The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has hired an outside law firm to look into its president’s involvement in helping New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoEMILY's List announces early endorsement of Hochul Hochul jumps out to early lead in NY governor's primary: poll De Blasio privately says he plans to run for New York governor: report MORE (D) in his response to allegations of sexual harassment made against him.
Morgan Cox and Jodie Patterson, board chairs for HRC and the HRC Foundation respectively, announced in a statement Monday that the organization hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP to conduct an internal investigation into Alphonso David’s involvement in helping Cuomo respond to the accusations against him.
The two officials said the investigation will “include consideration of whether Alphonso David’s actions aligned with HRC’s mission and values, as well as with professional and ethics standards.”
They said David will cooperate with the investigation, which is led by the board and will take no longer than 30 days, adding that it will "help shed light on the events that unfolded and guide the Boards on any necessary next steps.”
Statement from Morgan Cox and Jodie Patterson, Human Rights Campaign and Foundation Board Chairs pic.twitter.com/DliHiCIrSy— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) August 9, 2021
The move comes after New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) released a report last week that said Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, some of whom worked in his office, and violated state and federal laws. She also wrote that Cuomo and some of his aides retaliated against a former employee who came forward with allegations.
Cuomo has denied ever touching anyone inappropriately.
David, who worked in Cuomo’s office for eight years, serving as counsel to the governor at one point, was mentioned a number of times in James’s report.
Investigators discovered that he provided Cuomo aides with a confidential personnel file of a former staffer in the governor’s office after the staffer publicly accused Cuomo of harassment.
Cuomo aides requested the file the same day the former staffer, Lindsey Boylan, went public with her accusation against the governor.
They later leaked negative information about Boylan to the press, and consulted David on other efforts meant to minimize the accusers, according to the report.
David has since come under fire for his connection to the governor's response.
The revelations have raised questions about whether David can continue serving as president of the organization that works to protect victims of harassment and abuse.
Several staffers reportedly called for David’s resignation during an all-staff meeting last week, according to a recording obtained by HuffPost.
The chairs of the HRC and HRC Foundation boards wrote in a joint statement last week that they have “full confidence” in David as president of the organization. They pointed to his “extraordinary leadership” during the pandemic, racial justice protests and the 2020 election.
David’s contract as president was extended last week by five years.
David, in a statement to The Hill, said he would “fully endorse” the board’s decision to conduct an independent review of James’s report, citing the importance of transparency.
“It is an important effort to ensure the transparency that I have supported and engaged in with the board and staff since I joined this organization. I appreciate the open dialogue we are having and the support of so many across our organization,” David wrote.
He did, however, say that there are “multiple inaccuracies” in James’s report. He contended that he “had no knowledge” of the allegations of misconduct involving Cuomo.
He said he was “legally obligated” to hand over an electronic copy of a counseling memo regarding a state employee when he was directed to turn it over after he had stopped working for Cuomo.
He also noted that he refused to sign a letter, defending Cuomo from Boylan’s accusations, and did not agree to circulate it. He said he opted not to because “it runs counter to my basic principles and the work I’ve dedicated my life to.”
David then doubled down on his call for Cuomo’s resignation.
“What the Governor is accused of doing is reprehensible and antithetical to our values and all that we fight for. I have called for his resignation and reiterate that call today,” he wrote.
Updated at 3:07 p.m.