Letter to the editor: Former FAO global soil executive vows to appeal, sue in sex harassment fiasco

Ronald Vargas. Photo credit: ©FAO/ Matteo Sala

 Dear Mr Phillips, I hope you are doing well!  I am writing you in connection with four articles that were published by your newspaper in May. Unfortunately, I was the subject of those accusations by two women colleagues in a group that I was supervising.

 I was respecting the confidentiality process of such case, however those women broken the rules and came to you and put those articles full of false accusations. This is considered defamation against me by them, but also your newspaper. I never gave consent for putting a picture I was part of. 
 The organization made their decision and they dismissed me and put me in  black list (triggered by your articles). All the injustice came to me and thanks to your articles, people think I am a delinquent.
 I am not a perfect human being, but I worked very hard in my life since I was a child as my family was poor. I gained everything in my life thanks to my sacrifice and effort. I have no connections, no political support, no god-fathers. 
 In FAO, I was a simple P3 but I was very committed as I want to really contribute to ending hunger and poverty (I came from that side). Alone and against a difficult system, I established the Global Soil Partnership. the most successful initiative in FAO. I was able to position soils in the global agenda and mobilize resources and created a very hard working team. I applied for a P4 position that I got and I played the role of Secretary of the Global Soil Partnership. My role required at least a P5 for the heavy workload, responsibilities and outreach. However, none of my Directors ever considered this and I continued working day and night and weekends.
 I started alone and we reached a team of 40 people where I lead by example, considering that group as a family (my main mistake), and I gave opportunity to many young people including women (the organization and UN puts Gender and Youth in the center, I implemented). To be part of this team, you need to be a hardworker, otherwise you will not succeed. There were two colleagues who unfortunately after various opportunities did not perform and I had not to renew their contracts. 
 That was the main issue and I never imaged they could take revenge and accuse me of sexual harassment. The investigation took more than two years (against the rules). The report was totally biased towards the complainants. I invested many nights to read all the interviews, however the Investigators did not interview my witnesses and to some, they never asked questions on the accusations, but only those things they wanted to hear. I challenged all the accusations as there is no single evidence nor fact. It is their word against mine. Out of 15 accusations (some really like childhood) I demonstrated they were lies. However, they continued with their decision to dismiss me against all the proves. One staff member even declared that the complainant came to her asking to be her witness and admit what she was saying. The staff member told her she cannot do that as she never witnessed anything wrong on my behavior. 
 Everybody in FAO used to respect me for my hard work, seriousness, commitment and very friendly character. I never mistreated anybody and I never took advantage of my position.
 However, now my reputation was damaged and with the dismissal, I have serious problems as they cohorted my right to work as I am included in a global blacklist (clearcheck database).
 I am now taking actions and I recruited a lawyer, I will appeal this decision as I need to clear the reputation I gained in 25 years of hardwork. I will also put a case of defamation to the two complainants and also a case against your newspaper for defamation against me.
 I just want justice!
 Best regards,
 Ronald [Vargas]