New report from former chairman of charity promises facts behind controversy
A new report has set out the circumstances surrounding the suspension of homelessness campaigner Anthony Flynn from the charity he co-founded over two allegations of sexual assault.
Mr Flynn, the chief executive of Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) and a Dublin city councillor for the north city, died by suicide on August 18, fuelling bitter recriminations over the charity’s handling of his suspension.
The report by the charity’s former chairman David Hall, which includes a dossier of emails and texts, details for the first time a factual chronology of the events that culminated in Mr Flynn’s death. It will be presented by Mr Hall to an annual general meeting of ICHH tomorrow.
It is understood the report sets out how Mr Flynn passed up numerous opportunities to tell the ICHH board about the sexual assault allegations and dismissed his suspension as “more bulls**t” in a text message to Mr Hall.
According to informed sources, Mr Flynn was first contacted by gardaí last May after a client of ICHH alleged he had been sexually assaulted by him at his home.
Gardaí interviewed Mr Flynn, examined his mobile phone and carried out forensic examinations.
Almost two weeks later, a second allegation of sexual assault was made against Mr Flynn. The alleged victim was not a client of ICHH. Both alleged victims claimed they had travelled to Mr Flynn’s home in East Wall in taxis booked to the ICHH account.
Mr Flynn was interviewed, his mobile phone was taken and forensic examinations were conducted. However, almost three months elapsed before the ICHH became aware of the allegations against its chief executive.
The report’s chronology of events starts on July 30, the Friday before the August bank holiday weekend. The Charities Regulator contacted the ICHH about an anonymous email that complained of “sexual exploitation” of homeless women. The regulator demanded a report on the allegations from the ICHH board.
The report outlines how Mr Flynn held a meeting with staff that Friday evening about the allegations. Being the bank holiday, Mr Hall, a veteran of charity boards, was about to leave the city for a family holiday on Achill Island. He and Mr Flynn spoke about the allegations “multiple times” over the weekend.
On Tuesday, August 3, Mr Hall broke off his holiday to deal with the letter from the Charities Regulator. Back in Dublin that afternoon, he received a call from a colleague working in homeless services. The colleague had received a complaint relating to the charity, this time with more specifics: it accused a person associated with ICHH of inappropriate behaviour and text messages to a female client of the homeless services.
Mr Hall suspended the person pending an investigation. However, the allegations against the person were not of a sexual nature, and the following day the board agreed to reply to the Charities Regulator, indicating it was aware of no complaints of a sexual nature. After the letter was sent, another complaint arrived.
At 5pm on August 5, an email landed in the inboxes of Mr Flynn and Mr Hall.
Copied in were the HSE, the Dublin Homeless Executive and the Charities Regulator.
The email named the volunteer who had already been suspended by Mr Hall and Mr Flynn the previous day, but it contained a significant new allegation. “As you will be aware,” it said, “gardaí are currently investigating a member of your staff relating to a complaint that had also been made to the sexual assault unit.”
This was the first the ICHH chairman had heard about a garda investigation or of an alleged sexual assault involving a member of staff, according to the report.
According to his report, Mr Flynn dismissed the allegations to Mr Hall as probably “made up”.
That evening, another board member met Mr Flynn to discuss claims of a garda investigation. Mr Flynn again denied knowledge of the alleged investigation, the report claims.
On Friday, August 6, Mr Hall rang gardaí from his holiday in Achill. He reported the anonymous complaints and wanted to find out if there was any truth in the claim that a member of ICHH staff was under investigation for a sexual assault.
A detective sergeant phoned him back the next day. He told Mr Hall that Mr Flynn was under investigation for alleged sexual assaults, according to the report. He also told Mr Hall he would be seeking his cooperation, as chairman of ICHH, to access records, invoices and taxi receipts relating to journeys taken by the two alleged victims, according to the report.
This was the first the ICHH knew of the allegations against Mr Flynn. Mr Hall immediately contacted Mr Flynn to inform him he was being suspended for not disclosing the garda investigation to the board.
On Sunday, August 7, Mr Hall texted Mr Flynn to ask for a confidential email address to which he could send the formal letter. Mr Flynn replied by text: “This is more bulls**t.”
Mr Hall tried to meet Mr Flynn over the following days, but the meetings never happened. On August 11, gardaí met Mr Hall to deliver a letter requesting access to 14 items of information held by the ICHH. These included the alleged victims’ dealings with the homeless charity before the assaults, if any, and bank account details confirming payment of taxi receipts, along with many other records.
By August 12, news of the suspension emerged. That evening, the charity issued a statement in response to questions from media outlets, confirming a staff member had been suspended.
Although Mr Flynn was not identified, the publicity generated widespread anger in his local community in the north inner city. Much of it was directed at Mr Hall, who was accused on social media of mishandling Mr Flynn’s suspension. The report to the ICHH board makes reference to Mr Flynn’s insistence to others in ICHH that the allegations were untrue and he was being forced out of his job.
Mr Flynn took his life six days later, on August 18.
After Mr Flynn’s death, Mr Hall instigated an extensive independent investigation, appointing barrister Remy Farrell. He then resigned as chair as a result of threats to his safety, as did two other directors.
Since Mr Flynn’s death, two more alleged victims have come forward to claims sexual impropriety against Mr Flynn. Three of the four alleged victims have made statements to gardaí, but garda sources said the investigation will be wrapped up, given the death of the alleged perpetrator.
No evidence has emerged that others had knowledge of the alleged assaults.
Mr Hall’s report for tomorrow’s AGM includes a request that the new board will support the independent investigation into all of the allegations.
Christy Burke replaced Mr Hall as chair of ICHH, but will step down. Gary Gannon, a Social Democrats TD, has been nominated as a new chair of the board by the remaining directors. His nomination will be put to the AGM.
He said he is making no assumptions as to the outcome of the vote, but wants to get involved to protect the good work of ICHH.
“I believe all the allegations should be independently investigated. Anyone who feels they been wronged needs to have their voices heard,” he said.