Albany, New York, 9 August 2021 (tca/dpa/MIA) – Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa stepped down Sunday as the governor faces potential criminal charges and calls for his own resignation over sexual harassment allegations.
The defection of DeRosa, who served in the most powerful unelected position in state government, is a major blow to Cuomo as he prepares to likely be impeached by the state Assembly.
In a statement first reported on Twitter, DeRosa said the past two years have been “emotionally and mentally trying.”
“I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such talented and committed colleagues on behalf of our state,” she added.
DeRosa is mentioned repeatedly in the damning report released last week by Attorney General Letitia James detailing sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo made by 11 women, mostly much younger staffers.
Investigators working for James’ office found DeRosa spearheaded the effort to discredit Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to go public with misconduct claims against the the governor.
Scores of Cuomo’s longtime allies in politics and labor, from President Biden to union leaders, have called on him to step down this week following the release of James’ report.
The 63-year-old has adamantly denied any wrongdoing and cast the independent probe as biased and politically motivated.
DeRosa became the first woman to serve as secretary to the governor, the state’s highest unelected position, in 2017.
She began working for Cuomo in 2013, first as his communications director, then his chief of staff. She previously served as deputy and then acting chief of staff to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
During the Covid-19 crisis, DeRosa became a regular presence at the governor’s daily briefings as spearheaded multiple aspects of New York’s pandemic response.
DeRosa has faced scrutiny for her role in withholding data about revealing how many people living at nursing homes died of Covid-19 during the pandemic.
In February, she told state lawmakers that Cuomo officials “froze” over worries the information was “going to be used against us” by the Trump administration.
A Cuomo spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.