President of Powerful Realtors’ Group Resigns After Sexual Harassment Claims

on Aug28
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The president of the powerful National Association of Realtors has resigned, two days after The New York Times published an article detailing complaints from women that he exhibited a pattern of behavior that included improper touching and sending lewd photos and texts.

Multiple women said they had been harassed or subjected to inappropriate conduct by the group’s president, Kenny Parcell, according to interviews, a lawsuit and an internal report. Mr. Parcell, 50, denied the accusations in written responses to The Times.

N.A.R. confirmed Mr. Parcell’s resignation, which was reported on Monday by Inman, a real estate news site.

Mr. Parcell was a successful Realtor in Utah who rose through the ranks of the nonprofit organization and held several senior leadership positions before taking on its top role. His one-year term as president was not scheduled to end until November. Mr. Parcell’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Mr. Parcell continued to deny the accusations even as he stepped down.

”My resignation comes after a series of accusations against me that are categorically false,” he wrote in a letter to N.A.R.’s executive committee and board of directors. “I am deeply troubled by those looking to tarnish my character and mischaracterize my well-intended actions.”

In an email statement, a representative for N.A.R. said that Tracy Kasper, who was the president-elect, will commence her presidency immediately, taking over Mr. Parcell’s position.

“We recognize there is lots of concern, anger and disappointment,” Ms. Kasper said in a memo to N.A.R. members, “and we want to acknowledge the people who have come forward and shared their stories and those of you who have shared your perspective over the past few days. Our commitment to our staff and our members is unwavering, and we will continue to enhance the way we foster a welcoming, safe and respectful workplace.”

The nonprofit, based in Chicago, has more than $1 billion in assets and owns the trademark to the word “Realtor.” It dominates the American real estate industry with 1.5 million dues-paying members, making it the largest professional organization in the country.

Calls for Mr. Parcell’s resignation came after The Times published the article on Saturday. The next day, Jason Haber, a real estate agent with Compass, started a petition demanding that Mr. Parcell resign.

“When I looked online, I expected to see real estate boards and real estate brokerages coming out with statements not only saying they were disturbed by the actions, but condemning them and calling for change — and there was nothing,” Mr. Haber said, explaining why he started the petition. “I reached out to representatives for speakers at their upcoming conferences, asking them to withdraw their speaking slots. We were putting a lot of pressure on the organization.”

Complaints about Mr. Parcell began to surface after Janelle Brevard, a former employee who said she had had a consensual relationship with Mr. Parcell, sued the group for racial and sexual discrimination and harassment.

Ms. Brevard, who is Black, handled the group’s podcasts and videos and much of its marketing materials from 2019 to 2022. She said that after their relationship ended she was excluded from meetings and business trips and that Mr. Parcell, who is white, threatened to have her fired, according to her lawsuit.

Ms. Brevard was fired in September 2022, a few months after their relationship ended. She was one of four women who provided complaints about Mr. Parcell’s behavior to an independent investigator hired to look into accusations of sexual harassment at the organization, and the only one to lose her job. The other three women, her lawsuit said, are white. She withdrew her lawsuit in early July after negotiating a settlement with N.A.R.

Jennifer Braun, N.A.R.’s senior events producer, filed an internal report to the human resources department about two encounters with Mr. Parcell. She told The Times that at a 2018 conference in Washington Mr. Parcell placed his hands down his own pants when he asked her to help him fix his shirt. On another occasion, he simulated ejaculation and told her that another colleague was masturbating in his room, she said.

In a separate accusation, an N.A.R. executive sent a memo to a senior vice president, saying she had become aware of two employees who had described an “inappropriate invitation” to spend the night at Mr. Parcell’s Utah home. He also sent them photographs of his crotch, which the executive shared with the senior vice president, according to the memo. The Times reviewed the photographs.

Mr. Parcell has denied all of the accusations.

Within the organization and its affiliates, 29 employees and former leaders told The Times that N.A.R. leaders did not adequately address a culture of bad behavior, despite complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation by Mr. Parcell and other leaders.

Mr. Parcell’s resignation “is a first step,” said Mr. Haber, who has been organizing for change with others in the industry. “The toxic environment that existed at N.A.R. was in place before Kenny Parcell was president, which means it will be that way after he leaves. So this isn’t the end — this is the beginning of our work.”

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