WASHINGTON — The Washington Commanders have hired an independent firm to investigate allegations of sexual harassment by team owner Dan Snyder.
The investigative team will look specifically into allegations made by former Washington Commanders employee Tiffani Johnston during a roundtable discussion with Congress on Capitol Hill last week. During that roundtable discussion, six former employees leveled accusations of misconduct.
Pallas Global Group LLC, led by former Assistant United States Attorneys Bonnie Jonas and Tiffany Moller, will manage the investigation, according to a statement from the Commanders. Former U.S. attorney and California state judge Debra Wong Yang was retained by Pallas Global Group to lead the investigation.
"The team is committed to a thorough and independent investigation of Ms. Johnston's allegations, and pledges full cooperation with the investigation,” the statement said.
The statement also says that all findings from Yang's investigation will be released to the public.
At a two-hour roundtable discussion with the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Reform committee last week, Johnston shared her story for the first time.
She claimed Snyder put his hand on her thigh during a dinner engagement and then later aggressively pushed her toward his limousine.
"The only reason Dan Snyder removed his hand from my back and pushing me towards his limo is because his attorney intervened and said, 'Dan, Dan. This is a bad idea. A very bad idea, Dan," Johnston said.
Snyder released a statement later calling the accusations "outright lies" but committee chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) read from a letter sent in from former team Vice President Jason Friedman that corroborated Johnston's allegations.
"He says, 'I witnessed Dan Snyder grab the arm of my coworker Tiffani Johnston and attempt to pull her into his limousine,'" Rep Maloney read aloud. "This took place over a dinner in D.C. I was shocked. Thankfully, Tiffani was able to quickly pull away.'"
Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, the lawyers representing more than 40 former team employees, released their own statement in response, calling Snyder's investigation a "sham."
“The idea that Dan Snyder has hired a team to investigate his own actions is utterly absurd," the statement said. "This is a desperate public relations stunt, clearly designed to absolve him of wrongdoing ... If there is to be any investigation of Ms. Johnston's allegations, it should be conducted by Beth Wilkinson and her team, who have spent the better part of the last year investigating the actions of Mr. Snyder and his top lieutenants."
The statement went on to say that Johnson would not participate in "this sham of an investigation."
On Wednesday afternoon, Maloney and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, released statements in reaction to the hiring of the independent firm, saying that Snyder and the NFL "cannot be trusted to do the right thing."
“The American people have seen this act before,” Maloney wrote. “Dan Snyder cannot be trusted to lead an investigation into the serious allegations against him that emerged at the Committee’s roundtable, and the NFL must commit not just to investigate, but to do so with complete transparency. Mr. Snyder and the NFL have demonstrated time and time again that they cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Mr. Snyder and the NFL must stop hiding the findings from the Wilkinson investigation, comply with the Oversight Committee’s requests, and commit that new allegations will not be swept under the rug.”
Krishnamoorthi said the subcommittee remains committed to holding the NFL and Snyder accountable for the team's alleged toxic culture.
“In any other organization, an independent investigation would be a welcome step. In the case of Mr. Snyder’s Commanders, it is a road to nowhere,” Krishnamoorthi said. “During the Committee’s roundtable, we heard firsthand how Mr. Snyder not only condoned and encouraged the team’s culture of sexual harassment and other misconduct, he personally engaged in unwelcome sexual contact with a subordinate. The idea that this ‘independent’ investigation is anything more than an attempt to further cover up his bad behavior and intimidate the victims who bravely shared their stories is absurd. Mr. Snyder must be held accountable for his actions and the Committee will continue to push the NFL to release the findings of its investigation into the Washington Commanders.”
The NFL now faces a Valentine's Day deadline to turn over all documents regarding the investigation into the alleged toxic culture of the Washington organization.
If the league fails to do so, the committee says it "will consider alternate means of obtaining compliance."