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Mazzoni Center's former interim CEO accused of 'deeply disturbing' sexual harassment

Stephen Glassman called the allegations "entirely false and without any merit whatsoever."

The Mazzoni Center, on the 1300 block of Bainbridge Street, was also rocked by separate allegations of sexual misconduct involving one of its employees in 2017.
The Mazzoni Center, on the 1300 block of Bainbridge Street, was also rocked by separate allegations of sexual misconduct involving one of its employees in 2017.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

The Mazzoni Center, Philadelphia's largest LGBT health-care provider, is investigating allegations of sexual harassment against its former interim CEO, Stephen Glassman, the Inquirer and Daily News have learned.

The allegations came up Tuesday at the Philadelphia LGBTQ State of the Union during a question-and-answer session with Mazzoni's current chief executive, Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino.

Questions for Gonzalez Sciarrino were written anonymously on index cards and read by two moderators. One of the first questions asked how Gonzalez Sciarrino was responding to allegations that Glassman had sexually harassed 10 employees, according to a Mazzoni employee and a former staffer who were present at the session.

Details about the alleged harassment — such as the nature of it, who may have been victimized, and during what time period — were not discussed, and Mazzoni officials did not provide additional information about the claims. It also wasn't clear who wrote the question on the card or how that person knew about the alleged harassment.

Glassman, who served as Mazzoni's interim CEO for nearly nine months and left after Gonzalez Sciarrino was hired in late March, called the allegations false.

"I was shocked and saddened to learn about this situation. These anonymous allegations are entirely false and without any merit whatsoever, and I welcome a thorough investigation of these complaints," he said in an email Thursday. "I care deeply about the well-being of the staff, patients, and clients of Mazzoni Center and during my time there worked collaboratively with the Board, with administrative leadership, and with staff at all levels to move the organization forward, rebuild trust and transparency, and provide opportunities for staff at all levels to participate in the decision-making processes of the organization.

"I am particularly saddened by this as I have built a 40-year career in private practice, public service, and the nonprofit sector advocating for social justice and equality," he added. "Over that time I have always acted professionally and been committed to working with integrity and transparency."

A Mazzoni spokesman told the Inquirer and Daily News on Thursday that one employee had lodged a formal complaint against Glassman late last year about a comment the employee felt was inappropriate.

"The complaint was investigated, addressed promptly, and the employee who made the complaint was apprised of the outcome and actions taken," Larry Benjamin said in a statement. Citing the need to protect employees' privacy, he said he could not go into detail on the comment or the outcome of the investigation. But, he said, "there were no further similar complaints until Tuesday, more than two months after the interim CEO left."

Benjamin said neither Gonzalez Sciarrino nor board president Christopher Pope knew of the allegations described Tuesday prior to the breakout session. Pope, however, was involved in the investigation into the first complaint against Glassman; Gonzalez Sciarrino was not, Benjamin said.

In his email, Glassman did not address the earlier allegation.

From 2002 to 2011, Glassman was chair of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which investigates complaints of discrimination — including sexual harassment — in workplaces, housing, and public accommodations. Glassman also led the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut from 2014 to 2016.

At Tuesday's breakout session, upon being asked about the harassment allegations against Glassman, Gonzalez Sciarrino initially confused him with Mazzoni's former medical director, Robert Winn, who resigned last year amid his own sexual-misconduct allegations.

Someone corrected Gonzalez Sciarrino and told her the question was about Glassman. Gonzalez Sciarrino, according to the current and former staffers present, replied that this was the first she had heard of the allegations and tried to talk about next steps when a Mazzoni board member, Miriam S. Edelstein — who is also a lawyer — told her to stop speaking about it.

"People were angry," said Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, a former HIV prevention counselor at Mazzoni, who was at the session. "People started yelling. People told the lawyer to sit down."

Muhammad is cofounder of the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative, an activist group that called out racial hostility at Mazzoni last year and has demanded the resignation of any board members who were present when the allegations involving Winn became known.

The current staffer who spoke to the Inquirer and Daily News requested anonymity to speak candidly.

>> Read more: Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino's appointment as the first non-LGBTQ leader of Mazzoni sparked outrage in March. Now eight weeks into the job, she makes a public appeal to the community.

In a statement, Gonzalez Sciarrino called the allegations she heard Tuesday "deeply disturbing" and said they would be thoroughly investigated. She said any employees who came forward in the investigation would not be reprimanded by Mazzoni.

Mazzoni's former and longtime CEO, Nurit Shein, was forced out last year amid outcry over Winn and a racially hostile environment at the center, where black employees described being singled out for disciplinary action and facing retaliation for filing complaints.

Upon hiring Glassman as interim CEO in July 2017, Mazzoni's board of directors said he would provide "critical stability and executive-level guidance for the organization."

In a farewell email to staff, a copy of which was provided by the current staffer, Glassman said: "I hope that during this period of transition we have brought increased stability, transparency, trust, and respect to our staff, clients, and patients."

The decision to bring in Gonzalez Sciarrino, the former CEO of a South Florida health center who identifies as straight, elicited criticism from some who questioned why Mazzoni didn't hire someone with more ties to Philadelphia's LGBT community.

>> Read more: Hiring of Mazzoni Center CEO lacked transparency and community input, critics say