Time’s Up’s Roberta Kaplan Resigns After Fallout From Cuomo Scandal Grows
(Bloomberg) -- The collateral damage is spreading from a damning report by the New York attorney general that found Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women and illegally retaliated against one accuser.
In the most high-profile resignation outside the Cuomo administration since the report came out last week, prominent New York attorney Roberta Kaplan resigned from the Time’s Up charity for sexual harassment that she chaired. Kaplan was named in the report as one of several allies who advised Cuomo on how to respond to harassment claims against him.
Kaplan’s resignation was confirmed Monday in an emailed statement from Time’s Up, following days of criticism that the lawyer’s ties to Cuomo undermined the nonprofit’s message of support for survivors.
“We and she agree that is the right and appropriate thing to do,” the organization said in reference to Kaplan’s resignation. “The events of the last week have made it clear that our process should be evaluated and we intend to do just that.”
Kaplan’s resignation comes after Cuomo’s highest-ranking aide and longtime women’s rights advocate, Melissa DeRosa, said on Sunday she would step down. Kaplan represented DeRosa in the attorney general’s probe.
Also on Monday, the Human Rights Campaign, a well-connected nonprofit that focuses on LGBTQ issues, said it hired a law firm to investigate its president, Alphonso David, for his role in assisting Cuomo in an attempt to disparage his accusers, an accusation outlined in the attorney general’s report.
The report issued by New York Attorney General Letitia James painted a picture of a ruthless governor who tapped state employees, former staffers and allies across the business and nonprofit worlds to help do Cuomo’s bidding. Now, as the governor faces possible criminal charges and impeachment proceedings, the fallout from the governor’s scandals appears to be widening.
Kaplan didn’t respond to a message seeking comment. Her decision was first reported by the New York Times.
Kaplan’s letter to Time’s Up said she was “reluctantly” stepping down because her ethical duties as a lawyer prevent her from giving the charity the kind of “radical transparency” about her legal work it seeks.
“Simply put, the standards that apply to lawyers are different from and more stringent than ethical norms that apply to others -- and I believe those standards are essential not only for the profession as a whole, but also for the administration of justice,” Kaplan said in the letter, obtained by Bloomberg News.
The New York litigator -- known for a landmark lawsuit that helped legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S., as well as cases against former President Donald Trump -- featured briefly in James’s 165-page report documenting nearly a dozen cases of sexual harassment and what investigators described as a “climate of fear” in his offices.
In December, after former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan went public with her claims that Cuomo sexually harassed her, the governor had a group of advisers -- including Kaplan -- review a draft letter or op-ed refuting the allegations and undermining Boylan’s credibility. The letter included male colleagues’ complaints about Boylan from her confidential file, according to the report.
“Ms. Kaplan read the letter to the head of the advocacy group Time’s Up, and both of them allegedly suggested that, without the statements about Ms. Boylan’s interactions with male colleagues, the letter was fine,” the report states.
Several other aides who reviewed the draft letter thought it was a bad idea to send, while Kaplan thought it was “ok with some changes,” according to the report, which cited testimony from DeRosa, Cuomo’s former top aide.
Boylan said on Monday that “I intend to sue the governor and others who were involved in these efforts to smear me,” in a blog post.
Human Rights Commission
Also mentioned in the attorney general’s report on the incident disparaging Boylan was David, who took over as president of the Human Rights Commission in 2019 after serving as a lawyer for the governor’s office for eight years. James’s report said David provided confidential information to Cuomo aides about Boylan after top aide DeRosa asked him for Boylan’s “full file.” DeRosa took part of the internal memos created by David and released them to reporters following Boylan’s first allegation of sexual harassment against the governor, the report said.
On Monday, the Human Rights Commission called David’s involvement “very concerning,” according to a statement by board chairs Morgan Cox and Jodie Patterson provided to Bloomberg News. The chairs said the nonprofit has retained outside law firm Sidley Austin LLP to conduct an internal investigation to be concluded within 30 days.
In response, David said he supports the commission’s probe into the allegations outlined in the attorney general’s report because “multiple inaccuracies have been circulating,” according to a statement provided to Bloomberg News.
He said he had “no knowledge” of any incidents of misconduct involving the 11 women in the report and said he only sent an electronic copy of a memo about Boylan to the governor’s office because of legal obligations to a former client. David said he played no role disseminating the memo.
“I did not sign their original letter nor any of their other letters because it runs counter to my basic principles and the work I’ve dedicated my life to,” David said. “I have been and will always be an ally to survivors everywhere for whom we fight every day.”
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