The Sexist

“The Breast Massage Will Happen”: Inside the Culture of Sexual Harassment at the Marijuana Policy Project

Lewis’ memo touched off a couple of concerns. How could a workplace womanizer and his No. 2 provide “complete reports” to anyone about an alleged incident of sexual misconduct? And how could staff members honestly air their complaints about Kampia and Green when Green would be relaying them to the board? After all, Green was the very HR head who had failed to curb Kampia’s behavior for so long. “We were informed that all information had to go through her, and that she would summarize it for us,” says Sarah Hench, an MPP employee who resigned following the Aug. 6 incident. “I thought that was completely ridiculous.” Nevertheless, Hench agreed to submit her gripes with Kampia to Green.

Here’s one of them: In a meeting, Kampia told Hench that a potential MPP donor had recently had a breast lift, and that he planned to give her a breast massage the next time he saw her. In an e-mail, Hench informed Kampia that she was uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation. “I indicated to Rob that I did NOT want to see personal e-mails to this person because of previous comments he had made about her,” Hench wrote in her complaint. Kampia then sent Hench another e-mail saying, “The breast massage will happen,” and also attempted to raise the topic again in a phone call. “He responded by deliberately trying to make me uncomfortable,” Hench wrote, “and then three days later sent me an e-mail with completely unnecessary sexual comments in it.” The exchange reveals Kampia’s commitment to keeping office banter sexually charged: Kampia made a sexual comment to Hench; Hench told Kampia she was uncomfortable with the sexual comment; Kampia responded to Hench’s discomfort with more sexual comments. (Kampia claims that he stopped referencing his masseuse duties when he became aware of Hench’s unease).

Green summarized the exchange in preparation for a board meeting: “Rob was communicating with a friend in NYC who said she was recovering from breast lift surgery. Rob told this friend he would give her a ‘breast massage” when they saw each other next, and she agreed. Rob shared this story with Sarah.” Hench says that Green’s retelling downplays Kampia’s persistent harassment. Green disagrees. “I thought that that account was horrifying. And I thought my description of the account was horrifying,” says Green. “I was horrified having to write it. I do not believe that my account of that situation lost anything in the retelling. That account is objectively disturbing.”

Bernath had this to say in his complaint to the board: In his role as executive director of MPP, Kampia had exhibited “sexual harassment, openly predatory behavior, and complete and possibly sociopathic disregard for the harmful effects his actions have had on his employees.”

Lewis says the board received a complete summation of complaints from Green—even though it did not include testimony from all of the staffers who had quit in the wake of the Aug. 6 incident. “I wasn’t concerned about that, because what we already knew [about Kampia’s behavior] was as bad as it could be,” Lewis says. “It couldn’t have been any worse than that.”

In late August, the board issued a resolution concerning Kampia’s misconduct. “We take seriously what we have learned about Rob’s and others’ words and actions, and we’re committed to bringing MPP’s standards and practices in line with those of other modern-day organizations,” the board decided. “Rob clearly understands, acknowledges and apologizes for having exhibited poor judgment and bad behavior, and having been an imperfect example. He has committed to us, and will to you soon, that his behavior is now changed and that he will obtain remedial sensitivity and behavior modification training ASAP.” MPP implemented a new sexual harassment policy and required its staffers to attend sexual harassment training. But their “imperfect example” was to stay on as head of MPP.

Which raises the question: Kampia’s harassment was “as bad as it could be,” in the words of Lewis, so what could Kampia possibly do to actually force his resignation? “I don’t know. Shoot somebody? Bring an unregistered gun into the office?” Lewis says. “Those are criminal behaviors. This was not appropriate behavior, but this was not criminal behavior.”

Five months after the board’s resolution to keep Kampia, the executive director announced his three-month hiatus. Green remains on board, ready to guide the organization through the crisis Kampia caused. “In my mind, she’s just another person who Rob has hurt. I don’t think he cares what happens to her,” says Bernath. “There’s a little bit of irony there to me, because Alison is not very sympathetic to women who put themselves in vulnerable positions. But that’s exactly what’s happened to her.”

