An interim chief executive has been appointed at The Nature Conservancy after accusations that senior management mishandled complaints of sexual harassment and multiple forms of bullying.
Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and current Nature Conservancy director Sally Jewell was appointed interim CEO. Until Jewell assumes the role full time on Sept. 3, she will serve on a board subcommittee, along with Board Chair Thomas Tierney and director Frances Ulmer. That committee will oversee management of the Arlington, Va.-headquartered organization.
Former CEO Mark Tercek, who stepped down on Friday after more than a decade in the position, will serve as an advisor to the subcommittee, as needed. The board also announced that Ulmer was chosen as the next chair of the board, effective Nov. 1, 2019, following the expiration of Tierney’s term. A six-person CEO Search Committee has been established to find a permanent replacement for Tercek. A search firm will also be retained, according to the organization’s announcement.
“These are all important appointments that will ensure our entire organization has the support it needs while we conduct a CEO search, continue our work to create a more open and equitable culture, and advance our mission,” said Tierney, who is also chairman and co-founder of Bridgespan Group in Boston.
Jewell said via a statement, “Since its inception 68 years ago, TNC has been a leading organization centered around its mission of conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. I am humbled and pleased to step forward to support this important organization through its transition, following 11 years of dedicated leadership by Mark Tercek as CEO.”
News website POLITICO reported that the executive director of The Nature Conservancy’s Florida-based Caribbean chapter, Luis Solórzano, is leaving after complaints of a toxic workplace culture. According to POLITICO, it was announced internally on Monday that he was leaving after the news site “submitted detailed questions to both him and the organization about allegations from current and former employees, including racial and homophobic slurs, sexism and whistleblower retaliation.”
The news site reported it had spoken to 13 people who work or once worked for The Nature Conservancy, and who objected to the way the group’s leaders had allowed Solórzano to remain despite complaints. According to POLITICO, Nature Conservancy President Brian McPeek resigned from the organization May 31, two days after POLITICO reported on a sexual harassment and misconduct investigation that led to the departures of two other senior officials from the group. Tercek’s announced departure came one week later on Friday.
An internal investigation is being handled by McDermott Will & Emery, which has a dozen offices in North America, including Washington, D.C.