Vic Gerami, recently promoted to director of programs and communications for the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, has raised the hackles of some Chamber board members with an email accusing Chamber President and CEO Genevieve Morrill of racist and homophobic behavior.
Gerami sent the email a little more than a week ago to the 34 members of the board of directors and board of governors of the Chamber, which is the non-profit organization that advocates for business interests in West Hollywood. The Chamber receives about $65,000 in funding from the City of West Hollywood for various services.
WEHOville has interviewed several recipients of the email, none of whom were willing to be quoted by name. They disputed Gerami’s allegation of homophobic behavior by Morrill. They also disputed Gerami’s allegation of racist behavior by Morrill, who apparently was accused by Gerami of describing some people by their nationality. While several people shared parts of the email’s content with WEHOville, no one was willing to share an actual copy of it. Gerami hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
In an interview with WEHOville, Keith Kaplan, chair of the Chamber board, said: “We have taken the letter seriously, and we are engaging in the process that’s been prescribed by our HR consultant, which is a formal investigation by a licensed investigator.”
Kaplan noted that the Chamber’s employee manual specifies that an employee with workplace issues is supposed to contact the Chamber’s human resources consultant, which Gerami did not do. “I do not know why Vic did not do this,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan said that Morrill “has and continues to be extremely cooperative in this process.”
Gerami, a former ad sales person for the now-defunct Frontiers magazine and briefly for L.A. Weekly, is one of three Chamber employees reporting to Morrill, who last month gave Gerami a promotion and a large pay raise. “I continue to support Vic,” Morrill said. “I am really blown away by this. Of course, I want to do whatever it takes to make sure we go through the process.”
“I’m just trying to keep the Chamber on track, to keep the Chamber strong. I have continued to do that for seven and a half years. I have worked in West Hollywood for 18 years.”
Gerami’s complaint about Morrill is similar to a complaint he made while employed at Frontiers about being sexually harassed by a supervisor. David Stern, then the publisher of the magazine, posted on Facebook today that “Vic was an employee of Frontiers when I owned it and tried a similar stunt against one of my employee’s. It was proven false and caused nothing but time, money, and headaches to deal with. Making these kind of claims is Vic’s standard M.O. when he doesn’t get his way. It is the Vic Gerami show 24/7.”
Before taking over management of the Chamber of Commerce in 2010, Morrill was vice president at the Pacific Design Center. While Morrill wasn’t willing to discuss in detail Gerami’s allegations, she noted that her family has a history of advocacy for civil rights.
The Chamber went through another shuffle in June, when Morrill sent an email message to board members suggesting she was resigning.
“I want to let you know that the board took actions during my vacation that makes it impossible for me to return to work and effectively administer my duties,” she wrote. “I have communicated with Keith (Kaplan) to let him know that I am willing to assist with him and the Board through their transition and am waiting to hear back from him. This email is to inform the Board about why I haven’t been in the office the past couple of days. I am concerned about leaving the Chamber staff without my coverage while we transition and I am available to support you during this period.”
Members of the Chamber board’s executive committee met with Morrill, after which she declared that she was not resigning.
Dustan – If you know Ms. Morrill (not Merrill), why don’t you know that she lives in Marina del Rey, not the long time resident of West Hollywood as you stated?
Dustin, I’m sure there are many people who have different experiences than you do. I can tell you from experience in another city, people in business-public positions like chambers of commerce very often have different personas depending on who they’re talking to at the moment. I don’t know her or him, but keep in mind you may be only be shown one side and Vic may be shown another.
I do not know Vic Gerami but I do know Genevieve Merrill and I find this completely ridiculous. Genevieve is a well known, long time resident of West Hollywood who also happens to be one of the city’s biggest advocates and leading voices. Her integrity and high character are unmatched and it is incredibly unfortunate someone has dragged her into a ridiculous situation like this.