state lawmakers to hire family members, Palmer claims in her suit that Cook had no problem putting her purported grandson, Reginald Chalmers, 37, on the payroll. He is still being paid on the taxpayer dime with a salary of $42,000 a year, according to the state Comptroller’s Office.”
Palmer said Cook warned her “to never refer to Chalmers as her grandson,” according to the suit, but “Everybody knew.”
Chalmers watched porn in the office and showed up just two to four hours a day, but got paid “as if he worked a full 40 hours per week,” according to the complaint.
“Find some time for Reggie,” was allegedly Cook’s way of asking for him to be put on time sheets.
Once, when he didn’t get free breakfast, “He exploded . . . He was screaming. He was threatening. I thought he was ready to hit me,” Palmer said.
“A fed-up Palmer finally filed a complaint with the Assembly’s human-resources department, noting Chalmers was Cook’s grandson.
“An investigation found the “unfortunate” incident with Chalmers didn’t violate the legislative body’s harassment policy, and the Assembly ignored the alleged nepotism, Palmer said.
“Palmer started working for Cook in 2006 but lasted only a few months because of the toxic environment, she said.
“She returned in 2010 at Cook’s request, staying for six years to get medical benefits for her terminally ill husband, Tyrone, who suffered from liver cancer and pulmonary disease, she said.
“I couldn’t leave. Tyrone took care of me all my life. It was my turn to step up to the plate,” she explained.
Cook allegedly proclaimed more than once that Tyrone “wasn’t really sick” and said, “He’s not even really dying.”
Palmer claims she got no sympathy when she called Cook in September, 2016. Cook said, “What are you going to tell me now, he’s in a coma?”
“No, assemblywoman, he died,” Palmer replied. Cook hung up.
Palmer asked Cook not to attend her husband’s memorial service, so Cook fired her.
When Palmer showed up for work on Jan. 2, 2017, Cook confronted her, “I fired your ass . . . You’re uncomfortable with me being at your home? I’m uncomfortable with you being in my office.”
The lawsuit seeks $1.5 million for the treatment Palmer underwent.