The fallout from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into sexual harassment claims against Governor Andrew Cuomo continues as his allies deal with the aftermath of their involvement in his scandals. The governor’s most trusted aide, Melissa DeRosa, resigned late Sunday. And another ally, attorney Roberta Kaplan, resigned from Time’s Up, which she co-founded, Monday morning.
“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve the people of New York for the past 10 years,” DeRosa, the secretary to the governor, said in a statement published by NY1. “Personally, the past 2 years have been emotionally and mentally trying.”
DeRosa’s announcement came hours after one of the governor’s assistants, Brittany Commisso, came forward after filing a criminal complaint accusing Cuomo of groping her in the governor’s mansion. Her resignation also came on the day before the New York State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee convened to discuss impeachment.
DeRosa, 38, entered the national spotlight last year as Cuomo’s second-in-command during the height of the pandemic, earning a profile in the Times and sharing the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Sitting beside the governor during his popular daily coronavirus briefings, the Times noted, “As secretary to the governor, she is the most powerful appointed official in the state, the first woman to hold that position, and one of the youngest, her robust command of facts and arcana only hinting at her sway.”
As allegations began to swirl around the governor, DeRosa was one of dozens of staffers subpoenaed by the AG in March. In the final report, DeRosa was referenced 187 times — more than anyone not named Andrew Cuomo — and she was found to be spearheading efforts to discredit the governor’s first accuser while discouraging further victims from coming forward.
Former staffers said that DeRosa and other high-level female aides in the executive chamber jokingly called themselves “mean girls” as they managed access to the governor and set the tone for the office.
DeRosa, whose father is top state lobbyist Giorgia DeRosa and whose mother-in-law is acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss, is also involved in another controversy: the state’s undercounting of nursing home deaths. She admitted to state legislators that she and others in the executive branch withheld the true numbers for fear of a federal investigation.
The AG’s report mentions Kaplan when she and other state and outside advisers were asked to weigh in on a letter disparaging Lindsay Boylan, a former state employee who was the first woman to publicly accuse the governor of sexual harassment. DeRosa had asked for Kaplan to give feedback on the drafted letter to show support for Cuomo. (De Rosa also obtained Boylan’s state personnel records and shared them with reporters as part of the counterattack on Boylan.)
Kaplan and Time’s Up CEO Tina Tchen reviewed the letter. “Both of them allegedly suggested that, without the statements about Ms. Boylan’s interactions with male colleagues, the letter was fine,” according to the report. The letter was never sent.
In Kaplan’s resignation letter, published by the Times, she states that “recent events have made it clear that even our apparent allies in the fight to advance women can turn out to be abusers. We have felt the raw, personal and profound pain of that betrayal. It has raised important questions about how and why Times Up does what it does.”
The AG’s report also revealed that Kaplan is DeRosa’s personal attorney.
A third Cuomo ally, Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David, is now under investigation after being named in the report. David had been the governor’s general counsel prior to joining the HRC, and he was also asked to review the letter about Boylan.
In a statement released on Twitter, Morgan Cox and Jodie Patterson, board chairs for the Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Campaign Foundation, announced they have hired a law firm to investigate David’s role “in helping New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo respond to accusations of sexual harassment.”
According to the statement, the HRC investigation will take no longer than 30 days.