(Jamaica Gleaner) Salvation Army International has opened an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and corruption at a branch here, the communication arm of the organisation has said.
International Communications Secretary Brian Venables told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the non-profit organisation is aware of the allegations and is probing the matter, which was reported by the Sunday Observer two weeks ago.
Venables said the matter has been brought to the attention of the “relevant person” who has already contacted Devon Haughton, the man recently promoted to the rank of commissioner and appointed territorial commander (chief director of the work) of the 16 countries that comprise the Salvation Army Caribbean Territory.
“We’re following up with it and we are investigating,” Venables told the Observer.
Allegations of sexual misconduct have been levelled at Major Selburn Oates of the local arm of the Protestant Christian church and international charitable organisation that has developed a stellar reputation for helping the poor worldwide over many decades.
One woman has claimed that she had to engage in sexual acts with Oates for assistance from the Lyndhurst Road branch of the organisation, while another woman has accused him of inappropriate touching, tantamount to sexual assault.
Oates has since come out in staunch defence of his integrity, denying the allegations and declaring his innocence.
The women have asked not to be named out of fear of public backlash.
Yesterday, a worker at the Salvation Army Lyndhurst Road branch told the Observer that a gag order has been issued to all staff.
“We can’t do no form of talking. They give us strict, strict, strict instructions not to talk to anybody about it. They say we must not discuss it with nobody. They even give we a letter saying any discussion about the matter must be with the Salvation Army and nobody else,” the worker said.
When the Observer contacted the Salvation Army Caribbean Territory Headquarters for a response, the newspaper was told that Commissioner Haughton is off the island.
The Salvation Army’s Sexual Misconduct Policy states that the organisation is committed to providing an environment in which individuals are treated with respect and dignity and where unwelcome or unacceptable sexual behaviour is prohibited.
The policy encourages people to complain to the Salvation Army and/or the police about sexual misconduct, which includes sexual harassment and unwelcome sexual behaviour.
The policy notes that a complainant has the right to a response to their complaint that minimises their embarrassment and maintains confidentiality.
One of the complainants, who worked with the organisation for more than 15 years before agreeing to end her contract, said the work environment became “hostile”.
The former worker, in a letter dated February 26, 2019, and addressed “To whom it may concern”, said a copy was sent to the Salvation Army Caribbean Territory Headquarters outlining her concerns.
The woman indicated that she had worked with several Salvation Army majors and had never been treated badly until Oates took over six years ago.
She did not receive a response to her letter.
The Observer was later told that it was recommended that the woman part ways with the organisation.
She was paid a sum of money. She did not disclose the amount.