Cover illustration by Brooke Hatfield; Kampia photograph by Bob Berg via Getty Images; home photograph by Darrow Montgomery

  • http://www.red-alerts.com Rob Taylor

    Surprise! Grown men who get high are immature.

    Gee. Why do guys want drug legal anyway. Is it because life is so much better when you get high or is it because chicks who are high put out? Mull that one over stoner gals.

  • Patriarchy: Par for the Motherfucking Course

    So we're at 250 on this already so my comment will likely get lost in the mix but what the hell:

    As a radical who has had to work with and within the non-profit sector every now and then, this kind of thing happens on a constant basis.

    Most organizations like MPP are run by men and staffed by 20-something year old women and execs treating their hiring process like a speed dating game and their employees like a harem is only to be expected.

    Yet another reason why the non-profit industrial complex needs to die.

  • http://www.weedpress.wordpress.com jsnsoc8

    @Rob Taylor

    For a smart, rational discussion of the issue so blatantly misrepresented in the media so far, please see http://forums.cannabisculture.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1612931#Post1612931.

    Thank you, and have a nice day.

    PS I'm sorry you can't get laid. It's frustrating, huh.

  • @jsnsoc8

    Why are you saying that this has beem "blatantly misrepresented in the media?" Based on the reporting, everything seems factual. Maybe you don't like what is being reported but to say that it is "blatantly misrepresented" seems like a stretch.

  • latecomer

    Wow, it was fun reading through the comments on this page...I couldn't make it through all of 'Adam's prose (does that count as another 'attack', Adam?). I'm sorry but if he's not a professional PR hack then he's actually some kind of monomaniac. Can you imagine sharing dinner with this guy? No one could care so deeply about some issue unless they're keenly involved somehow...

  • TracyDC

    All I know is that MPP posts open staff positions on a regular basis. Too many for such a small organization. I've done a lot of project and temp work over the last several years, so I've been glued to Idealist.org and other nonprofit jobs sites. I decided long ago that MPP must be a miserable place to work if staff come and go that quickly.

  • http://www.free-pampering.com Melanie Whitaker

    I've had the same type of activities to be true at almost all of my previous jobs. This is very commonplace.

  • NotWashington

    I know Rob. I've known him since before MPP. He's always tried to get women in bed, anyone he could find. He's insecure. He came to a fundraiser for our organization, and spent the whole time chasing my assistant who was half his age. It was terrible to watch.

    I hope he gets his sh*t together, but he needs to resign. MPP has to get another Director. And Alison, you need to get a life, sorry.

  • Justine

    And what does this have to do with legalizing medicinal or recreational cannabis? Nothing, just a smear campaign to detract and confuse voters.

  • RevelationJoe

    Two things seem quite clear to me.

    First, Adam IS obviously Rob Kampia.

    There isn't a PR hack in the world who would put in that kind of time. And only Kampia would have had both

    (a) a pro-Kampia outlook

    (b) an incredibly deep investment level in, and knowledge of, every tiny aspect of this story

    Adam/Kampia is scum. The end.

    Second: Alison Green appears to have pursued the classic tactic of building her career via sex (Kampia, and no doubt many others, just on the off chance that one day they would acquire some measure of wealth or fame).

    Then, once in a position of some authority, she began banging her subordinates (Bernath, at minimum).

    So I feel faintly sorry for Alison Green. Although manifestly a slut, she -- unlike Kampia -- is out of a job.

    And try to imagine what it must be like for her professional prospects for the rest of her life.

    If she applies for a job, her resume begins with "Chief of Staff at the Marijuana Policy Project" -- a title which does not inspire confidence.

    If she makes it past that hurdle, HR is bound to Google her along these lines:

    +"Alison Green" +MPP

    ...at which point she appears to have been a spineless toady who shouted down her own best judgment and morals in order to endorse the ongoing career of a suspected rapist.

    I'd say karma has been served in her case already. It can only be a matter of time for Kampia as well.

...