Following allegations of sexual harassment and financial improprieties, Javier Palomarez, the CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, has stepped down from his post.
Palomarez has been subject to scrutiny by the USHCC following reports of his alleged misconduct, which were originally reported by The New York Times and Buzzfeed as early as last November. The USHCC board met earlier this week to discuss the allegations. Palomarez denies the sexual harassment allegations and says that financial audits and investigations have cleared him of financial wrongdoing, which purportedly involved taking money from the organization to pad his own salary.
The board has been investigating these financial issues following actions taken by Nina Vaca, the former board chair, who subsequently brought them to the board’s attention. Palomarez now claims that he had an ill-advised affair with Vaca. While extramarital affairs were cited as the leading cause of divorce in a Journal of Family Issues study, with 21.6% of respondents citing infidelity ended their marriages, it is not yet known whether the disclosure will impact Palomarez’s marriage with his wife, Rebecca. Palomarez also claims that after Vaca was asked to leave her post on December 6, she devised a plan to have him ousted.
In a statement to the USHCC board obtained by NBC News, Palomarez stated: “I am guilty of an affair with one of your fellow board members. I ended it … admitted it and have tried to move on.” He further explained, “To be clear, I have never stolen from our organization or improperly paid myself more than my contract allowed. I have never touched a team member who worked for me. I have never propositioned or made sexually suggestive comments to anyone I’ve worked with.”
But Vaca’s attorney, Brent Walker, said that’s deflection at its finest. In a statement to NBC News, Walker said: “Mr. Palomarez is being investigated for financial improprieties. That is a fact. It’s unfortunate that when faced with these accusations, Mr. Palomarez has chosen to deflect the investigation by suggesting they are the result of some supposed, personal relationship.”
In addition to the admitted yet unconfirmed affair and claims of financial impropriety, Palomarez’s former chief of staff has accused him of sexual harassment. Gissel Gazek Nicholas, who was fired from her position back in the fall, accused Palomarez of sexual assault in a letter her lawyer gave to the board and in a subsequent interview with The New York Times. Nicholas also claimed that Palomarez created a hostile work environment and that she was wrongfully terminated from her position. The events in question can be traced back all the way to 2013.
Ultimately, the board felt it was best to ask Palomarez to step down. Although 74% of adults feel an unattractive smile can hurt career success, it seems Palomarez’s pristine white teeth and comely features couldn’t help save his job. Palomarez managed to raise the profile of the USHCC in the eight years of his leadership, but he had recently come under fire for supporting President Trump’s demands to make deep cuts to legal immigration visas, to grant funding for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and to increase immigration enforcement. However, Palomarez did resign from the President’s National Diversity Coalition back in September in order to publicly protest Trump’s decision to end the DACA program.
According to the board, a governance committee has been appointed to choose Palomarez’s successor. Until then, an interim chief operating officer will be established.