Mark Coyne, a pharmacist who served on the Board of Directors at the Mazzoni Center from 2008-16, confirmed to Philadelphia Weekly Wednesday that allegations of misconduct against medical director Dr. Robert Winn are of a sexual nature and had been brought to the attention of the entire board during his term.
Coyne added that executive director Nurit Shein had not taken the allegations seriously– purportedly because they were made anonymously.
All of this arrives in the wake of a show of solidarity from Mazzoni staff members Tuesday morning, who stood outside the center in silent protest offering a sign that read “We Support Mazzoni Patients” and “Robert Winn Did It, Nurit Knew #Walkout.” On Wednesday, the board supplied an official statement to PW acknowledging that an interim replacement for the medical director role was made in Dr. Winn’s absence and that an emergency meeting among board members was scheduled to take place Thursday night.
However, upon learning that Dr. Winn had been suspended from his role and placed on paid leave, Coyne reached out to PW via email early Wednesday morning, stating:
“I have an obligation to respond as I indeed did have knowledge of the alleged misconduct when it first surfaced approximately 4-5 years ago.”
According to Coyne, former Mazzoni board president Kelly Harris, received an anonymous letter from staff members detailing allegations of sexual relationships between Dr. Winn and what Coyne described during a phone conversation with PW as “one or two patients.”
With that knowledge, Harris then called an emergency meeting among the board’s leadership, revealing the allegations. Coyne recalled Shein being upset that Harris called the meeting and denied Dr. Winn’s involvement in the allegations.
“I don’t know if she was in denial, I don’t know if she didn’t want it to get to the media,” Coyne said of Shein’s response to the allegations. “[But] she said that the allegations were false and due to disgruntled employees.”
To resolve the situation, “one of the physicians on the board asked if [Shein] had checked with the medical ethics board for reports of past bad behavior,” Coyne added.
In a subsequent board meeting, it was confirmed to the board that a background check was conducted, but had revealed no prior reports of ill-behavior by Dr. Winn. The issue was never revisited by the Board during the remainder of Coyne’s time as a member which ended in March 2016.
Coyne described his fellow board members as “compliant,” saying that many of them were installed by Shein and that “they go along with what she says.” He identified himself as one of the few who had been willing to disagree.
He also confirmed the allegations of current and former Mazzoni staff who had reported to PW that Shein would fire employees as retribution. The State of Pennsylvania does have an act that holds employers in violation for retaliating against or terminating an employee for reporting misconduct. However, that act applies only to public companies and organization; private or nonprofit organizations like the Mazzoni Center don’t necessarily fall under the same guidelines.
“If she could fire them, she would,” Coyne said of the staff who anonymously reported wrongdoing by Dr. Winn. Then ending the conversation, he paused and added:
“I want to see justice done this time...the clientele there are young kids with no support system and facing a lot of difficulties. To take advantage of that is terrible.”
Philadelphia Weekly editor Kerith Gabriel contributed to this report.