Imad Hamad leaves ADC Michigan; Attorney Fatina Abdrabboh to head local chapter amid growing calls for reform
DEARBORN - The former Director of Michigan’s regional office of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC-MI) Imad Hamad announced, on Friday Nov. 22, that he was no longer with the civil rights group.
The announcement of Hamad’s retirement comes after heavy pressure had built over the last several months for him to leave the organization. Sexual harassment allegations against Hamad shook ADC on both the national and local level after several women came forward alleging they were sexually harassed by him, while he served as the organization’s Michigan director.
But after hiring a third party to investigate the matter, ADC determined that there was "insufficient evidence" to prove whether the allegations against Hamad were accurate. Nevertheless, he was replaced temporarily by Abed Ayoub, ADC’s National Legal Director, but still remained as an advisor to the local chapter until the announcement of his resignation.
Speaking for the first time publicly, Hamad announced his departure from the organization and expressed pride of the work he has done.
"Given my 17 years of unwavering commitment to the mission of ADC and my devotion to achieve its objectives, at a level equal and more often higher than that I have given to my personal and family priorities, it is time for me to move on towards another avenue of serving our people. Plans will be revealed in the near future. Make no mistake that I take pride of my work and contributions. I am very determined to continue my role and service," Hamad said in a statement.
As Hamad announced his departure, ADC announced the hiring of Dearborn Attorney Fatina Abdrabboh as ADC-MI's new Regional Director.
A Harvard University graduate, Abdrabboh also attended the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan. She has had her work published in numerous academic journals and had been an advocate for Arab Americans, minorities and underserved populations, according to the ADC.
She has also held jobs for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and as a clerk for U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh, both in Detroit.
In a press release, Abdrabboh acknowledged the organization's difficulties in the last year, but suggested that the organization be allowed to move forward.
"I realize much has happened in the last year and I hope to be a force for positive change and a recommitment to the principles upon which ADC was founded," she said. "I am looking forward to what I know will be a challenging role and I hope I can count on the community’s support as we move forward in Michigan."
But it appears that moving forward will be a difficult task for the organization, as concerns over the way ADC National Office handled the sexual harassment scandal have grown over the last two months.
Recently, an online petition expressing concern over the allegations had garnered more than 500 signatures from across the country in less than three days.
Additionally, all the female staff members of ADC's national office went on strike Oct. 21, before officially resigning from the organization several days later. The women were protesting the termination of Raed Jarrar, ADC’s former communications and advocacy director. Jarrar claims that he was terminated because, along with his co-workers, he inquired internally about the sexual harassment investigation.
A demonstration was also held in Washington D.C. outside George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium on Nov. 17, where the ADC held a concert as part of its Women’s Initiative that featured the 2013 Arab Idol winners. Protestors held up fliers and spoke out against ADC.
A Facebook page, Reform ADC Now, was also recently created by a group of people who have expressed dismay about how the ADC responded to the women’s claims throughout the scandal. The group says it is now working to reform the organization from the outside.
Khaled Beydoun, a professor at the UCLA School of Law and a former ADC intern and longtime member, says he suspects that the organization engaged in a back-door deal with Hamad.
"Hamad himself was not the problem, but a product of a much larger sickness plaguing ADC, namely a lack of transparency, autocratic governance, and corruption that is built into the very structure of the organization," Beydoun stated. "ADC's membership is non-existent, and their credibility in the civil rights community is at a low point."
According to reports, ADC president Warren David was fired Nov. 25 by Safa Rifka, the chairman of the group’s national board. David was previously placed on probation by the ADC National Board of Directors for, apparently, expressing dismay over the organization's handling of the allegations.
Michigan State Representative Rashida Tlaib, who was the first woman to come forward publicly with sexual harassment allegations against Hamad, tells The Arab American News that she is delighted that Hamad will no longer be affiliated to the organization, but questions if it will be able to move forward.
"I'm happy that Imad Hamad is not going to be able to hurt any other women, but the point was to hold him accountable for those actions. Letting him retire does not do that," Tlaib said. "I do worry that Abdrabboh is in a situation where she's going to have to work extremely hard to clean up a big mess. It's hard to move forward when the same ADC national leaders are there, who have not expressed any remorse towards the women who have come forward."