NPR CEO on leave over health concerns

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Mohn

NPR CEO Jarl Mohn is on leave for at least four weeks over health concerns, he said in a memo to staff Tuesday.  

Mohn took time off in March to recover from a ruptured aorta. “I returned to work with the blessing of my physician with one important caveat — I cannot allow my blood pressure to rise,” Mohn wrote. “Regretfully, the hypertension has returned to a dangerous level, and I have been instructed to take medical leave until my health returns to normal, at a minimum of four weeks.”

COO Loren Mayor will run the network in Mohn’s absence, he said.

In the memo, Mohn went on to disclose new incidents of misconduct by former news chief Michael Oreskes.

Mohn informed staff that a second NPR employee filed a complaint against Oreskes in fall 2015, around the same time as producer Rebecca Hersher complained about his inappropriate behavior.

“Since the woman who had filed that second complaint was promised that it would be kept confidential, and it had not been publicly reported, I did not raise it earlier,” Mohn wrote.

“Mike was disciplined at the time for both incidents,” he added.

Additionally, according to Mohn, NPR investigated concerns over “inappropriate expenses” claimed by Oreskes. An investigation found that Oreskes had “invalid expenses,” Mohn said.  Oreskes recently reimbursed the network for about $1800.

“In retrospect, I did not see the bigger pattern of poor judgment and unacceptable behavior,” Mohn wrote. “I am sorry, and I have learned from this.”

The full memo is below:

Dear Colleagues,

This last week has brought to the surface issues that run deep across our organization. I have tried hard to be as transparent as possible about our handling of complaints that were raised against Mike Oreskes, while ensuring that people can confidentially come forward if they experience inappropriate behavior.

When I spoke last week, I confirmed a publicly reported complaint that was made by an NPR employee in the fall of 2015. About the same time, a second similar complaint was lodged. Since the woman who had filed that second complaint was promised that it would be kept confidential, and it had not been publicly reported, I did not raise it earlier. Now I am disclosing that second complaint. Mike was disciplined at the time for both incidents. Additional complaints have come to light since the Washington Post article was published, and we are taking each of them seriously.

There were other signs of Mike’s bad judgment along the way. Concerns were raised linked to inappropriate expenses.  We investigated and he recently reimbursed NPR for about $1800 in invalid expenses.

In retrospect, I did not see the bigger pattern of poor judgment and unacceptable behavior. I am sorry, and I have learned from this.  As I have stated, the Board is the process of engaging a law firm to review our handling of this situation.

And now some personal news.

As many of you know, last March I suffered a nearly fatal ruptured aorta. I returned to work with the blessing of my physician with one important caveat — I cannot allow my blood pressure to rise. Regretfully, the hypertension has returned to a dangerous level, and I have been instructed to take medical leave until my health returns to normal, at a minimum of four weeks.

In my absence, our Board of Directors has asked our Chief Operating Officer, Loren Mayor, to continue to manage the day-to-day operations of the organization.  She will do so with the full support of, and with guidance from, the Board.

I made the commitment to you that I would help ensure that the integrity, accountability, transparency, and humanity of our journalism would be mirrored in our offices.  I intend to get healthy so that I can return and do the work we need to do.

Jarl