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Human Rights Campaign president fired after helping to advise Cuomo

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 9/7/2021 Bryan Pietsch, Michael Scherer
a man wearing a suit and tie: Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign and a former lawyer for Cuomo, said he did not know how the governor’s aides planned to use a file he gave them about Boylan. © Elijah Nouvelage for The Washington Post Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign and a former lawyer for Cuomo, said he did not know how the governor’s aides planned to use a file he gave them about Boylan.

The president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights group, was fired over his involvement advising former New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s response to sexual assault allegations, the organization said Monday.

The Human Rights Campaign said in a statement that Alphonso David was relieved of his duties because “his actions have put us in an untenable position by violating HRC’s core values, policies and mission.”

The firing, effective immediately, was the result of an investigation into David’s role advising Cuomo, which the Human Rights Campaign said had resulted in “material damage” to the organization’s interests and reputation.

“Additionally, this conduct has created damage to Mr. David’s reputation significant enough to impair his ability to effectively serve as the public face and voice” of the organization, it said. Joni Madison, the organization’s current chief operating officer, will fill David’s role in the interim.

A person familiar with the board debate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations, said that Human Rights Campaign’s foundation board voted with two abstentions to fire David, while the board of the political nonprofit arm of the organization voted unanimously to remove him. No board members voted against his dismissal, the person said.


[Human Rights Campaign president refuses board chairs’ request to consider resigning after helping advise Cuomo]

In a statement posted to Twitter at midnight after the announcement of his firing, David said the organization’s board chairs had “elected to hide in darkness.”

“They unjustly provided notice of termination to me in order to end my fight for the integrity of the review process and for what is right,” he wrote, adding, “Expect a legal challenge.”

David, a former legal adviser to Cuomo (D), had refused to resign Sunday, saying that the organization’s board chairs had told him that their investigation found no wrongdoing by him.

The Human Rights Campaign said Monday evening that David’s statement “included significant untruths about the investigation and his status with the organization.”

David’s earlier 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.”

[New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, and the six most corrupt states in the country]

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.

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.

[Leaders of the Time’s Up anti-harassment group worked closely with Cuomo aide after first accusation against him surfaced]

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.

The James report also revealed consultation between Cuomo’s team and senior officials from Time’s Up, an anti-harassment group founded by Hollywood and Washington insiders. The former board chair Roberta Kaplan resigned shortly after the attorney general’s report was released. The group’s chief executive, Tina Tchen, resigned weeks later after text messages revealed that she had stopped a planned release of a statement supporting Cuomo’s first accuser after the group had consultations with Cuomo’s office.

Time’s Up announced last week that eight of the 12 remaining board members would leave the organization. They include television producer Shonda Rhimes, actress Eva Longoria, Hollywood attorney Nina Shaw and SKDK vice chair Hilary Rosen.


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