Investigators hired by the Humane Society of the United States to look into the behavior of CEO Wayne Pacelle have identified three complaints of sexual harassment and found that the charity paid settlements to three other employees who said they were demoted or fired after reporting Pacelle's conduct, The Washington Post reports.
The Post spoke with two people who have knowledge of the matter and also obtained a Humane Society memo that goes into detail about the investigation. The inquiry began Dec. 20, following an anonymous complaint about Pacelle's behavior. Investigators interviewed more than 30 people, including Pacelle, and several women said they sounded the alarm on Pacelle and his conduct but were ignored. The three complaints of sexual harassment included one woman who said he gave her an unwanted kiss while she was an intern; another who said she rebuffed his sexual advances and was warned she would lose her job if she told anyone what happened; and a third who said he came to her office late one night, started salsa dancing, and asked her to join in.
In an interview Monday with the Post, Pacelle, who has been CEO since 2004, denied "any suggestion that I did anything untoward," and called the accusations "a coordinated attempt to attack me and the organization." He also said allegations that he had consensual sex with subordinates, volunteers, and donors were false. Investigators spoke with several employees who defended Pacelle, and those who came forward to speak with the Post said they did so because they believe in the organization and the work it does to help animals, and they want to see the culture change.
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