Metro

Caritas chief faces new accusations

Boston, MA - 2/17/05 - Dr. Robert M. Haddad (cq), president and CEO of Caritas Christi Health Care System, is interviewed about the changes to the state's large Catholic hospital network. (Globe Staff Photo/Pat Greenhouse) (Story slug 18caritas by Liz Kowalczyk) -- Library Tag 02192005 Business Library Tag 05252006 Metro Library Tag 05282006 National/Foreign Library Tag 02012007 Metro
PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF
Dr. Robert M. Haddad, pictured at an interview in Boston on Feb. 17, 2005.

More than 10 women have come forward since Sunday with fresh allegations of sexual harassment by Dr. Robert M. Haddad, the embattled president of the Caritas Christi Health Care System, prompting Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley yesterday to call a new meeting of the Caritas governing board.

The cardinal had privately reprimanded Haddad last week for allegedly sexually harassing four other female employees, and the Caritas board on Thursday endorsed the cardinal’s action, despite a recommendation from the system’s top human resources official, Helen G. Drinan, that Haddad be fired.

O’Malley set the meeting for tomorrow at 7 p.m., amid evidence that support on the board for Haddad has ebbed sharply since the Globe disclosed on Sunday the reprimand and the initial four cases. Those women complained that Haddad had hugged and kissed them, both in public and in private.

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Karen Schwartzman, a spokes woman for Drinan, the senior vice president for human resources at Caritas, said that after the Globe story, more than 10 additional female employees contacted Drinan to report that they too had experienced sexually-harassing conduct similar to that of the four initial victims. Schwartzman said that Drinan and her aides are interviewing the women.

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Haddad, who had previously declined to comment, issued a statement yesterday through his spokeswoman, Nancy Sterling, saying he was committed to continuing as president. He said that the behavior for which he was sanctioned was merely an extension of the Lebanese culture in which he was raised, and has been misinterpreted.

“In my Lebanese culture, hugs and kisses among men and women are not only expected, but warmly given and received,” he said in the statement. “So I was stunned to learn that some of my actions may have been misinterpreted; at no time was I aware of making anyone uncomfortable. And although I have never acted inappropriately, I deeply regret causing anyone any discomfort.”

As for the new allegations, Sterling said, Haddad will cooperate in the investigation.

Meanwhile, in a reflection of simmering tensions within the archdiocese, Bishop Richard G. Lennon, who was O’Malley’s vicar general until he became bishop of Cleveland last week, issued a statement saying that O’Malley removed him from two joint Caritas boards just hours before last Thursday’s vote. Lennon, according to several people he has talked to, had strongly urged that Haddad be dismissed, and would have made that argument to the governing board.

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The archdiocese contradicted Lennon’s account.

Caritas board members were informed of the new meeting yesterday, and the archdiocese later released a statement. It read: “Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley today asked the chairman of the board of governors of CaritasChristi Health Care System to convene a meeting of the full board on Wednesday this week. New complaints of misconduct involving Dr. Robert Haddad have been received and are being investigated.”

After the weekend’s disclosures, and amid hints yesterday morning that other complaints about Haddad were being lodged, several of the board members who approved the reprimand last week asked the archdiocese to reexamine the issue, according to one person involved in the issue who asked that he not be identified.

Haddad meanwhile was soliciting statements of support yesterday from board members, as well as senior Caritas officials. By day’s end, as word of the new accusations spread, only one board member spoke up on his behalf.

“In my experience, Bob Haddad is an honorable person who has led the Caritas system through a significant financial turnaround,” said Kevin C. Phelan, the Caritas board’s vice chairman, in a statement released by Haddad’s spokeswoman.

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Even before yesterday’s new complaints, Haddad was facing additional problems. On Sunday, an archdiocesan lawyer said there would also be an investigation of an episode on May 10, just as the inquiry into the initial four women’s allegations was concluding, in which Haddad allegedly winked and leered at one of the four. The episode was witnessed by several other Caritas employees, and if it is corroborated, Haddad faces possible additional sanctions.

What Haddad described as harmless hugs and kisses were detailed as something quite different by Drinan in an e-mail she sent to board members last Friday, a day after their vote. Reporting what the four women said, Drinan wrote that the evidence was that Haddad ”hugs subordinate female employees, kisses them on the lips, rubs them on the back, calls them late at night, and asks them about matters that are highly personal to them.”

Drinan had been asked to attend last Thursday’s meeting by the board chairman, Dr. Kenneth F. MacDonnell, but was disinvited that day by the cardinal’s office. Schwartzman said yesterday that Drinan would have told the board that Haddad had been verbally warned about inappropriate physical contact in the past; that he lied to an archdiocese investigator by denying he had been cautioned before; and that in every case involving similar misbehavior Caritas Christi had fired the employees.

O’Malley did not tell the board about the other dismissals or about the alleged May 10 episode. Church lawyers said the information was withheld because the information given them about the other firings was skimpy at best, and they had been unable to corroborate the “leering and winking” accusation.

Yesterday, the Globe reported that when Haddad was interviewed by an archdiocese investigator, he was asked to identify women with whom he had had physical contact. Instead of naming his four accusers, he listed the names of an unspecified number of additional women, as well as men he said he had hugged. The investigator also was given the names of still other women employees by people who said they had witnessed the improper physical contact. It was unclear last night whether the new complaints involve some of those other women.

The Globe yesterday interviewed a female former Caritas Christi manager who has not filed a complaint. She said that when she met Haddad several years ago, he made sexual innuendoes in a casual conversation with her about her husband, which he then repeated in several subsequent conversations. The woman, who recounted the conversations on the condition that she not be identified, said they did not affect her working relationship with him, but she found the remarks odd and awkward.

Evidence of the longstanding rancor between O’Malley and Lennon, who was the interim leader of the archdiocese after the December 2002 resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law, seeped into the open yesterday. In response to an inquiry from the Globe, Lennon issued a statement saying he was involved in the Haddadinquiry from April 24, when it was first brought to the attention of the Chancery, until May 18.

“On May 18, 2006, I was informed in writing at 1:00 p.m. that Cardinal Archbishop Sean O’Malley had removed me as a member of the Caritas Christi Corporation and also from the Board of Governors of the Caritas Christi Corporation, effective immediately,” Lennon said.

Lennon’s spokesman, Robert D. Tayek, said Lennon’s term as a board member should have run until June 15, and that only the board not O’Malley had the power to remove him. Lennon, as some other members did, expected to participate in the Thursday meeting by telephone.

Not so, countered Ann Carter, the spokeswoman for O’Malley. She said O’Malley replaced Lennon on the corporation, but that Lennon then chose to resign from the board of governors. Until Lennon took that additional step, Carter said, “the cardinal had anticipated Bishop Lennon would participate in the meeting by phone.”

“There must be some misunderstanding,” Carter said.

Sacha Pfeiffer of the Globe staff contributed to this report.