|Photo: The Sexist|
|In happier times: Rob Kampia with MPP Chief of Staff Alison Green|
Rob Kampia has been reinstated as executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, just three months into an unpaid leave of absence due to a sex scandal which shook the cannabis advocacy organization.
“Rob is back effective today,” said Mike Meno, director of communications at MPP, on Wednesday. “The board voted yesterday and we’re hoping to continue with the work of ending marijuana prohibition in this country.”
High Times reports that Kampia was reinstated by the nine-person MPP board of directors during a “contentious” conference call meeting. The close vote on Kampia’s return was followed by the resignation of at least two board members, one on the spot and one within 24 hours.
The Berkeley Patients Group later released a statement confirming that their “representative has decided to resign from the board and to focus on implementation and self-regulation of medical cannabis laws.”
Mitch Earleywine, professor of clinical psychology at the State University of New York (SUNY) and an MPP board member since 2005 also submitted his resignation.
Bruce Mirken, former communications director at MPP, told Toke of the Town Kampia’s return is not good news for the marijuana movement.
“I have no personal grudge against Rob Kampia, who generally treated me well, but this is a sad day,” Mirken told us Thursday night.
“After working with Rob for eight years, and particularly after observing his handling of this crisis, I was forced to conclude that he is both tempermentally and ethically unfit for any position of leadership,” Mirken told Toke of the Town.
“From the time this situation exploded in August, it was clear that the board failed to do anything resembling due diligence, and the end result is a decision that will do serious harm to our movement,” Mirken told us.
“It may take years to become obvious, but no good will come of this,” Mirken said.
Kampia’s reinstatement was predictable and inevitable, given the impact of his absence on MPP’s fundraising activities. The organization’s annual Playboy Mansion fundraiser was canceled this year, and not just because it seemed inappropriate.
“Without Rob doing his normal major donor fundraising we simply don’t have the cash flow to pay the upfront deposits that would be due now,” Chief of Staff Alison Green wrote in an organization-wide email in February.
“Major donor fundraising” is likely code for billionaire philanthropist Peter Lewis, chairman of MPP’s board of directors. Kampia’s control over MPP’s finances is based on his close relationship with Lewis and other big contributors.
“I believe Rob’s return to MPP is good news for the 800,000+ people who are arrested each year for marijuana and who are counting on our movement to end marijuana prohibition, and I welcome Rob back,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at MPP, told Toke of the Town.
“Of course, Rob has made some mistakes and showed bad judgment,” O’Keefe said. “There was a need for some corrective action and new policies at MPP. Those happened back in August, and if anything similar happened again, he would be fired.”
“Rob has shown he can change and I believe the three-month unpaid leave and therapy were sufficient punishment,” O’Keefe said.
“This has been a difficult several months, and Rob’s poor judgment (and related press) caused that disruption,” O’Keefe told us. “But I am firmly convinced that a) what he did was not so extreme that it would warrant a summary dismissal without even a warning and opportunity to change (no one brought any complaints to the board or raised them in annual evaluations pre-August 7, despite a grievance process and a very open atmosphere to raise complaints); and b) Rob is the best person for the job, and that while Rob alone is not MPP, without Rob, MPP would be a much smaller and less effective organization.”
“I support Rob’s return because, based on my over six years of work at MPP, I believe we have the best shot to win with him at the helm of MPP,” O’Keefe said.
Kampia took a temporary leave of absence on January 19 as a result of continuing controversy surrounding an incident which occurred in August 2009 between himself and a female employee after an MPP happy hour at a D.C. pub.
Kampia and the woman returned to his place; what happened next depends remains in dispute, but the woman hasn’t commented publicly. The woman involved and three other MPP staffers quit within days of the incident, and the number of resignations had grown to seven before the first media reports appeared in January.
MPP’s department heads unanimously joined Chief of Staff Alison Green on August 13, 2009 in calling for Kampia to step aside, but he would remain as executive director for the next five months.
After media reports erupted in January, Kampia admitted showing “poor judgment” and (with a certain disconcerting boastful air) called himself “hypersexual.” Kampia agreed to a leave of absence of at least three months, including therapy.
Major MPP donor Lewis said at the time that Kampia’s return would predicate upon “convincing the board he has dealt with his issues.”
According to a former high-level MPP staffer who worked with Kampia for years, Kampia’s caddish behavior was egregious, and part of a years-long pattern, including pursuing numerous MPP employees for sex; sending emails to a subordinate telling of his intention to “breast massage” an MPP donor; and allegedly telling a female employee “she’d look better with a boob job.”
“Rob has a very long history, known to anyone at MPP who’s been there more than a few months, of hitting on and sexually harassing pretty young women, including employees,” our source told us in January.
“Even if this particular incident was 100 percent consensual, his behavior should have gotten him fired years ago — or at the very least, put on probation and fired if it continued,” the ex-MPP staffer told Toke of the Town.
“It was so egregious that I, and a number of other employees, that even in the most generous telling of the story, made it impossible to work for Rob,” the anonymous ex-MPP employee said.
“What this story only hints at was that the original incident was followed by a systematic attempt to evade responsibility,” our anonymous source told Toke of the Town. “In addition to hiding behind Peter Lewis’s skirts, there was a concerted effort to keep critical information from the board, and no means was ever provided for staff members to communicate directly with the board as it considered what to do.”
According to the ex-MPP employee, much about the situation remains unresolved. “Frankly, I’ve seen no evidence that the board made a serious effort to try to get the whole truth,” the ex-MPP staffer told us.
“The full story is very long and involved, but it’s ugly,” our source told us. “It gets creepier when you hear the full story.”