This article has been updated.
Roberta Kaplan, who chairs the Time’s Up board and in 2017 co-founded the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund to support survivors of sexual harassment and assault, resigned from the organization on Monday as criticism mounted over her role advising New York’s embattled governor, Andrew Cuomo, and his staff in their effort to discredit one of his accusers.
An independent New York attorney general report released last week found that Cuomo, a Democrat, sexually harassed 11 women and retaliated against at least one for telling her story. The report states that Kaplan reviewed the draft of a letter disparaging the accuser and suggested changes.
“We hold ourselves accountable. The events of the last week have made it clear that our process should be evaluated and we intend to do just that,” the Time’s Up board and president Tina Tchen said in a statement.
Time’s Up and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund are separate but related entities. Kaplan was the board chair of Time’s Up and a co-founder of its legal defense fund, which is housed at the National Women’s Law Center.
“We are counting on our sisters and allies not to lose sight of the broader work and let a man’s treachery be overshadowed in any way. We do not ask for a pass, we ask for perspective,” the statement read.
Kaplan, via her law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink, is representing a former top Cuomo aide, Melissa DeRosa, who resigned Sunday night. DeRosa played an integral role in Cuomo’s attempts to counter sexual harassment allegations against him, including from a former staffer, Lindsey Boylan, who in December 2020 publicly accused the governor.
The report found that current and former Cuomo aides “engaged in a flurry of communication” to protect the governor, including leaking Boylan’s private personnel file to the media and drafting a letter or op-ed that impugned her credibility. DeRosa testified that Kaplan read the letter and suggested changes that did not disparage Boylan. DeRosa also testified that Kaplan read a copy of the letter to Tchen. Tchen told the Washington Post last week that she did not remember the particulars of their conversation, but “you cannot make any attempt to attack or discredit a person who has come forward with allegations.” Both she and Kaplan have since called for Cuomo’s resignation.
In a resignation letter obtained by the New York Times, Kaplan said that she continues to represent DeRosa. “As a result, I cannot offer the degree of transparency about my firm’s matters now being demanded, as that would be contrary to my responsibilities as a lawyer,” Kaplan wrote. “I therefore reluctantly come to the conclusion that an active law practice is no longer compatible with serving on the Board at Time’s Up at this time and I hereby resign.”
Kaplan did not respond to an email seeking comment on her resignation.
In an open letter on Monday to Time’s Up leaders, a group of nearly 50 individuals, including some of the organization’s former staff members and clients of the Times Up Legal Defense Fund, said they “believe TIME’S UP is failing the survivor community.” Some of them signed by name and others chose to identify by descriptions.
They suggested eight steps Time’s Up could take to repair harm done, including conducting a full inquiry of the extent to which the organization’s leaders and figureheads have assisted or advised potential perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault, as well as publishing a detailed breakdown of the groups’ finances.
“TIME’S UP has abandoned the very people it was supposed to champion,” the group wrote.