The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced late Feb. 2 that it had accepted the resignation of Wayne Pacelle, as president and CEO, effective immediately. Pacelle had served in this capacity since 2004, and previously served for 10 years as the organization chief political and communications operative.
HSUS named Kitty Block as acting president and CEO. Block, an attorney, is currently president of Humane Society International (HSI), The HSUS’s global affiliate.
“The last few days have been very hard for our entire family of staff and supporters,” said Rick Bernthal, chairman of the board of HSUS. “We are profoundly grateful for Wayne’s unparalleled level of accomplishments and service to the cause of animal protection and welfare.”
“We are most grateful to Kitty for stepping forward to lead the organization as we continue to advance our mission, which has never been more important,” added Bernthal.
Block has served at HSUS since 1992, first as a legal investigator to the investigations department, then to oversee international policy work related to international trade and treaties. In 2007, she was promoted to vice president of Humane Society International, later to senior vice president, and last year became president of this affiliate overseeing all HSI international campaigns and programs. Block received a law degree from The George Washington University in 1990 and a bachelor’s degree in communications and philosophy from the University of New Hampshire in 1986.
Pacelle's resignation came a day after HSUS board members voted to keep him at the helm of the organization despite several claims of sexual harassment. Seven of the 31 board members resigned immediately following that decision.
In December, a law firm launched an investigation after three claims of sexual harassment surfaced. According to The Washington Post, the investigation detailed the stories of the women who said Pacelle harassed them. Some complaints dated to as far back as 2005.
The Washington Post also reported that a memo describing the law firm’s findings said HSUS offered settlements to three other workers who said they were dismissed or demoted after speaking up about Pacelle’s alleged misconduct.
Numerous former female executives told the law firm that they had warned about Pacelle’s behavior but said nothing was done.
Pacelle has denied all allegations.
Several donors reportedly were outrage by the board’s decisions.
Paul Shapiro, who had been the vice president of HSUS since 2005, had also been accused of sexual misconduct and parted ways with the organization in January.