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Humane Society Retains CEO After Sexual Harassment Allegations

Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle speaks on the importance of farm animal protection in 2015.
Jeff Lewis
The Humane Society of the United States
Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle speaks on the importance of farm animal protection in 2015.

The CEO of the Humane Society of America, Wayne Pacelle, will keep his job leading one of the nation's largest animal charities despite an internal investigation that identified sexual harassment complaints by three female subordinates and threats by major donors to cut their support.

The decision to retain Pacelle by the board of directors, who reviewed the allegations during a seven-hour meeting, has led to the immediate resignation of seven board members in protest.

As The Washington Post reports,

"The internal investigation, which was conducted by Washington law firm Morgan Lewis last month, detailed the stories of three women who said Pacelle harassed them, with complaints dating to 2005.

"The nonprofit group also offered settlements to three other workers who said they were dismissed or demoted after speaking up about Pacelle's alleged sexual misconduct, according to a memo describing the law firm's findings.

"Several former female leaders told the law firm that their warnings about Pacelle's behavior were not taken seriously for years, the memo said.

"Pacelle denied all the allegations to The Post on Monday."

Among the allegations of harassment dating to 2005: One woman said Pacelle tried to kiss her against her will; another said he asked to masturbate in front of her; a third woman said Pacelle made a late-night visit to her office and asked to salsa dance.

Pacelle told the Post, "This is a coordinated attempt to attack me and the organization. And I absolutely deny any suggestion that I did anything untoward."

The seven board members who resigned were author Suzy Welch; Marsha Perelman, former chief executive of the Philadelphia Zoo; Jennifer Leaning, director of the Harvard FXB Center; cartoonist Patrick McDonnell; Buffy Linehan, a former executive at the Altria Group; David Brownstein, managing director and head of public finance at Citi; and Andrew Weinstein, chief executive of Ridgeback Communications.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.
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