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HRC head could be held individually liable in Cuomo case says Allred

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Gloria Allred (Photo Credit: KathClick via BigStock Images)

LOS ANGELES – Attorney Gloria Allred, responding to questions about the Human Rights Campaign president’s links to the Andrew Cuomo scandal, said taking an employee’s personnel file after leaving a place of employment would be a violation of privacy rights — and Alphonso David could be individually liable if a court found he aided in disseminating that information to the media.

“Mr. David may be individually liable under New York law if a court determines that he did in fact ‘aid and abet’ Gov. Cuomo in retaliating against Ms. Boylan by providing Gov. Cuomo’s aides with a copy of her personnel file to leak to the media,” Allred said.

Allred, the Los Angeles-based women’s rights attorney known for taking high-profile cases and the lawyer for three of the women accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment, made the assertions Tuesday via email in response to inquiries from the Washington Blade on David’s presence in the New York attorney general’s damning report, which found Cuomo violated the law by sexually harassing as many as 11 women in his office.

Asked whether she’s aware of any New York State or federal law, policy, regulation, rule or ethics guidance against taking personnel files and whether David’s actions as described in the report would violate that, Allred said she’s not aware of any such law or rule for a departing public entity employee, but didn’t stop there.

Andrew Cuomo, gay news, Washington Blade
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

“I would argue that doing so may be violative of the privacy rights of the employees whose personnel file was taken,” Allred said.

Allred conceded public sector employees generally may have fewer privacy protections than a private sector employee, pointing out the public may request a public sector employee’s personnel file through New York’s Freedom of Information Law. Further, Allred said New York law “does not expressly state that the entire contents of an employee’s personnel file is ‘confidential.’”

Nonetheless, Allred said personnel files typically contain confidential information under New York law, including personal identifying information like Social Security numbers, home addresses, telephone numbers, personal electronic mail addresses, internet passwords, confidential medical information/history protected by HIPAA.

Disciplinary records, Allred added, may also be included in this category of confidential information “depending on a number of factors.”

“Thus, I would argue that a departing employee should not keep copies of a coworker’s personnel files because it likely contains confidential information and doing so may violate that employee’s privacy rights,” Allred concluded.

According to the New York attorney general’s report, Cuomo aides sought to distribute unflattering material from the personnel file for Lindsey Boylan, who made sexual harassment accusations against him, in an attempt to discredit her. One aide — as part of that effort — reached out to David in December 2020, after David had left the governor’s office as counsel and was serving as Human Rights Campaign president, and asked for the “full file” for Boylan, the report says.

David, according to the report, took material from a separate, unrelated employment incident unflattering to Boylan, and arranged for the material to be given to Cuomo. The report doesn’t explicitly say David participated in efforts to distribute that material to the media, which was revealed to be an incident of alleged racial discrimination. David has denied all wrongdoing.

Allred, however, said Boylan can argue that she experienced illegal retaliation in violation of New York State law because she believes the AG office sent her personnel file to the media — and David could be in trouble if a court found he helped with that effort. Allred concluded David may be “individually liable” if a court found he was engaged in efforts to leak personnel material to the media.

The Human Rights Campaign, which announced on the day after the report was released that David’s contract as president has been renewed for five years, has stood by him, but announced it has hired the law firm Sidney Austin LLP to conduct an independent investigation of the matter that will take no longer than 30 days.

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David (Blade file photo)

A representative for David, asked by the Washington Blade to respond to Allred’s assertions, denied the underpinnings on which they were made, saying the Human Rights Campaign president didn’t take a “personnel file.”

“David did not take any employee’s ‘personnel file’ as suggested,” the representative said. “This claim arises from blatant misinformation concerning Mr. David’s role in the Cuomo investigation. Mr. David did keep a copy of a memorandum concerning a matter he worked on because it was, in part, his work product (which is entirely permissible and standard practice for many).”

The legal representative added “to be absolutely clear,” as David has said before, he was required to produce the memo pursuant to rule 1.16 of the rules governing legal counsel.

“He did not provide any documents to the media concerning any Cuomo accuser,” the representative said. “This insinuation is categorically false and is not supported by any finding in the Attorney General’s investigation.”

Allred, asked to respond to those refutations, made clear she never said David undertook those actions in responding to the Blade’s question on his actions as described in the New York attorney general report.

“I never stated that Mr. David provided any documents to the media concerning any Cuomo accuser, nor did I ever state that Mr. David took any employee personnel file or records,” Allred said.

