This year has been one of profound and mostly unforeseen changes for Metro Justice Council and staff, as well as in our campaign activity and organizational relationships. With all such changes come opportunities for learning and growth. One of these changes was the resignation of our Organizing Director, Colin O'Malley, early this summer.
As the elected Council of Metro Justice we have a duty first and foremost to the membership. We feel that members should understand the events leading up to Colin's departure. In April of this year, three women brought allegations against Colin O’Malley, Organizing Director for Metro Justice, two alleging sexual misconduct and one reporting an emotionally abusive relationship. All of these occurred between 2002 and 2013. None were associated with his employment with Metro Justice.
In response to the allegations, a committee of the leadership interviewed the three women, Colin, and several witnesses identified to us by both the women and Colin. The investigating committee prepared a preliminary report that was finalized with the Personnel Committee. Statements of opinion were also solicited from the other members of staff.
The final report was submitted to Council for decision at the beginning of June with a range of recommendations. Council made a preliminary decision not to fire Colin, but to impose a period of suspension and/or probation, conditioned upon counseling and other requirements. Our decision was based upon our attempt to judge varying levels of severity and proof of the individual cases, as well as Colin's past actions in acknowledging harm done, engaging in counseling, and attempting reconciliation. Our vote should not be construed as reflecting guilt or innocence or any criminal behavior. Rather, we made decisions based on our own standards as a social justice organization. This preliminary decision was to be followed up at a later time by specific terms and conditions.
In the week following the preliminary vote, three members of Council who would have voted to fire Colin resigned and members of staff expressed varied concerns about the consequences of the vote for Metro Justice. Colin's later resignation reflected his desire not to be a source of continued conflict within the organization.
The investigation and its outcome were heartbreaking for the entire leadership of the organization, but reflected a desire to maintain several principles above all, including:
1) to respect and listen to the women who brought the allegations
2) to treat Colin and other members of staff fairly and with due process
3) to provide confidentiality to all of the principals
4) to make a democratic decision about outcomes
5) to engage in restorative justice methods when possible
We have invited members to inquire of us (or the Personnel Committee) if they have questions about these processes or decisions. Finally, we are strongly encouraging discussion or suggestions concerning structural or organizational improvements that will help us to create a supportive and welcoming environment for staff and volunteers.
The work of Metro Justice continues. During this year our members have become deeply engaged in criminal justice reform, and we will be building a new committee in the coming weeks, to focus on criminal justice, led by organizer Mohini Sharma. Amongst other projects, the committee will support the Free NY campaign to end cash bail, led by organizer Ashley Gantt.
Mohini and Andrew are also finishing Metro Justice's first and highly successful summer with our youth organizers. O’Shunn, Troy, and Dylan have all grown as organizers and have helped build and strengthen Metro Justice in the process. Through their work we have a new and growing student organizing committee that will bring RCSD students together to advocate for themselves and we have stronger Gender and Sexuality committee focused on empowering LGBTQ+ youth while raising money for the committee’s future efforts. They’ve all been exemplary ambassadors in their communities, showing what can be done when young people are supported in taking the lead.
Finally, we will be asking members by survey about areas of action on racial and economic and social justice for which you feel Metro Justice should increase its involvement. The forces of white supremacy, climate change, neoliberalism and militarism will continue to force profound and unforeseen change upon our community and the world we live in. We know that through organized action, we can continue to learn, grow and articulate a progressive, peaceful, and just future. We hope that you will continue to be a part of that journey.
Please feel free to contact our President, Aaron Micheau (email@example.com); Personnel Committee members, Larry Knox (firstname.lastname@example.org, or Denise Young (email@example.com), if you have any questions. If you’d like to reach out to another member of Council please contact Fundraising and Membership Director, Andrew Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Metro Justice Council