Vera House executive director resigns after outcry over hiring known sex offender

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Editor’s Note: This article contains references to sexual assault.

Vera House co-executive director Randi Bregman resigned on Friday after learning in early August that she had knowingly hired a Level 2 registered sex offender, according to a news release.

Bregman resigned following an open letter signed by 28 former Vera House employees denouncing the decision to hire and retain Marcus Jackson as a victims’ advocate and calling for a change in the organization’s leadership.

“We want all victims and survivors in the Syracuse community to know that we are truly sorry that Vera House let you down in such a huge way. Your anger and sense of betrayal is so real. They are heartbreaking, they are life changing,” the letter read. “It wasn’t our house Vera. We’re so sorry.”

Co-executive director Angela M. Douglas will assume the role of sole executive director following Bregman’s departure, according to the statement. Although Bregman’s resignation will be immediate, she will participate in the transition in an effort to balance accountability and achieve the organization’s mission, Bregman’s statement said.

“As soon as I realized the impact of my decisions, I began speaking with our Co-Executive Director, Board leadership and other stakeholders, wishing to honor the request for my resignation while recognizing the current needs of the agency and those we serve, and calls on me to stay and help the agency through the crisis,” Bregman said.

Jackson is listed by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services as a level two sex offender. He was convicted in Florida in 1998 and 2000 for sexual interference with two male victims who were then 15 and 16, according to the registry.

According to an Aug. 18 Vera House press release, Bregman, along with two advocacy program officials, knew Jackson was a convicted sex offender and failed to update his address in the sex offender registry. In an Aug. 8 interview with CNY Central, Bregman attributed the decision to hire him to the organization’s belief in “people’s ability to change.”

“We appreciate the safety of all victims, survivors and potential victims. At the same time, we appreciate the humanity in everyone, including someone who may have done harm,” Bregman told CNY Central at the time.

When Jackson was hired in October 2020, according to the Aug. 18 statement, Vera House implemented measures to prevent contact with minors because of his beliefs. During an internal review on August 15, Vera House management found that Jackson had been in contact with a 17-year-old at a local hospital in December 2021.

New York State will require Vera House to repay the roughly $64,000 in federal funding that was used to pay Jackson’s salary while he was with the organization due to a violation of a rule that sex offenders cannot work with minors.

In a statement, Douglas said his priority was to serve victims and survivors and move forward while acknowledging the “devastating” impact of recent weeks.

“Now is the time for us to take the next step. This is a parallel journey for us as we walk alongside beautiful humans every day seeking release from the pain of impact. Not as an escape, but as a reclaiming of who they are,” Douglas wrote. “Vera House walks the same path today. May we continue to walk together with tenacity and compassion.

This post will be updated with additional reports

Contact Jane: [email protected] | @JanaLoSeal

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