Young Americans for Liberty fired its president, Cliff Maloney, after numerous women—some of them former staffers—came forward with complaints that they were sexually harassed or assaulted at the libertarian student group's events over the years.
"Today, the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) Board of Directors terminated Cliff Maloney from employment with the organization effective immediately," said the group's statement. "YAL is continuing its independent investigation into all allegations, as well as ways to improve the HR process, to ensure a culture of trust, safety, and accountability thrives within the organization."
YAL's board had initially suspended both Maloney and Justin Greiss, the group's vice president, on Tuesday; it's unclear whether Greiss will stay on.
YAL was founded in 2008 by students affiliated with libertarian Republican Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign. It has chapters on campuses all over the country and hosts several conferences each year. (Disclaimer: I have spoken at YAL events, as have other Reason folks.)
Concerns about both the overall climate at YAL and specific incidents involving Maloney were first raised by Addyson Rae Garner, a libertarian activist and former YAL staffer, in a tweet-thread on January 8.
— Addyson Rae Garner (@realPOTUS2040) January 9, 2021
After Garner spoke out, the floodgates opened. Other women claimed to have witnessed sexual harassment and reported it to leadership, only for nothing to be done. Another former staffer claimed that Maloney had asked her to bring him food to his hotel room, where he propositioned her for sex. Maloney then said that people don't last at the organization unless they are loyal to him, according to this staffer.
Another former staffer, Ophelia Overton, has announced her intention to sue YAL "for sexual harassment, wrongful termination, and retaliation from president Cliff Maloney in 2020."
Maloney initially tweeted that the allegations were "100 percent false." He could not be reached for comment.
Several people who work at the organization or spoke at its conferences say that YAL must commit to fostering a safe environment for women if it wishes to regain the liberty movement's trust. Former Michigan Rep. Justin Amash called for a full, independent investigation in light of YAL's "deficient response" to the allegations.
Garner tells Reason that going public with the allegations "was my last resort to protect other women like myself from abuse."
"I had no other choice than to go public because it seemed like my efforts to get change and a real HR process had been ignored," she says. "And women just kept reaching out with horrible stories."
Any organization that facilitates events for young people must be vigilant about misconduct, so the fact that YAL did not have a reliable system for reporting abuse was a major failing. Vigilance is even more critical for groups that purport to advance libertarian values; the right to bodily autonomy is a fundamental principle of libertarianism.
Due process also matters: Everyone accused of wrongdoing should have an opportunity to defend themselves against the specific charges. The process must be transparent and independent, and fair to both accusers and the accused. Libertarian organizations have a responsibility to model good policy here: Take accusations seriously, investigate them, and deal with them promptly. Any action that falls short of that risks turning young people away from the liberty movement and libertarian ideas in general.
"I look forward to further explanation and accountability from Jeff Frazee, Justin Greiss, and others, for how this situation went on so long and how we can avoid it in the future," says Garner.