DEARBORN — One year after a sexual harassment scandal rocked the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and impacted the local community, the newly-appointed president of the organization has issued an apology for their handling of the case.
It’s been over a year since State Representative Rashida Tlaib sent a public letter to the organization, stating that she was sexually harassed by former ADC-MI Director Imad Hamad when she was an intern at the office more than 15 years ago.
Tlaib’s statements prompted a number of other former female affiliates of ADC-MI to come forward with similar claims against Hamad. He was placed on temporary leave in the summer of 2013, while the national office, located in Washington D.C., hired a private investigator to look into the accusations.
After months of silence, ADC National announced last September that there was “insufficient evidence” to warrant any misconduct against Hamad, despite the fact that several women had come forward with claims.
It was later revealed that the private investigator on the case did not make the final determination. Instead, the ADC Board of Directors made the decision. Hamad was demoted as the director of the Michigan chapter and announced that he was retiring from the organization later that fall.
ADC National made attempts to move forward after hiring current ADC-MI Director Fatina Abdrabboh to replace Hamad.
However, affiliates of the organization continued to express their dismay towards the handling of the case, resulting in a number of ADC-MI advisory board members resigning, as well as female staffers at the national office going on strike.
This week, a letter from ADC President Samer E. Khalaf, addressing the organization’s handling of the case, appeared in the ADC’s newsletter just one day before a scheduled national convention on June 12. At press time, the organization had also scheduled a town hall meeting on June 13 to hear people’s concerns regarding the case.
“The ADC recognizes the magnitude of the events that transpired and, most importantly, acknowledges the impact such actions had on the women who were hurt,” Khalaf said in the letter. “Those that came forward are to be commended for their strength, willingness to speak out, and for bringing this critical issue to the forefront of our consciousness.”
Khalaf acknowledged that some of the steps the organization took during the scandal may have negatively impacted the victims, but said they believe they made the right decision.
“We acknowledge and are troubled that the process adopted caused hurt and undue stress upon our courageous sisters who came forward. Unintentionally, some of the steps of the process may have cast doubt on their narrative. We apologize to these women and to the community for the hurt and stress caused during the process.”
The organization said it has now revised its sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies to expand on prohibited conduct and implement a “zero tolerance” policy.
Khalaf replaced former ADC National President Warren David, who was fired from his post in late 2013 after he expressed disappointment in the organization’s handling of the sexual harassment case.
While ADC has attempted to re-boot the organization on both a national and local level following the scandal, with an overhaul of their leadership positions, many of the organization’s board of directors who handled the sexual harassment case still remain with the organization.