YEA! creates new code of conduct after sexual harassment allegations

 

A six-month investigation into Allentown's Youth Education in the Arts is now complete.

The investigation was launched after the organization's former CEO George Hopkins was publicly accused of sexual misconduct by more than nine women earlier this year, and its board resigned.

YEA!'s board of directors wanted to find out how the organization responded to the original allegations, if there were any more, and whether it was able to deal with sexual misconduct or harassment claims properly. YEA! hired a Chicago law firm to do the independent investigation.

The Chicago law firm of Franczek Radelet conducted the investigation, setting up a hotline for people to report claims and provide information.

The report says an additional claim of alleged misconduct was reported by a woman who says Hopkins forcibly kissed her without her consent in the mid 1990s.

Hopkins was fired in April after almost a dozen women came forward alleging sexual misconduct. Hopkins denies the allegations and refused to participate in the independent investigation.

The five page report says while at YEA!, Hopkins made off-color jokes about women, referred to female staffers as girls and was verbally abusive to employees, often throwing things and yelling in the office.

The report says Hopkins had little oversight during his tenure.

The law firm says through his attorney, George Hopkins denies all of the allegations and did not wish to participate in the investigation.

The report says,

This investigation did not find that the former YEA! Board was aware, prior to 2018, of specific allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct, or assault by Hopkins. However, the YEA! Board's oversight of Hopkins was lacking, and YEA! failed to have adequate policies and procedures in place to address and prevent any harassment or misconduct.

YEA! Board Chairman Doug Rutherford says the law firm was tasked with finding out exactly what areas needed to be addressed and making recommendations.

Rutherford says the board got findings in real time during the investigation, so it was able to immediately address instances where policies and procedures were lacking.

"From having done that work we are at a point now where we have zero tolerance and should we have a situation that arises we are actually completely prepared to be able to handle the complete professionally in a timely manner and take action on that," said Rutherford.

Rutherford says it has been a difficult year, but he feels the hard work the organization has done could serve as an example of addressing difficult issues in a efficient and transparent manner.

"Ultimately the report concludes that his denials of inappropriate workplace environment and sexual harassment and misconduct violation of policies etc. that his denials are not credible," said Rutherford.

Rutherford says the report also revealed the organizations policies and procedures were inadequate to prevent or respond to sexual harassment and misconduct.

"We said the most important thing that we needed to do was make sure that we were providing a safe environment for all participants and that we were able to vent put in place the policies and procedures in a meaningful way so that we could successfully live by our own code of conduct," said Rutherford.

The Lehigh County Dustrict Attorney is investigating the allegations against Hopkins. WFMZ 69 News reached out to George Hopkins' attorney but did not hear back.

Read the full report below: