Alphonso David, a former legal adviser to Cuomo (D), said the board chairs told him that their investigation into his role advising Cuomo during the scandal had been completed and found no wrongdoing by him. But he said they asked him to consider resigning anyway because he had become a “distraction” for the organization and because of concerns raised by staff and donors.
The board responded Monday by saying in a statement to staff that the investigation was not in fact complete and that David’s assertion that there was “no indication of wrongdoing” was a mischaracterization. They said a conversation had started with David and his attorneys about a “separation” — which David later denied.
“We were very surprised and disappointed by the inaccuracies in his portrayal of events,” the group’s two board chairs, Jodie Patterson and Morgan Cox, wrote in an email to staff. “That investigation will soon be completed,” the statement said, and the organization “will then have more to say.”
David’s statement, which came as a shock to staff at the Human Rights Campaign, revealed a remarkable division within the organization, just weeks after the board had extended David’s contract and praised his leadership.
“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,” David wrote in a statement he posted on Twitter. “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’s statement was followed by a series of comments from his allies criticizing the Human Rights Campaign board for allegedly mistreating him. Among those who issued statements on David’s behalf was former New York City Council president Christine Quinn and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
The conflict was the latest fallout from the sexual harassment scandal that pushed Cuomo from office last month, after an investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James found evidence that he had harassed 11 women. Cuomo, who continues to deny many of the allegations in James’s report, left office on Aug. 23 after it became clear that he faced impeachment and removal by the New York legislature.
The president and board chairwoman of the anti-harassment group Time’s Up, Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan, resigned last month after James’s report found they were involved in advising Cuomo’s staff on how to respond to the harassment allegations, and text messages revealed that Tchen had pushed back on internal efforts to put out a statement supporting a Cuomo accuser.
James’s report found that David — a onetime lawyer in the governor’s office — had been consulted by Cuomo’s staff on a letter the governor helped draft to undermine the harassment allegations of Lindsey Boylan, Cuomo’s first accuser. While leading the Human Rights Campaign, David suggested changes to the never-released Boylan letter, which was later leaked to reporters.
He later made an effort to get signatures for the document from other former Cuomo staff, even though he told Cuomo advisers that he would not sign it himself, David told investigators. He also provided Cuomo advisers with an internal memo about Boylan’s work history, which he had retained after leaving the governor’s office, the report said.
David has maintained that he was required as an attorney to share the memo about Boylan with Cuomo’s staff. He said in an August interview that he helped revise the letter by suggesting the removal of passages that were problematic and only tried to get signatures for the letter after the changes.
David’s involvement in the Cuomo effort to push back on his accusers has created significant discord within the organization he runs, which has long suffered from internal staff tensions. At a staff meeting shortly after the attorney general report was released, several employees raised the prospect of his resignation, and he said he would not step down.
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 that the results of the investigation be publicly released. A person familiar with his role, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, said David had spent 10 hours in recent weeks meeting with the Sidley investigators.
“The idea that this is a distraction is simply not right. I have not been distracted, nor have my HRC colleagues who are fighting for human rights,” David wrote in his Twitter statement. “The distraction would be calling for my resignation without providing the results of the review. Keeping the review behind lock and key would be an injustice to me, and more importantly to our employees, supporters, and all members of the HRC community.”
Boylan wrote on Twitter on Sunday that she thought David had not yet taken responsibility for his role in advising Cuomo.
“I’d literally walk away and hope the best for you @AlphonsoDavid if you could simply show a sliver of accountability, a shred of truth,” she wrote. “Instead, we are both stuck here and it sucks.”