The president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the latest casualty in former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal.
The boards of the HRC and its foundation terminated President Alphonso David for cause, effective immediately, “for violations of his contract.”
“At HRC, we are fighting to bring full equality and liberation to LGBTQ+ People everywhere. That includes fighting on behalf of all victims of sexual harassment and assault,” the HRC said in its statement. “The conduct in assisting the governor’s team, while president of HRC, was in violation of HRC’s Conflict of Interest policy and the mission of HRC.”
Joni Madison, the current chief operating officer and chief staff of the HRC, will serve as interim president while the boards engage in a search to fill the position.
The HRC last month announced a board-led investigation into David’s actions related to the New York Attorney General’s report into allegations of sexual harassment by Cuomo. The investigation was conducted through the executive committees of the boards, with the assistance of the law firm Sidley Austin. The report outlined David’s activities in December, while HRC president, assisting the former governor’s team in responding to sexual harassment allegations by Lindsay Boylan, who worked for the state’s economic development agency at the time.
David countered with his own statements via Twitter in the past two days, questioning the HRC’s review and whether the report had been completed. “Their refusal to offer up the findings, even with the indication that they found no evidence of wrongdoing, and yet still urge me to consider resigning during a holiday weekend to avoid media interest, does disservice to any persons or organizations involved in the fight for civil and human rights,” he said.
“We need to end this bullying and cloak and dagger process that disrespects what we agreed to and that now has the cochairs scrambling, trying to backpedal and recreate truths,” David said.
When the AG’s report came out, David said he was “shocked and sick to my stomach” and immediately called on the governor to resign. “I was also the one who called for HRC to conduct an independent review, and I participated in it fully. I was confident that the facts would speak for themselves: that I had a legal obligation to hand over a memo when the governor’s office requested it, and that I in fact spoke out against the draft letter I was asked to sign,” David said.
“Yesterday and today, Mr. David released a statement that included significant untruths about the investigation and his status with the organization,” the HRC said in its statement. “As a result of this conduct, material damage to HRC/HRCF’s interests, reputation and prospects has resulted or may be expected to result. 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 HRC/HRCF. This damage is evidenced by the intense media surrounding this conduct as well as the hundreds of calls, emails and other negative communications HRC has received from staff, members of the Board of Governors, volunteers, program partners, general members, supporters, corporate partners, political figures, and more expressing serious concern with Mr. David’s conduct and its inconsistency with the values and mission of HRC.
“This is a painful moment in our movement. While the Board’s decision is not the outcome we had ever envisioned or hoped for in terms of Mr. David’s tenure with HRC, his actions have put us in an untenable position by violating HRC’s core values, policies and mission.”
Before becoming HRC president in 2019, David worked in the former governor’s office. The New York AG’s report investigating 11 sexual harassment claims against Cuomo identified David as being involved in efforts to undermine Boylan, including obtaining a confidential memo about her employment history which was shared with Cuomo’s advisors.
A cascade of departures has followed Cuomo’s resignation as governor after the AG’s report was made public last month. Robert Kaplan, co-founder of the TIme’s Up Legal Defense Fund, and Tina Tchen, CEO of the organization, stepped down after the report revealed they had discussed a letter by Cuomo aides about Boylan.
David promised a legal fight over his termination. “As a Black, gay man who has spent his whole life fighting for civil and human rights, they cannot shut me up. Expect a legal challenge.”