The fallout continues in the wake of HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle’s February 2 resignation amid allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with at least three former employees, and had allegedly failed to take action against other senior HSUS staff accused of similar inappropriate behavior.
The Washington Post reported that HSUS had hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the charges. The inquiry revealed that the nonprofit “offered settlements to three former employees who said they were dismissed or demoted after telling their co-workers about Pacelle’s alleged misconduct.”The investigation also found that Pacelle had been warned about his conduct by senior women within the organizatin.
According to media reports, Pacelle’s resignation came the day after the HSUS Board voted to ignore the accusations and keep him in his job, leading to what the Post described as “a revolt by major donors and a walkout threat from employees.” Several board members resigned after the vote to retain Pacelle.
While Pacelle denied all the allegations, he wrote in an email to HSUS staff that he was resigning “to put aside any distractions, in the best interests of all parties,” the Post reported. The board has named an acting CEO, attorney Kitty Block, who previously worked with the organization’s international affiliate.
There are indications that Pacelle’s resignation may not be the end of HSUS’ troubles. In a February 6 letter to the Post editor, HSUS activist and donor Gillian McPhee wrote, “…The HSUS board of directors needs a serious overhaul. The board’s job is to hold the chief executive accountable, and the board failed to do that.
“Instead, board members were apparently all too willing to overlook accusations of improper behavior, based on the calculus that Mr. Pacelle was too valuable to the organization’s mission and fundraising.” The letter concludes, “The tone at any organization starts at the top. Until the HSUS board can show it understands that, the future of HSUS remains at risk.”
HumaneWatch.org, a well-known HSUS watchdog group, is reporting that the scandal could affect HSUS fundraising. One of th nation’s major charity rating services, Charity Navigator, has dropped its HSUS rating from four stars to two, and to one star in the financial area. Another, Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE), has rescinded its HSUS recommendation completely, citing the importance of “strong, ethical leadership and a healthy work environment” as critical components of an effective charity. A third charity, CharityWatch, has repeatedly given HSUS C and D grades for wasting donor money.