SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS / CHARITIBLE AGENCY

Summary:

The Chief Operating Officer of a non-profit charitable agency that works with children was arrested for child sexual abuse. The agency hired our firm to find out how much other staff members knew about him and whether the organization might be vulnerable to any lawsuits as a result of his actions.

The Story:

A non-profit charitable agency with headquarters in the Los Angeles area distributes food, clothes and other goods to needy people in nations around the world. The agency also operates facilities in several other U.S. cities. As part of their work, they organize regular volunteer activity where families come, bringing their children, to collect and package items that are sent abroad.

 

The organization's staff and Board were in shock when the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the organization was arrested for child sexual abuse. (He had two adopted underage daughters and was suspected of sexually abusing at least one of them.) The organization asked for his resignation and he did resign, but their attorney suggested that they also hire our firm - as an outside agency with no ties to any of the individuals on the staff or board of the organization - to interview people who had regular contact with the COO. The purpose of the investigation was to discover if other staff and/or volunteers may have noticed any harmful or potentially actionable behaviors on the part of the COO.

 

We spent several days at the organization's headquarters and interviewed key staff members and others who had regular contact with the COO. We discovered that he had made sexually suggestive comments to a woman under him while they were on a business trip and, she felt, had hoped to have sex with her while they were travelling. She rebuffed him and nothing else happened, so she never reported it to anyone. We also discovered that he was having an affair with another woman who worked part time at the agency. That woman, who also worked under him, had two children. She worked off site most of the time, but when she did come to the headquarters, she brought her children and they were often in the COO's office, alone with him. No one, however, felt the COO was sexually interested in the children, but several staff members knew about his relationship with the mother/employee and felt uncomfortable about it.

 

Although the organization was relieved to discover that no one suspected or, more importantly had observed any child sexual abuse on the part of the COO, they did learn from the investigation that they needed to put in place better sexual harassment trainings for staff and find ways to encourage and make it easier for people to report abuses.

 

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