The Chartered Institute of Fundraising has admitted that it was “not clear enough” about the “no wrongdoing” outcome of an investigation into its former chief executive’s handling of sexual assault allegations.
In an apology to the witnesses and complainants involved in the case, issued yesterday afternoon, the CIoF trustees said the investigation “was unable to find sufficient evidence” that a complaint had been made to the former chief executive Peter Lewis in 2014, but did conclude a complaint was probably made to someone at the CIoF.
On Wednesday, the CIoF announced an investigation into whether Lewis had received an allegation of sexual misconduct in 2014 had found there was “no wrongdoing” on his part, and later clarified that the investigation had “concluded no complaint was made to Peter in 2014”.
A second investigation, into the actual allegations of sexual assault, is ongoing and is expected to conclude at the end of the month.
In its apology, the CIoF also said it should have waited until the full information from both investigations was available before making a statement about the outcome of the investigation into Lewis.
“This was done to address the personal allegation against him, but that should not have been the priority,” the apology letter said.
The letter also revealed that the report into Lewis, which has not yet been published, “found systemic failings in the Chartered Institute’s processes” and pledged to publish the full findings when the findings of the second report were published.
The apology letter said the initial statement about the outcome of the Lewis investigation was “not clear enough about the outcome: the investigation was unable to find sufficient evidence that a complaint had been made to the CEO in 2014 but did find that, on the balance of probabilities, the survivor had complained about the incident of sexual harassment which happened in 2014”.
But, it said, the investigation “was unable to establish to whom the complaint was made”.
It went on to say the report had found “significant failings in the institute’s processes” when the allegations were repeated to the CIoF in 2019.
The apology was issued to the witnesses and complainants after they criticised the CIoF for failing to warn them about the result of investigation into Lewis before it was announced on Wednesday.
The CIoF initially said that Tell Jane, the HR agency conducting the investigations, had contacted those involved, but Tell Jane later released a statement denying this was the case or that it had ever been asked to.
The CIoF apology letter said: “We would like to offer a heartfelt complete and unreserved apology to you for how the Chartered Institute of Fundraising has handled the complaints and concerns you have raised.”
It said the failure to contact the witnesses and complainants was “unacceptable”, adding: “We apologise sincerely for this and the confusion we created with the two investigations.”
In the letter, trustees also apologised to the witnesses and complainants for “the pain and distress” caused by the actions of CIoF staff and trustees.
“The trustees recognise that the culture and processes did not support survivors and we are committed to long-term systemic change,” the letter said.
It acknowledged that trustees’ commitment to learn from their mistakes “does not change what has happened or make good the harm and trauma that has been caused” by the CIoF’s handling of the issue, and thanked the recipients for “your bravery, your challenge and all your work to support women who have been affected”.
It said that acting on the findings of the investigation would be “a priority” for trustees.
Lewis said: "The further information that has been shared does not change the fundamental finding of the independent investigation that I was cleared of any wrongdoing. That is because no complaint or disclosure was made to me in 2014, nor was one brought to my attention.
"During my time as the chief executive of the Chartered Institute I always dealt with complaints or disclosures made to me, or complaints or disclosures brought to my attention by someone else, in accordance with the institute's complaints and disciplinary processes."
Lewis said he did not control the timing of the announcement about the outcome of the investigation.
"As this was partly an investigation into an employee, the Chartered Institute decided that it would be better to make the announcement in relation to that part of the investigation while I was still employed, but the timings slipped slightly," he said.