Melissa DeRosa, the top aide considered to be Governor Andrew Cuomo’s enforcer, resigned on Sunday night, less than a week after the New York attorney general’s office released a report showing how she allegedly retaliated against one of her boss’s sexual-harassment accusers. The number of times DeRosa’s name appears in the report is second only to Cuomo’s.
“It’s been the greatest honor of my life to serve the people of New York for the past 10 years,” DeRosa, 38, said in a statement first reported by NY1’s Zack Fink. She did not mention Cuomo, who is facing widespread calls to step down and impeachment.
In recent months, Cuomoland sources told Intelligencer, DeRosa’s emotional state was described as “fragile.” And the New York Times reports that after the investigation concluded, she determined that Cuomo “no longer had a path to stay in office and that she would no longer be willing to stand up in public as his defender,” citing a source who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations in the middle of criminal investigations into the governor.
DeRosa was the first woman to serve as the secretary to the governor, making her arguably the most powerful unelected official in the state. In this role, she served as a key adviser on top issues, especially Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic. She also fueled the toxic environment Cuomo established in Albany, as New York’s Rebecca Traister reported in March, bullying state lawmakers who crossed the administration and yelling at female subordinates in the governor’s office. It’s that “culture of fear,” as the AG’s report released last week put it, that enabled Cuomo’s alleged predatory behavior.
DeRosa was the key person leading what investigators deemed to be a retaliation campaign by the administration against Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo aide and the first woman to publicly accuse the governor of sexual harassment. DeRosa, according to the report, sent several journalists Boylan’s personnel record, including internal complaints meant to undermine her credibility. James’s office determined that sharing such confidential records violated laws designed to protect sexual-harassment accusers from retaliation. The inquiry also found that DeRosa, the daughter of a powerful Albany lobbyist, developed the governor’s political defense as the allegations mounted last spring, including an effort to pressure a former staffer to call and record a state employee who had supported Boylan publicly to see what information she may have possessed.
As one of Cuomo’s most trusted advisers, DeRosa was also instrumental in the administration’s response to reports that it had allegedly covered up nursing-home deaths at the beginning of the pandemic. According to the New York Times, DeRosa and other aides led a campaign to stop state health officials, including health commissioner Howard Zucker, from revealing the actual number of deaths to the public. (DeRosa and the administration have denied those claims.) The attorney general’s office is also investigating DeRosa’s role in Cuomo’s book deal about his leadership during the early days of the pandemic; the inquiry will determine if state resources were used to help produce the book, for which the governor received a reported $5.1 million.
“As long as you know what’s going on and feel like there’s a plan that you’re a part of, then you can galvanize, and survive, and endure, and get through it,” DeRosa told Elle in a profile last year. “If you don’t, that’s when you hit real crisis.”