PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A long-serving board member of Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian aid group, has resigned following reports that the agency mishandled sexual abuse allegations against one of its founders.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that Robert Newell resigned from the board after Mercy Corps was told the newspaper found that agency executives knew co-founder Ellsworth Culver had been accused of sexual abuse in the early 1990s. Culver died in 2005.
In a statement Tuesday, Newell, who helped conduct the initial review into Culver, said the board of the Portland-based Mercy Corps took the allegations “very seriously,” and called the investigation challenging.
Mercy Corps this week removed tributes to Culver from its website and took down photos of him from its headquarters. Mercy Corps CEO said in a statement that it would conduct an independent review of how the agency responded to the allegations.
The newspaper’s report also brought a stinging reaction from Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, who said he was “disgusted and appalled” by the allegations, having worked closely with Mercy Corps when he was the country director of the Carter Center’s operations in Liberia:
“Thank you to The Oregonian for their intrepid and important investigation into the child rape allegations made against Mercy Corps’ co-founder Ellsworth Culver. And shame on Mercy Corps’ board of directors and senior management for sweeping the allegations under the rug when they were first raised 25 years ago and when they were raised again last year.
“Mercy Corps wants to be viewed as a respected international organization that helps vulnerable people around the world. Their actions in allowing a credibly accused child rapist to remain a threat to Oregon children reveal they are more concerned with protecting their reputation than they are with protecting the public. Shame on Mercy Corps. I hope heads roll.” Hummel added.
Hummel told NewsChannel 21 he weighed in because “this one hits near and dear to my heart. Also, this story is important because the board of directors and senior management of a prominent international organization based in Oregon put their reputation ahead of the health and safety of children. “