The fallout continues for Maine Media Collective after its owner and former publisher was accused publicly last week of sexual harassment.

St. Joseph’s College in Standish said Wednesday that it is canceling an annual event, Shaping Maine, that it co-sponsored with Maine Magazine, one of several magazines published by Maine Media Collective.

“We are saddened to announce that we are stepping back from our relationship with Maine Media Collective until such time as issues of ownership and workplace culture are addressed,” St. Joseph’s President James S. Dlugos said in a prepared statement.

In addition, Andrea King, current CEO and publisher of Maine Media Collective, has withdrawn as a panel moderator at the Maine Women’s Conference next week in Portland. The Portland Press Herald is one of several sponsors of that event, which will feature guest speakers and breakout sessions.

In a prepared statement, King said she volunteered to step aside as a moderator but still plans to attend the conference. She said she would “welcome conversations with anyone in attendance about current events.”

Responding to the cancellation of the Shaping Maine event, King said she and others at Maine Media are “focused on the health of the magazines and our core products so have decided to postpone or cancel events that we had planned in the coming months.”

Last week, Jessica Lacey alleged that her former boss, Kevin Thomas, twice kissed her without her permission at a Portland restaurant in March 2010. She said that although both she and Thomas agreed to move on the next day, her work began to suffer as a result of “systematic bullying, relentless gaslighting, and calculated mental harassment the likes of which I had never before, or since, experienced.” Lacey left the company less than a year later.

Thomas initially pushed back against Lacey’s detailed allegations, which she posted on the website Medium. But this week he issued an apology, both to Lacey “for the lines that were crossed,” and to anyone else who worked for him who felt “unsafe, or unsupported, or threatened.”

King also has sought to find the right balance in her statements since Thomas was accused by Lacey. Last week, she posted an open letter on the company’s website that didn’t mention Lacey’s allegations but focused on how she has reshaped the workplace since taking over in November 2017.

UNEASE AMONG ADVERTISERS

On Monday, after advertisers and sponsors started to distance themselves, King issued a more forceful statement and said Thomas was no longer involved with the company in any way and was working to sell it.

“While the working conditions Ms. Lacey described in her blog post relate to the alleged actions of former management eight years ago, we want to apologize and assure you in the strongest possible way that such conditions are neither present nor tolerated at MMC today,” she said.

King also alluded to broader problems with workplace culture at the magazine and said another male employee who has faced accusations anonymously has been let go.

Thomas said this week that he is negotiating with potential buyers, but Maine Media Collective has faced sustained criticism. Over the past week there has been unease among its advertisers, even as Thomas has stepped aside from any active role. Some, including the Portland Museum of Art, have stopped doing business with the company.

TAKING ALLEGATIONS ‘SERIOUSLY’

Dlugos, the St. Joseph’s College president, explained that the school was founded by the Sisters of Mercy more than 100 years ago as an institution to empower women.

“We expect individuals and organizations with whom we choose to partner to have similar commitments,” he said. “We take these allegations seriously and unequivocally condemn the inappropriate behavior and workplace culture described in the allegations.”

The Shaping Maine event, which in part highlighted Maine Magazine’s annual feature “50 Mainers,” was to be held June 28. In years past, it has been an elegant affair attended by hundreds of prominent people from all over the state.

Dlugos said he hopes to organize a new event that can continue the original spirit.

The allegations against Thomas also prompted Maine Media to cancel the Kennebunkport Festival, an annual event it sponsored that showcased food, wine and art. However, local residents and businesses banded together and decided to re-create the event without Maine Media’s sponsorship.

“Overwhelmingly, the community believes passionately in the potential of the festival as a positive force in the Kennebunks and will do everything possible to make it a success,” new festival director Emily McConnell said in a prepared statement. “With events just a month away, we are committed to moving quickly to put the right infrastructure in place for scheduling, ticketing and permitting, but ask for a bit of patience as we do so.”

That event will be held June 4-10.

King said she hopes to be a part of a broader discussion about some of the issues that have emerged, such as workplace harassment and company culture.

“I would like to see us move the conversation forward with respectful, open and candid dialogue,” she said. “I meant what I said in my letter about engaging the community and other business leaders on the important issues being raised in the news about the company.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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