The situation with David continues to leave the Human Rights Campaign in turmoil After a tense staff meeting last week, another meeting with David, the board and staff took place over the phone on Tuesday that was emotional and confrontational, sources familiar with the meeting told the Blade.

David spoke at the beginning, reiterated his denial of wrongdoing, was emotional, but mostly stepped aside so others could talk, sources said. Michael Vazquez, an HRC staffer who has worked on faith organizing for the LGBTQ group, announced he is leaving, citing a culture of bullying and harassment, sources said.

A representative for the Human Rights Campaign, asked to comment on the meeting, confirmed it took place, but said it was a regularly scheduled staff meeting.

It’s unclear whether the situation will have any major impact on the ability of the nation’s leading LGBTQ group to conduct its mission, or whether its fundraising efforts have suffered, which could lead to layoffs for an organization already experiencing high turnover.

The HRC representative referred the Blade to an earlier statement on the matter when asked about changes in fundraising or plans for layoffs.

“This investigation will in no way hinder the organizations’ continued pursuit of the critical work necessary to bring equity and liberation to the LGBTQ+ community,” the representative said.

Allred, in addition to representing women in sexual assault cases, has been an advocate for LGBTQ rights and represented a same-sex couple in California that won marriage rights in the state in 2008 before they were taken away by Proposition 8 and later restored by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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President Biden endorses Trans Virginia lawmaker for re-election

Roem, a former journalist, in 2018 became the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the nation

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Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Tuesday endorsed Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) for re-election. Roem, a former journalist, in 2018 became the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the nation.

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) is among the other Democratic members of the Virginia House of Delegates who Biden backed. Biden in his tweet also stressed his support of Terry McAuliffe, who is running against Republican Glenn Youngkin to succeed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

“Building back better starts in the states,” tweeted Biden. “Since flipping the legislature in 2019, Virginia Democrats have been a model of progress—including helping us vaccinate folks to beat the pandemic. To keep our progress, we must elect Terry McAuliffe and Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Biden called Roem on the night she defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall and congratulated her. A Washington Post picture that showed Roem crying moments later went viral.

The Manassas Democrat who represents the 13th District in 2019 easily won re-election. Christopher Stone, the Republican who is running against Roem in this cycle, opposes marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

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Anti-gay Daily Wire host says 2 men shouldn’t be allowed to adopt babies

” […] because babies need mothers. They also need fathers, which is why two women shouldn’t be allowed either.”

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Screenshot of Matt Walsh via YouTube (Blade file photo)

NASHVILLE – Anti-LGBTQ Daily Wire podcast and YouTuber Matt Walsh joined the growing chorus of far-right and conservative voices outraged that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg went on paternity leave from his job in August after he and his husband Chasten had adopted two children.

On his show Monday Walsh not only criticized Buttigieg, but he attacked same-sex couples adopting children altogether.

It’s absurd for any public employee, paid on taxpayer dime, to be given that much time off. Now, you can make an argument for women on maternity leave but not for men. Paternity leave is a nice luxury for private companies that can afford it. The U.S. government is not a private company – it’s a public institution, deeply in debt, failing in just about every way and everywhere. So this is not a time and not the place for those kinds of luxuries. But that’s the somewhat safer point to make, right? You are in a much more hazardous place, you are in more hazardous waters when you go away from that and, instead, you start saying mildly critical things about paternity leave in general as a concept.”

I also didn’t say that there’s nothing at all for a man to do for his family after a child is born. I said that as far as caring for the newborn himself, most of that is going to be done by the mother. She, in most cases, will be feeding the child. The child also needs and wants his mother’s presence, his mother’s touch, her voice. The father should be interacting with the baby also, obviously, but the infant is far more focused on his mother at that age. And needs his mother more. There is no mother in the Buttigieg household, but that doesn’t change the point here.”

Babies need their mothers, which is why two men shouldn’t be allowed to adopt babies in the first place. And the outrage mob can now start a secondary campaign over that comment. But I’ll say it again. Two men should not be allowed to adopt babies because babies need mothers. They also need fathers, which is why two women shouldn’t be allowed either.

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Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell dies at 84

Powell, leaving mixed legacy on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ was key figure once opposed gays in military, then backed review

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President Barack Obama & former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Oval Office, Dec. 1, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

BETHESDA, Md. – General Colin Powell, the nation’s first Black U.S. Secretary of State, who served in the top diplomatic and military leadership roles in the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. and George W. Bush died Monday at Walter Reed National Medical Center at age 84.

