Harassment Claims Wash Ashore at Two Massachusetts Nonprofits

December 11, 2017 — The wave of harassment accusations lodged against political, entertainment, and media figures nationally over the last three months washed ashore at two Massachusetts nonprofits in recent days, forcing a prominent media figure to step aside amid claims of bullying behavior and two health care leaders to leave their organization for mishandling sexual harassment allegations against a doctor on its staff.

Tom Ashbrook, host of On Point, a nationally syndicated talk show produced at WBUR, a public radio station based at Boston University, was placed on leave, according to a report the station broadcasted today, following receipt of a document last Thursday which reportedly detailed complaints from 11 women and men of name calling and “'Creepy'” sex talk, hugs and back or neck rubs after a dressing down."

Also today, Fenway Health, a community health center located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston that is highly regarded for its leading edge care and advocacy for LGBT patients, announced that Robert Hale has resigned as board chair, as well as from the board.

Hale's resignation comes one day after Stephen L. Boswell, the organization's chief executive officer, quit two days after The Boston Globe published an extensive report on allegations by current and former employees of harassment and bullying against Dr. Harvey Makadon, a researcher at The Fenway Institute, which focuses on national and international health issues, especially related to LGBT communities.

Boswell and Hale stepped down amid complaints that they mishandled allegations against Makadon.

Hale’s resignation came ahead of a board meeting scheduled for this evening, "at which he was expected to face a challenge from some board members seeking his ouster, according to one director," The Globe reported today.

Fenway Health said it will start a formal search for Boswell's successor "as soon as practicable." For now, Jane Powers, who has been Fenway’s director of behavioral since 2013, will serve as interim CEO.

In a statement released today, Fenway Health noted, "Under the leadership of Jane Powers, the management and board leadership are unified in our focus on moving forward in a thoughtful way that respects the contributions of our employees and reflects our continued commitment to supporting the wellbeing of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and all people in our neighborhoods through quality health care, education, research and advocacy."

In a statement released over the weekend, the organization said, "Fenway exists to enhance the wellbeing of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, and all people in our neighborhoods and beyond. We are grateful for the support of Fenway’s leadership, staff and patients.

"Fenway Health is bigger than any single person. It is driven by our talented and dedicated employees, our committed and generous donors and volunteers, our partners in the community, and most importantly, all of our patients."

The departures of Hale and Boswell were a sudden turnaround after the two men issued an extended statement on Friday after The Globe published an online report of allegations lodged against Makadon. Hale and Boswell said they wanted "to maintain a strong and unwavering focus on fostering a positive workplace environment going forward."

Investigator Looking into Allegations Against Ashbrook

WBUR and Boston University said an outside investigator will review the allegations against Ashbrook, the radio station reported.

According to the WBUR story broadcasted today, Ashbrook texted a message after he was placed on leave on Friday, noting that he was “stunned that a few former colleagues have apparently come forward with allegations that have not been shared with me. I have no idea what is being alleged, nor by whom.”

According to the broadcast, "Five current or former producers say they met with station managers multiple times, dating back at least five years, to raise concerns about Ashbrook."

WBUR General Manager Charlie Kravetz was quoted saying he is committed to a positive work environment for everyone at the station.

For the last 16 years Ashbrook has been the widely acclaimed host of On Point, which is carried by more than 290 NPR stations across the United States.