Staff at the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights advocacy group, appear to be on the brink of a mutiny after they discovered their top boss was involved with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal, reports said Thursday.
HRC President Alphonso David was excoriated for nearly an hour and a half during a staff meeting Wednesday after employees learned he had a direct role in attempting to discredit a Cuomo accuser while employed with the human rights group, the Huffington Post reported.
Attorney General Letitia James’ blockbuster report detailing the state’s probe into Cuomo’s pattern of sexual harassment showed that David, Cuomo’s counsel between 2015 and 2019, gave a copy of Lindsey Boylan’s confidential personnel file to top aide Melissa DeRosa after he stopped working for the governor and joined HRC.
The file included disciplinary issues Boylan had while working for the governor that David “counseled” her on and was later leaked to the press to discredit her after she publicly accused Cuomo of sexual harassment in a series of tweets last December.
David, a longtime member of Cuomo’s coterie of confidantes, told staff he was “legally obligated” to hand over the copy of the file even though he no longer worked for the governor and said it was just a replica and not the official state document, the outlet reported.
Staff weren’t satisfied with his answers and many demanded that he resign, the outlet said, citing a recording of the meeting they obtained.
“You are creating a toxic environment where partners can’t trust us,” one staffer spat.
“When are you resigning?”
The moderator of the meeting asked: “What did Alphonso David personally know about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s harassment of multiple women?” and “Was Alphonso David complicit in any way in a cover-up of Gov. Cuomo’s sexual harassment of women?”
David claimed he “knew nothing.”
“No one ever disclosed allegations of harassment with me, either during or after I worked in state service. Also, I never saw anything,” he said, according to the outlet.
“I read the report word for word, and it left me sickened to my stomach… there’s nowhere in the report where it says that I was aware of any of these allegations.”
James’ report further alleged David discussed secretly recording a talk between a former Cuomo staffer and an accuser named Kaitlin, who claimed the governor grabbed her during a 2016 fundraiser and inappropriately posed with her for a photo, and then had staff reach out to her two days later and offer her a position.
It also claims David agreed to ask women who previously toiled for Cuomo to sign onto a statement that said positive things about their time working for him and that he told an aide he would sign a letter discrediting Boylan and her claims as political “if we need him.”
In response, David said James’ report shows he didn’t sign that letter, nor did he ever agree to sign any version of it.
Allen Roskoff, the president of the Jim Owles LGBT Democratic Club of New York, slammed David for his role in the scandal and said he has “forfeited” his claim to be an advocate for “human rights and for women victimized by men.”
“Helping Andrew Cuomo navigate and undermine the courageous women who stepped forward is despicable,” Roskoff said.
“Their recent behavior assisting the governor at the expense of the women he victimized falls on their shoulders, no one else’s. Our community deserves better.”
Following the meeting, a peeved staffer noted David is “sometimes called Cuomo Jr.”
“Alphonso was a great lawyer today, ducking questions and reframing answers. Most people don’t think he answered questions directly. It’s how most people view him,” the anonymous staffer told the outlet.
“One person pointed out that there was no apology for the entire 90 minutes from him. Not an apology that HRC and its staff is caught up in something because of him and that he was sorry for that.”
Additional reporting by Bernadette Hogan