Squelches further investigation of sexual harassment allegations
WASHINGTON D.C.––Defying the loss of at least $1 million in donor pledges, the Humane Society of the U.S. board of directors at a seven-hour emergency meeting on February 1, 2018 elected to keep 13-year president Wayne Pacelle despite allegations that he sexually harassed at least three female staff members and protected rather than adequately disciplining former HSUS farm animal campaigns director Paul Shapiro in 2016 for similar alleged sexual harassment of subordinates.
“The board also decided to close the investigation into Pacelle,” wrote Washington Post labor reporter Danielle Paquette.
Seven members of the formerly 31-member HSUS board of directors reportedly resigned immediately after the meeting.
“The Magnificent Seven”
Paquette identified the resignees as author Suzy Welch, former Philadelphia Zoo chief executive Marsha Perelman, Harvard FXB Center for Health & Human Rights director Jennifer Leaning, “Mutts” cartoonist Patrick McDonnell, former Altria Group executive Buffy Linehan, former Citi financial group managing director and head of public finance David Brownstein, and Ridgeback Communications chief executive Andrew Weinstein. Weinstein had chaired the HSUS board finance committee.
“Pacelle denied all the allegations, and did not immediately respond to requests for comment following the board’s decision,” Paquette added. “Pacelle told the Post he was confident people would continue to support HSUS.”
“Not one call from a donor going to quit”
Claimed Pacelle, “I’ve not gotten one call from a donor who said they’re going to stop supporting the organization. I’ve gotten hundreds that have said the opposite.”
But Greenbaum Foundation founder Jim Greenbaum had warned HSUS board president Eric Bernthal on the eve of the February 1, 2018 emergency board meeting that failing to suspend Pacelle while he was under investigation could tend to intimidate potential witnesses.
“Given the present manner in which the HSUS board is handling this matter,” Greenbaum told Bernthal, “it is very unlikely that I will continue to fund HSUS. I strongly suggest that the HSUS board promptly reexamine its position on this matter.”
Similar statements came from Oregon investor Nicole Brodeur and Tofurky director of charitable giving and engagement Rachel Perman.
“Greenbaum Foundation will not be renewing our grant”
Confirmed Greenbaum via Facebook, moments after the HSUS board decision to keep Pacelle became public knowledge, “I have just informed HSUS that the Greenbaum Foundation will not be renewing our $100,000 prior grant.”
Greenbaum also called on the remaining HSUS board members to “Find competent replacements and resign.”
While the board meeting was underway, Greenbaum posted predictions including that “The board will simply reprimand CEO Pacelle,” which it apparently did not do in any substantive, meaningful manner.
Greenbaum further anticipated that a public outcry would ensue, “which will eventually result in Pacelle’s ‘voluntarily’ leaving the organization.”
Greenbaum predicts further scandal & resignations
Also, Greenbaum expected that “an investigative news story will reveal that some board members have not acted in the best interests of the organization, thus resulting in the resignation of at least one half of the current board members.”
In 30 years of reporting about one management scandal after another at HSUS, many involving apparent conflicts of interest among the board, ANIMALS 24-7 has rarely seen the resignations of any board members, and is unaware of any previous resignations involving even half as many members leaving as left in protest of keeping Pacelle as president.
“Revenue will take a substantial hit”
“HSUS annual revenue will take a substantial hit,” Greenbaum suggested, “at least in the tens of millions of dollars, and possibly as much as one hundred million dollars.”
While HSUS revenue plummeted by $13 million in fiscal year 2016, after paying Feld Entertainment $15.7 million to settle a long string of failed litigation against the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, a loss of $100 million would mean the loss of about 80% of HSUS annual income, an unprecedented percentage drop for any animal charity of national prominence to experience in a single year, even during the Great Depression.
“Local humane societies will see revenues increase”
“Local humane societies will see their revenues increase as donors who thought they were giving to their local humane societies were generally not doing so when they contributed to HSUS,” Greenbaum suggested.
The American Humane Association pursued this campaign theme for many years after former AHA publicist Fred Myers left to found HSUS in 1954, but to little avail, as HSUS––the younger organization by 77 years––was already raising more money by 1970.
Animal industry use organizations also have emphasized for years that HSUS does not provide significant funding to local humane societies, but the HSUS incorporated purpose was always to conduct advocacy at the national level. Myers drafted the HSUS mission statement at a time when doing animal advocacy, not operating animal shelters, was still widely understood to be the focal purpose of a “humane society.”
“Out of the ashes”
“Out of the ashes of HSUS will arise several new nonprofits that will continue working in many of the sectors that HSUS has been involved with,” Greenbaum hoped, “but in a more effective and efficient manner, while providing a healthy environment for their employees.”
This was among the premises of the constellation of new animal advocacy organizations emerging with the “animal rights movement” between 1976 and 1986. Survivors of that generation of organizations that still have a significant presence include People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the Farm Animal Rights Movement, the Humane Farming Association, and Farm Sanctuary.
Under Pacelle, however, HSUS absorbed several of the “animal rights movement” generation organizations with the strongest donor bases, and sought to fuse the older “animal welfare” philosophy that HSUS had espoused with “animal rights” perspectives––often to the dismay of “animal rights” activists who feel that key goals and ideals have been sacrificed to economic expediency.
(See How HSUS sponsorship of a meatfest in Denver overshadowed announcement of reforms by the world’s largest food producer, Legalizing California Battery Cages: HSUS & Egg Industry Redefine Proposition 2 in Toxic Ballot Measure, and Pigeon shoots––that HSUS said it stopped––continue in Maryland.)
“My empathy to all the women who put themselves out there”
While Greenbaum issued by far the most extensive immediate response to Pacelle remaining as HSUS chief executive, several other former HSUS insiders posted their disappointment, including former board member and finance committee chair Weinstein and anthropologist Barbara J. King.
King had resigned as a member of the editorial board of from the editorial board of the HSUS-sponsored scholarly journal Animal Sentience because, she said in her resignation statement, “I no longer wish to be associated with HSUS, given the understanding that I have reached over the last several weeks regarding issues of sexual harassment endured by women working at HSUS.”
Posted King to Facebook soon after the February 1, 2018 HSUS emergency board meeting, “Just off an airplane and reading the news. My empathy to all the women who put themselves out there only to be, yet again, harmed, in this case by an unconscionable decision.”