“We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment,” the Powell family said in its statement. “We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”

Secretary Powell is the first high-profile public figure to die as a result of a so-called breakthrough infection of the novel (COVID-19) coronavirus. Powell was fully vaccinated, according to Peggy Cifrino, Powell’s longtime aide, who posted the family’s statement to social media after his death. Powell reportedly suffered from multiple myeloma, a condition that hampers an individual’s ability to combat blood infections.

For the LGBTQ+ community, Powell leaves a mixed legacy. Rising to the top of the military as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell supported in 1993 Congress moving forward with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that barred openly gay people from serving in the U.S. military.

During a key moment congressional testimony, Powell and other top military officials were asked whether or not allowing gay people in the military would be compatible with military readiness. Each official, including Powell,” responded “incompatible.” Congress would enact “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that year.

Things changed when President Barack Obama took office 15 years later and advocates for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” were eager to claim Powell’s voice among their ranks. After all, Powell was highly respected as a bipartisan voice after having served as secretary of state in the administration of George W. Bush and endorsing Obama in the 2008 election.

In October 2008, he endorsed Barack Obama as he was weeks away from being elected the nation’s first African-American president. “I think he is a transformational figure,” Powell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

After the Obama administration in 2010 announced it would conduct a review of the idea of allowing gay people to serve openly in the military, Powell came out in support of that process. Advocates of repeal called that a declaration of reversal, although the statement fell short of a full support for gay people serving openly in the military.

“In the almost 17 years since the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” Powell said in a statement issued by his office, adding, “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.” He added, “I will be closely following future hearings, the views of the Service Chiefs and the implementation work being done by the Department of Defense.”

Congress acted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the policy was lifted in 2011. At the time, Powell was widely considered a supporter of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and publicly counted among supporters of repeal.

In 2012, Powell had similar vaguely supportive words on same-sex marriage, saying he had “no problem with it” when asked about the issue.

“As I’ve thought about gay marriage, I know a lot of friends who are individually gay but are in partnerships with loved ones, and they are as stable a family as my family is, and they raise children,” Powell said. “And so I don’t see any reason not to say that they should be able to get married.”

The White House released a statement from President Joe Biden reacting to the news of Powell’s death, The President also ordered the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on October 22, 2021 as a mark of respect for Powell.

Jill and I are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity, General Colin Powell.  
 
The son of immigrants, born in New York City, raised in Harlem and the South Bronx, a graduate of the City College of New York, he rose to the highest ranks of the United States military and to advise four presidents. He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others.
 
As a Senator, I worked closely with him when he served as National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as Secretary of State. Over our many years working together – even in disagreement – Colin was always someone who gave you his best and treated you with respect.
 
Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all. Having fought in wars, he understood better than anyone that military might alone was not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity. From his front-seat view of history, advising presidents and shaping our nation’s policies, Colin led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong. Time and again, he put country before self, before party, before all else—in uniform and out—and it earned him the universal respect of the American people.
 
Having repeatedly broken racial barriers, blazing a trail for others to follow in Federal Government service, Colin was committed throughout his life to investing in the next generation of leadership. Whether through his care for the women and men serving under his command and the diplomats he led, or through the work he shared with his wife Alma at the America’s Promise Alliance to lift up young people, or through his years leading the Eisenhower Fellowships, Colin’s leadership always included a focus on future.
 
Above all, Colin was my friend. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times. He could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody’s business—something I learned firsthand on the race track when I was Vice President. And I am forever grateful for his support of my candidacy for president and for our shared battle for the soul of the nation. I will miss being able to call on his wisdom in the future.
 
Jill and I are sending all our love and strength to Alma, their children, Linda, Annemarie, and Michael, their grandchildren, and the entire Powell family.  Our nation mourns with you.
 
Colin Powell was a good man.
 
He will be remembered as one of our great Americans.

Former President Obama noted;

“General Powell was an exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot. He was at the center of some of the most consequential events of our lifetimes…. And although he’d be the first to acknowledge that he didn’t get every call right, his actions reflected what he believed was best for America and the people he served.

“Along the way, General Powell helped a generation of young people set their sights higher. He never denied the role that race played in his own life and in our society more broadly. But he also refused to accept that race would limit his dreams, and through his steady and principled leadership, helped pave the way for so many who would follow.”

Former President George W. Bush in a statement said:

He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam. Many presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience.

He was such a favorite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”

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