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DeRosa resignation may be turning point for probes, experts say

Then-Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa listens as

Then-Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa listens as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks to reporters during a news conference in New York on June 23. Credit: AP / Mary Altaffer

ALBANY — The resignation of Melissa DeRosa, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s top aide and confidante, on Sunday night marks a potential turning point in the investigations aimed at the governor, analysts said Monday.

"The politics of this to me is really simple," said Hank Sheinkopf, a national political adviser to presidents, governors and mayors. "It is a signal to people in the Assembly and the Senate that they are on the right track … the signal it sends is more dangerous than anything."

The view of DeRosa’s resignation inside Albany was just as stark for Cuomo on Monday.

"I think it means the end is near," said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), a former federal prosecutor. "It means there is no one standing by the governor’s side, and even his toughest defenders for years no longer want to fight on his behalf."

In a statement released late Sunday, DeRosa noted, "It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve the people of New York for the past 10 years. New Yorkers’ resilience, strength, and optimism through the most difficult times has inspired me everyday. Personally, the past 2 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 didn’t mention Cuomo.

The governor faces investigations by several county prosecutors following a report by state Attorney General Letitia James last week that concluded he sexually harassed 11 women, most of whom worked in his executive chamber at the time. Cuomo also faces a probe by the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee that could lead to impeachment.

In addition to probing the allegations of sexual harassment, the committee is looking into alleged misuse of Cuomo's staff to help edit his political memoir last year, whether he provided preferential treatment for COVID-19 testing to family members and the accuracy of his accounting of deaths of nursing home residents from the virus. The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating the nursing home mortality reports that the Cuomo administration provided to the State Legislature and the federal Justice Department last year.

DeRosa, 38, was part of Cuomo's inner circle that shaped policy and spending and she fiercely defended their actions afterward as secretary to the governor. She was the first woman to hold that top title.

DeRosa was mentioned 187 times in the James report among Cuomo staff members and a state trooper assigned to his personal security detail.

The report singled her out as one of the leaders of an alleged attempt to retaliate against one of the accusers.

DeRosa’s stature had risen nationally since 2020. She was usually at Cuomo’s side during his daily briefings. She was the aide who quickly provided the numbers that backed up Cuomo’s statements on every topic he fielded.

She is the daughter of one of New York’s most active lobbyists, Giorgio DeRosa, and is married to Matt Wing, a former campaign and government worker for Cuomo.

DeRosa was the point person for much of Cuomo's women’s rights agenda and was chairwoman of the state Council on Women and Girls started by Cuomo three years ago.

She has also been criticized by leading advocates for women for her role in arranging a transfer for a woman who said she was sexually harassed by Cuomo.

The pressure inside a governor’s office in crisis is intense and resignation isn’t an easy decision, said Peter Kauffmann, who has been there. In March 2010, he resigned from Gov. David A. Paterson’s administration in protest as it was being investigated over its response to a domestic violence incident involving another Paterson aide.

"There are resignations on principle and then there are resignations to try to save your career, to mitigate damage to yourself and that seems to be the phase we’re into," Kauffmann said.

With Yancey Roy

State & Region