The civil rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center announced Thursday it had fired co-founder Morris Dees. The Montgomery, Alabama–based organization, known for tracking hate groups, did not give a specific reason for the 82-year-old’s dismissal after nearly 50 years with the nonprofit group, but a SPLC statement issued in conjunction with Dees’ sacking indicates it was workplace misconduct. Dees also told the Associated Press “a personnel issue” was the point of contention.
“As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world,” SPLC president Richard Cohen said in an emailed statement. “When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.” For his part, Dees indicated he did not know the root cause of his dismissal from the organization he helped found in 1971 and that, he says, he had been less and less involved with day-to-day operations. “It was not my decision, what they did,” Dees told the Montgomery Advertiser. “I wish the center the absolute best. Whatever reasons they had of theirs, I don’t know.”
“Today we announced a number of immediate, concrete next steps we’re taking, including bringing in an outside organization to conduct a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices, to ensure that our talented staff is working in the environment that they deserve—one in which all voices are heard and all staff members are respected,” the SPLC said in a statement.