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Time’s Up Exec Roberta Kaplan Resigns After Involvement in Cuomo Investigation and Open Letter From Ex-Staffers

Roberta Kaplan
AP

Roberta Kaplan, a prominent lawyer who co-founded Time’s Up, has resigned from the organization after she was named in the New York Attorney General’s investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment allegations.

Her resignation comes after a group of former Time’s Up staffers and Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund clients published an open letter to the board, calling out the organization for “failing all survivors.”

“We write to you as a collective group of survivors and victims who believe Time’s Up is failing the survivor community. We believed in your mission and hoped that your investment in eradicating sexual assault and harassment in the workplace would change the tide to support us as we came forward, but we are disappointed,” the letter, published Monday, reads. “Time’s Up” has abandoned the very people it was supposed to champion. The board continues to fail to heed the outcry from survivors. Time’s Up is failing all survivors.”

The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that Gov. Cuomo instructed his aide Melissa DeRosa, who resigned Monday morning, to seek input from Kaplan and other lawyers for a response to ex-aide Lindsey Boylan’s allegations of sexual harassment.

The open letter to the Time’s Up board said the organization “should be ashamed” of its involvement with people accused of misconduct.

“There is a consistent pattern of behavior where the decision-makers at Time’s Up continue to align themselves with abusers at the expense of survivors. Time’s Up should be ashamed,” the letter says. “Time’s Up has prioritized its proximity to power over mission. And now that Time’s Up’s board members’ and staff’s actions have come to light, you cannot rewrite history by signing open letters to the New York State Senate and Assembly calling on them to remove Governor Cuomo from office when you actively worked to further his defense behind closed doors.”

In a statement sent to Variety, Time’s Up said Kaplan’s resignation was “right and appropriate thing to do.”

Speaking to Variety, Caitlin Dulany, one of the most prominent Harvey Weinstein accusers who worked with the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund during Weinstein’s New York trial, says that while Kaplan “has hurt Time’s Up as an organization immensely,” she still stands behind the organization’s work.

“There is no question in my mind that Roberta Kaplan should have resigned from the Board of Times Up months ago,” Dulany tells Variety. “I am deeply saddened by this.”

“While I support Tina Tchen and Times Up in their mission, I agree with the survivors who wrote the open letter to Times Up that the Times Up Legal Defense Fund needs to be reviewed and reassessed,” Dulany continues. “And while it is absolutely imperative that the Fund receive more input from survivors in the future, it is also important to acknowledge all of the good work that they have done.”

Dulany says that as a Silence Breaker and one of the women who spoke out against Weinstein, the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund supported her and her “sisters” during the historic New York criminal trial. “They worked with us to make sure our voices were heard and our stories weren’t forgotten or misunderstood,” Dulany says. “We stayed center stage at a time when the focus could have been solely on Harvey and his plight. This was an important and game-changing piece of that moment in history and I am forever grateful.”

Read the Time’s Up statement regarding Kaplan below:

At Time’s Up, our fundamental mission has always been to empower women. Empower us to demand safe workplaces, childcare support, pay equity and the dignity of respect and equality while achieving one’s career. We started this organization to help accelerate change. Most of our board members and a significant portion of our staff are also survivors of sexual harassment or sexual assault.

We’ve worked to hold power accountable in board rooms, in the halls of government, and in organizations big and small, and we have felt uniquely capable of doing so because many of us have worked in those very institutions. We have never felt co-opted by that experience, only informed by it to try new strategies. And we are proud of that work and the change we have achieved. Yet, we recognize that this work has sometimes resulted in a lack of trust from the broader survivor community we serve and to which we also belong. We are looking within.

In the meantime:

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. We need more transparency about our vision of change-making, and we need a more inclusive process to engage the broader survivor community, many of whom have spent years doing the noble work of fighting for women. We admire those who have been on this front line for years by choice or by their own story. As an entire organization we are going to take time and evaluate how we best do this collectively or as individuals. We are working with our team on how we show up in this next phase of this work. We will seek engagement with survivor communities, allies and critics alike. And we will share our intentions.

Robbie Kaplan, board co-chair, has stepped down from the board. We and she agree that is the right and appropriate thing to do.

Our staff does incredible work and contributes to change every day. So 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 Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which is housed and administered by the National Women’s Law Center, operates as a totally separate entity from Time’s Up and will continue its vital work to connect those who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace with legal or PR assistance. While the operations of Time’s Up and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund are separate, there is nothing we are all prouder of than starting this fund and raising the resources to help thousands of abuse and harassment survivors with this tangible and individual help when such assistance had never before existed.