Former CIoF chief cleared of wrongdoing over claims he failed to act on sexual harassment complaint

An independent investigation into the actions of Peter Lewis was launched after allegations were made on social media in March

Peter Lewis
Peter Lewis

An investigation into the former chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising has concluded there was no wrongdoing in relation to claims he failed to act on sexual harassment complaint against a CIoF member.

The investigation into Peter Lewis, conducted by the HR consultancy Tell Jane, was launched after allegations were made on social media in March. 

Mandy Johnson, a former CIoF committee chair, tweeted that in a minuted meeting with a CIoF director in 2019, she had shared an audio recording of a woman describing being sexually assaulted at a CIoF event

It was later alleged that in the same recording, the unidentified woman said she had made Lewis aware of the assault when it had happened in 2014, but had been ignored.

Lewis, who left the CIoF on Friday, announced he would be stepping down in March, just under two weeks after the Twitter allegations surfaced, But he said at the time the decision was unconnected to the allegations and that he had handed in his resignation before they were made. 

The allegations sparked an outcry in the fundraising community over the CIoF’s handling of historical complaints.  

In a statement issued today, the CIoF said: “The independent investigation conducted by Tell Jane into the allegation that Peter Lewis received a complaint in 2014, and did nothing about it, found no wrongdoing on Peter’s part.” 

It added that Lewis had “played no part in the investigation into a member’s conduct in 2019 due to the potential conflict of interest”.

The statement said Tell Jane’s investigation included a review of all available evidence, seeking new evidence, and making direct contact with parties involved.

In a statement, Lewis said: “The last few months have been difficult for me personally, but my thoughts are with those who have been let down by our past complaints handling, policies and procedures. 

“I offer my sincere apologies to anyone who has suffered harm. It’s vitally important to ensure that the fundraising community is safe.”

Lewis said he had volunteered to have the investigation into the allegations against him independently investigated.

He said: “I have been clear throughout that no complaint or disclosure was ever made to me.”

He added that under his leadership, the institute had “started to improve its handling of complaints about sexual harassment”.

Following the initial allegations on Twitter in March, the CIoF published an initial response on the same day, but later apologised for that response, saying it had contributed to “confusion and distress”.  

The organisation revealed that in December 2020, it had commissioned Tell Jane to conduct an audit of its complaints process after the end of a disciplinary process against a member, the outcome of which has not been made public.

The audit was completed at the end of March, and the CIoF trustee board announced it had agreed to accept all 18 recommendations in the report and added others in an attempt to ensure its culture was safe for all.

The membership body said its chief executive and senior staff and trustees would no longer bear responsibility for investigations, which would be handed to a new safeguarding and complaints manager, backed by independent specialist investigators. 

While the investigation into Lewis and the audit of the CIoF’s complaints processes have ended, a separate independent investigation into the complaint of sexual harassment against a member of the institute is ongoing, the institute said. 

The CIoF’s board said in a statement: “We know that our culture and processes have let people down in the past and recognise that these have led to individuals not feeling supported to raise concerns or make complaints about harassment.

“As a board of trustees we want to apologise again to all those who have been let down by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising. We are truly sorry.”

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