BAM Key Details:

  • A leaked memo addressed to Donna Gland reveals how much NAR leadership knew about the harassment and toxic work environment for NAR staff as early as March 2022. 
  • The memo detailed inappropriate and abusive behavior on the part of “volunteer” NAR leadership, including but not limited to Kenny Parcell, even before he became president.
  • Inman reported on the memo in an article Wednesday morning.

A leaked memo, dated June 29, 2022, and addressed to Donna Gland (NAR’s head of human resources) provides a detailed paper trail showing NAR’s executive leadership was well aware of the “hostile, toxic work environment” as early as March 2022. 

That’s about 18 months—plenty of time to take meaningful and effective action. 

Inman first reported on the memo, which details inappropriate behavior by NAR’s “volunteer” leadership—including but not limited to Kenny Parcell, before he officially became president of the organization. 

The memo describes specific examples of Parcell’s behavior, including some referenced in the sexual harassment case filed in June by Janelle Brevard—and in the more recent New York Times exposé

Victoria Gillespie, the chief marketing and communications officer from October 2018 until March, wrote the memo on behalf of NAR staff members who were “demoralized and traumatized” by volunteer leadership’s behavior. 

In defense of the organization, NAR spokesperson Mantill Williams told Inman that, within days of receiving the memo, NAR “hired an independent, outside investigator”—Polsinelli Law Firm—to look into the allegations of misconduct. 

That 2022 investigation found evidence of “disrespectful” and even “creepy” behavior on the part of leadership toward staff well before Brevard’s lawsuit was filed. 

Williams highlighted NAR’s response to those findings: “measures put in place” included the creation of a “Culture Transformation Commission.” 

The Leadership Team adopted a new Leadership Pledge that sets forth the boundaries and proper behavior for interacting with staff and with each other, a new policy regarding when to report a personal relationship with staff, a new policy setting parameters on gifts given to staff, enhanced harassment prevention training and a new policy regarding appropriate behavior at events. There also will be an evaluation of the way leaders are selected, their roles and how they interact with association staff professionals.

Mantill Williams

NAR Spokesperson

So, NAR responded to the evidence of disrespectful and unprofessional behavior by NAR leaders, including Parcell, by creating more policies and by agreeing to “evaluate the way leaders are selected.” 

NAR did not respond to a request for the actual text of any of these new policies.  

A word from the CEO

Last week, NAR CEO Bob Goldberg emailed NAR staff to share the results of their recent Executive Committee meeting—the same committee where leaders reviewed an anonymous letter with a list of demands from NAR employees.

  1. A new policies and procedures member task force that will work with an outside law firm to independently assess NAR’s existing policies and procedures and make recommendations; 
  2. A new special committee to address claims of member misconduct that will work with a different outside law firm which will independently investigate complaints and report back to the committee; and
  3. New processes for having employee-to-employee complaints sent directly to an outside investigator for review.”

Those last two address two of the four demands made by the NAR Accountability Project, a group created shortly after the NYT exposé. 

The second concession references a “different outside law firm” in response to NAR employees demanding legal counsel that represents them—not NAR’s executive leadership. 

On its face, this looks like NAR is paying attention and making an effort to at least appear willing to meet NAR employees on neutral ground and work toward rebuilding trust and creating a transparent and supportive workplace culture. And we want to believe there are enough good people behind these decisions who are genuinely invested in doing what needs to be done. 

That said, it’s easy to say you’re willing to give beleaguered and abused NAR staff a real voice and to take their recommendations and reports into consideration. What we haven’t heard, yet, is any response from NAR to demands for the removal of Bob Goldberg, Donna Gland, Katie Johnson, and Tracy Kasper. 

Changing appearances

The creation of the task force and NAR leadership’s agreement to work with outside counsel—all of which will likely be financed by NAR member dues—could certainly result in some useful recommendations. Whether Goldberg, et al, actually take meaningful action in response to those recommendations is yet to be seen.

A committee is just another group of people talking. There’s no guarantee anything will change. 

Could we be a bit jaded? Sure. But it’s actually hard to imagine NAR practicing real accountability, either with their behavior or with the money NAR members pour into it every year.