From executives to soap opera characters, the Hispanic Chamber Controversy
After a scandal over corruption and sexual harassment, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is trying to regain its credibility while those involved become entangled in stereotyped public accusations.
Known as "the voice of the Hispanic business community," the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has decided to dismiss the person who ran their organization for more than 9 years, on February 13, amid complicated allegations of corruption and sexual harassment against him.
Javier Palomarez found himself in the middle of accusations from his former chief of staff for having tried to kiss her without her consent, and from the emeritus chairwoman of the Chamber, Nina Vaca, who requested an investigation against Palomarez for "overcompensation" of up to 1.5 million dollars through his salary.
Until then, everything suggested that it was an internal procedure framed by misunderstandings and accusations that had to be submitted to a due process of investigation.
However, and after the Chamber determined that "the salary paid was appropriate" and that the board would not take any further action against Palomarez, the former director has denied the accusations, alleging that it would be “an affair gone sour” between him and Vaca, current CEO of the Dallas Pinnacle Group.
"About two years ago, I broke off the relationship," Palomarez told D CEO magazine, as quoted by D Magazine. "I said 'I love you dearly and I have all the respect for you in the world, but I’m not marrying you and I’m not going to leave my wife’. Nina wouldn’t have it. One argument led to another to another to another. "
For its part, Vaca’s legal defense has denied Palomarez's account saying that "Mr. Palomarez has mischaracterized their friendship in a way designed to deflect attention and get retribution against Nina for raising the original financial concerns," explained Charla Aldous of Aldous / Walker LLP. "It’s been reported that the Chamber ultimately acted to remove Mr. Palomarez from his role, so they at least saw past the deflection and attempted bullying."
But both Palomarez and his legal aid team have tried to develop a case of conspiracy against him led by Vaca, and whose ultimate goal was to achieve his dismissal. As the report continues, a court initially set the date for the process but later canceled it.
The complaint against him contemplates his financial measures adopted as of 2010, during which time Vaca "had no authority or oversight over (his actions)", and where the Chamber perceived important drastic changes such as the reduction of personnel, the increase in sponsorships and the independence from the government financial support. Also, Palomarez led the first involvement of the Chamber in political affairs, first supporting the candidacy of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and later hobnobbing with the Trump Administration, which would have broken ranks in his support.
“Like it or not, we had to have a relationship with this president," said Palomarez. "But the board was incredibly split. It was a bumpy ride. As we were going through all those gyrations, you stress and push and pull the board to get where you think we need to be."
However, several people within the organization have assured that Palomarez "did much more than that". As explained by María Cardona, a former member of the Executive Committee and the board, Palomarez "frequently asked for his staff to go above what was suitable and often abused his place of power with younger members of the staff.”
For Cardona, the fact that Palomarez resorted to the alleged love affair with Vaca is "a cheap shot". "It's a ridiculous reaction from someone whose hand got caught in the cookie jar."