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Human Rights Campaign President Has Weighed in on If He'll Resign Over Ties to Cuomo

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Posted: Sep 05, 2021 9:30 PM
Human Rights Campaign President Has Weighed in on If He'll Resign Over Ties to Cuomo

Source: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) has been out of office for almost two weeks now, but those associated with him and his sexual misconduct scandals are still finding themselves caught up over having such ties. One such figure, as we've profiled before, is Alphonso David, the president of Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

Last month it was revealed that David, who worked for Cuomo from 2015-2019, provided a file to Cuomo's aides which they used to discredit accuser Lindsey Boylan. Despite immense pressure from employees to resign, David did not. On Sunday, David reaffirmed that decision. 

Shortly after such a revelation, HRC opened an investigation into David. As Michael Scherer reported for The Washington Post:

[Board Chairs] Cox and Patterson initially expressed “full confidence” in David’s leadership. Days later, after complaints from staff, they announced an internal investigation into David’s role with Cuomo by the law firm Sidley, which David said he supported.

David is now demanding the results of the investigation be publicly released. A person familiar with his role, who requested anonymity to discuss internal matters, said David had spent 10 hours in recent weeks meeting with the Sidley investigators.

David spoke at length about the investigation in his statement posted to Twitter, taking on something of a defiant tone.

In his opening, David was firm in his defense. "I was confident that the facts would speak for themselves: that I had a legal obligation to hand over a memo when the Governor's requested it, and that I in fact spoke out against the draft letter I was asked to sign," he said about the memo and a letter looking to discredit Boylan, as well as for other employees to sign saying positive things about Cuomo. 

David noted he was contacted and told "there is no wrongdoing on my part," and took issue with how "the results of the independent review will not be shared with anyone -- not me, and not the HRC community." He went on to claim "It isn't clear from the conversations that a formal report actually exists."

And, David actually revealed that the organization purposefully aimed to do so during the holiday weekend, in hopes of keeping it quiet.

He was particularly firm when making it clear he would not resign:

Despite the lack of any findings, the board co-chairs have now asked me to consider resigning, not because of any wrongdoing, but because they feel the incident has been a "distraction" for the organization. They told me they reached the conclusion because they heard from two funders and a small handful of employees who expressed concern via email over the last several weeks. They told me they wanted to resolve the matter quietly during this holiday weekend leading up to the 30-day deadline for the review, hoping there would be less media interest during this time. I have the support of too many of our employees, board members, and stakeholders to walk away quietly into the night. I am not resigning.

David went on to take issue with such a point from the board co-chairs. "The idea that this is a distraction is simply not right," he said, as well as that "I have not been distracted, nor have my HRC colleagues who are fighting for human rights."

While David thanked employees and funders he claimed to have, and also asserted to "have the support of too many of our employees, board members, and stakeholders to walk away quietly into the night," there are reports which tell a different story. 

Jennifer Bendery with The Huffington Post shared many details of an all staff phone call from August 4, shared with her in the form of a recording from someone on the call. Employees were given the chance to ask question anonymously, with many demanding Alphonso to resign and wanting to know when he would do so. "Not a single person defended him," Bendery reported.

Boylan responded to David over Twitter.

The New York Post reported on others publicly fuming over David's refusal to resign:

Queens Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim — who has said Cuomo threatened to “destroy” him for daring to criticize him while he was governor — told The Post, “Alphonso David should be ashamed of himself, resign immediately, and apologize to the survivors and public for his part in enabling an abusive governor. 

“As a long-time ally and political enforcer of Andrew Cuomo, Alphonso David has been an integral part of Cuomo’s toxic and abusive core and must be held accountable.”

Eric Vladimer of the Sexual Harassment Working Group rapped David for hiding behind a narrow legal argument to provide cover for his “immoral” and “unethical” actions.

“This is a man who is a president of the Human Rights Campaign, which is supposed to fight discrimination,” Vladimer said.

“David’s use of a narrow legal argument as cover to indemnify himself for turning over personnel records to retaliate against a worker who was traumatized is an immoral and unethical decision.”

Allen Roskoff of New York City’s JimOwles LGBT Democratic Club called on David to resign from his position at HRC.

“As the counsel to the governor of the state of New York, he should be held to the highest moral, ethical and legal standards that come with that responsibility,” Roskoff said.

“Clearly, his poor judgment and reckless handling of personnel files is troubling to say the least.”

It also doesn't look like Dana Nessel, the openly lesbian Democratic attorney general of Michigan will be involved with HRC any time soon then. She tweeted last month that she would not accept donations or support from them until the group had a new president.

While David has refused to resign, other figures who were caught up in the Cuomo scandal ultimately gave in. Last month, Roberta Kaplan, the co-founder of Time's Up resigned, with Tina Tchen, the president and CEO, doing so weeks later.