Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Alphonso David, who previously served as top counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo, worked behind the scenes to protect the governor after multiple accusers came forward with numerous sexual harassment allegations, according to the explosive report detailed by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.
David handed over an accuser’s personnel file to the governor’s team, sought to convince women to sign a statement praising the governor, participated in discussions to secretly record another accuser, and was among those who Cuomo “actively consulted” in the aftermath of the allegations, according to the report.
The allegations against Cuomo and the subsequent release of the attorney general’s report prompted a massive controversy and sparked widespread calls for the governor’s immediate resignation or impeachment. The State Assembly’s impeachment probe into Cuomo is “nearing completion,” according to the New York Times, as the pressure continues to mount on a governor who has spent a decade in office and long maintained a firm grip on power.
David most recently worked for the Governor in 2019 and was leading HRC when he was asked in December of 2020 by one of Cuomo’s top aides, Melissa DeRosa, for the “full file” of one of Cuomo’s accusers, Lindsey Boylan, the report noted. That request came after Boylan went public on Twitter with allegations of sexual harassment stemming from her time working for the governor.
The file was created in 2018 when David, who worked for Cuomo at the time, set up a “counseling session” with Boylan to address a conflict between Boylan and another employee, according to the report. DeRosa asked David at the time to “pls create a file for lindsey / Pls put this in it.”
On December 11 of last year, after Boylan’s accusations, David proceeded to send files related to Boylan to Rich Azzopardi, who serves as director of communications and senior advisor to Cuomo.
“Some of the internal memoranda and documents created by Mr. David and his team for and after this meeting ended up being the confidential documents that were released to reporters following Ms. Boylan’s first allegation of sexual harassment against the Governor,” the report explained.
David told investigators that he kept Boylan’s file even after leaving the governor’s office because he said it “may have been the only instance where [he] was actually involved in a counseling of an employee when [he] was in the Executive Chamber,” according to the report.
By December 15, Cuomo and some advisors went on to draft a letter or op-ed to defend himself in which he “denied the legitimacy of Ms. Boylan’s allegations, impugned her credibility, and attacked her claims as politically motivated (including with theories about connections with supporters of President Trump and a politician with an alleged interest in running for Governor),” according to the report.
David was originally listed as one of the authors of that letter, which was never published, but David testified that he “told Ms. DeRosa that he was not signing the letter but was willing to reach out to others to see if they would sign it,” the report explained. In a December 16 text message, DeRosa told other former staff members that David said he would sign the letter “if we need him,” according to the report.
Then, on December 17, the report said David and others “worked on asking” women to sign a statement describing “positive experiences of working with the governor.”
Boylan was one of 11 known women who Cuomo harassed, according to the report. Another former employee, only named Kaitlin to protect her identity, drew the attention of Cuomo’s team when she started retweeting Boylan’s post, the report noted, and she said Cuomo’s team started viewing her LinkedIn profile. She also received a call from a former staff member.
“She did not perceive it to be a genuine call to check in on her well-being, but rather a fishing expedition on behalf of the Executive Chamber,” the report said. “Kaitlin’s instinct was correct. The former staff member testified that she called Kaitlin — and surreptitiously recorded the call — at the insistence of Ms. DeRosa, who ‘was looking for information about if [Kaitlin] was working with Lindsey [Boylan] or if she had allegations against the Governor.’”
David and a former Cuomo aide, Steve Cohen, and Linda Lacewell, the superintendent of the Department of Financial Services, were “also involved in the discussions about calling and recording the call between the former staff member and Kaitlin,” the report said.
Furthermore, the report conveyed that “in response to the sexual harassment allegations, the Governor and the Executive Chamber actively consulted” David and eight others, including Cuomo’s brother, Chris Cuomo, who hosts “Cuomo Prime Time” on CNN.
The HRC board of directors and the HRC Foundation jointly announced a five-year contract extension for David on the same day the report was unveiled, according to Huffington Post. The boards expressed “full confidence” in him and said the extension was “in recognition of his extraordinary leadership during extremely challenging times.”
It appears, however, that not all of the rank and file employees at HRC feel the same way. The Huffington Post obtained audio of a staff call at the Human Rights Campaign on August 4 during which employees questioned David about his role in the report and, at one point, someone told him he is “creating a toxic environment where partners can’t trust us.” Staffers asked him multiple times whether he would resign from HRC.
“I appreciate that perspective,” David said in response to the staffers, according to Huffington Post. “But I hope you can take a closer look at the report, because to suggest otherwise would mean I knew what the report said I didn’t know. I didn’t know any of this. So you’re basically asking me to resign for conduct I didn’t know about.”
David and the Human Rights Campaign did not respond to Gay City News’ request for comment.
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