Vera House Co-Executive Directors Randi Bregman and Angela Douglas and Vera House Board of Directors Issue Statement
August 18, 2022
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Today, Co-Executive Directors Randi Bregman and Angela Douglas and Vera House Board of Directors issued the following statement:
Over the past few days, Vera House leadership and Board of Directors has collectively reflected on recent events relating to the employment of Marcus Jackson. During this time, Vera House management has started an open dialogue with our staff, people we serve and partners. And, the Vera House Board of Directors will initiate a process to increase transparency as we review our hiring, personnel, and governance policies.
By way of this statement, we will outline the steps we will take to make sure this never happens again, but, first, we apologize. The last few days have been painful for the people we serve, Vera House supporters and volunteers, and our dedicated staff.
We apologize to our staff. Vera House would not be what it is today without the commitment, hard work and incredible passion of our staff serving the victims and survivors of abuse across Syracuse and Onondaga County.
We did not make staff aware of the facts surrounding Mr. Jackson’s background when he was hired and they had no role in his employment. That decision was made by two leaders of Vera House’s Advocacy Program and approved by our Executive Director. We regret the decision to hire him and are deeply sorry for the pain and confusion this has caused. Our staff deserve to work in a safe, transparent environment. They are rightfully proud of the work they do and news about Mr. Jackson’s history distracts from the important services these professionals provide.
We apologize to the people we serve every day. We will work diligently to earn their trust and serve them in their hour of need. We can and will do better.
To that end, on August 17, the Vera House Executive Board of Directors met to outline the steps the organization will take to accept accountability and responsibility by focusing on key areas.
The Vera House Board of Directors will institute a Governance committee that will take action relating to hiring and personnel policies moving forward. This committee will review current policies and procedures to ensure the safety of staff and those who seek services at Vera House and develop a management training program to ensure all supervisors are properly trained in employment law and ethical practices.
Hiring & Personnel
The Vera House Board will take several actions relating to our hiring practices.
- We will hire an outside HR consultant to work with the Governance Committee and Vera House HR Department to review current hiring, personnel, governance policies and best practices to determine compliance and if there is a need for modification. This consultant will participate in concert with internal Human Resources to complete any investigations.
- We will end our relationship with our current background check provider and plan to hire a new provider.
We have heard calls for increased transparency and would like to provide the following information.
When Jackson was hired in October 2020, then sole Executive Director Randi Bregman was aware of Jackson’s 2000 conviction in Florida and issues relating to his failing to update his address with the Sex Offender Registry. Jackson was forthcoming about that part of his past. As a result of this knowledge, there were safeguard procedures in place to prevent contact with a minor, based on our commitment to protect such a vulnerable population.
Late last month, Vera House leadership learned of Jackson’s other convictions that he did not disclose and were not originally reported on his background check. These revelations would have absolutely factored into the hiring decision. Had we known about these additional convictions, we would never have hired him.
On August 15, 2022, as part of our own internal review, Vera House leadership also discovered Mr. Jackson may have broken the terms of his employment and had in-person contact at a local hospital with a 17-year-old, their mother, and nurse in December of 2021. This was a violation of Vera House policy and has been reported to the NYS Office of Victim Services on August 17, 2022.
We know there have been questions about our evolving position on hiring someone who committed a sex offense. As we came to understand the impact on victims and survivors of having hired a sex offender, we initially decided that we would commit to never hire someone with a sex offense conviction again. Then we heard from HR professionals and attorneys that a blanket ban on hiring someone with a sex offense conviction was not legal, which resulted in our current policy that individuals with sex offenses will not work in positions that have direct contact with the people we serve. We consider all applicants, but all applicants for consideration are not hired. Individuals are hired based on our case-by-case review of each applicant.
We accept responsibility and accountability for our actions. We are all committed to working diligently to repair trust that has been broken and help in the healing process as we move forward in a manner that honors our work, values, and commitment to everyone we serve.
Thank you for your patience in allowing us to meet and engage with our staff, victims and survivors first, as well as state officials during this difficult time.
A Message to Andrew Cuomo
“The Friends of Andrew Cuomo” spent over $300,000 to launch an ad campaign designed to paint former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as a victim of political attacks because of the sexual harassment claims against him. We cannot allow this gaslighting to continue while the ad revictimizes victims of not only Cuomo’s sexual harassment but ANYONE who has ever experienced abuse. The tactics used by Cuomo and his supporters further represent the barriers that survivors face every day that prevent them from coming forward and getting support.
We at Vera House have asked Andrew Cuomo to take accountability for the harm he has caused on multiple occasions. Instead of admitting to his wrongdoings, he continues to use power and control to suppress and invalidate the truths of the survivors. Today we released a video, produced by Solon Quinn Studios and supported by Survivors’ Network, that sends a powerful message to survivors, "I believe you."
We are asking you to help us amplify the video so that survivors throughout New York and the rest of the world know that we believe and stand with them.
Here’s how to get involved:
1. Share our post on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter
2. Engage with our content on Instagram and TikTok
3. Share survivor support resources from your organization
4. Tag @verahouseinc
For any questions or to request an interview with a member of Survivors' Network, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org