Rogue Retreat founder and executive director Chad McComas was told Monday to resign by 5 p.m. Tuesday or be terminated from the organization he founded over 24 years ago. He chose the latter.
McComas had been on administrative leave since mid-June, after a pair of nonprofit organizations, Siskiyou Abolition and Siskiyou Rising, claimed meetings held at McComas’s Set Free Ministries endorsed gay conversion therapy in 2018. As a result, McComas was the subject of a pair of investigations.
Allegations against his church, Set Free Ministries, were deemed unfounded in July by Medford City Attorney Eric Mitton, but a second investigation by Rogue Retreat had not yet been concluded.
McComas and employees — former and current — said financial woes would be blamed for the decision to terminate him after fallout from the allegations resulted in decreased financial support from other local nonprofit groups.
Those closest to McComas continue to defend him and worry about the survival of Rogue Retreat without him at the helm. Former employee Krystal Perkins planned a rally at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, with a subsequent march to Rogue Retreat offices.
A petition posted online (https://bit.ly/3dClPFp), demanding “Reinstate Chad McComas,” garnered over 100 signatures in a few hours Monday.
McComas confirmed to the Mail Tribune Tuesday that the Rogue Retreat board asked him Monday to tender his resignation or be terminated.
“I can say that I am deeply hurt and wounded that the Rogue Retreat board has decided to terminate me. For 24 years, I’ve built this organization from the ground up. It is my heart and soul, and I never could treat anybody the way I’ve been treated. My heart is to not cause any harm,” McComas said Tuesday.
Despite the city of Medford investigation deeming allegations against Set Free unfounded, McComas said the board was threatened with loss of funding from a number of nonprofits after the allegations.
“Since the investigation found that I did nothing wrong, they can’t terminate me for that, so they’re saying they have a list of things I was a poor administrator on, which isn’t true,” McComas said.
Rogue Retreat board members declined to comment. Rogue Retreat marketing coordinator Joe Powell, in an email to the Mail Tribune, said, “At this time there is no official statement from our board of directors.”
Shannon Holland, manager of the Kelly Shelter run by Rogue Retreat, confirmed Tuesday that she overheard of a managers’ meeting Monday in which the decision to fire McComas was announced. Holland later voiced frustration with McComas’ continued absence during a staff meeting, calling the loss of McComas “devastating to so many employees and clients of Rogue Retreat.”
“They held a meeting and let all the managers know that he was being let go. They were firing him. A lot of people are afraid to lose their job, so they’re not sure what to do, but this is just wrong. I can’t watch it happen,” Holland said.
“We wouldn’t have any of this without him. Pastor Chad has helped a lot of people who are now on payroll,” Holland said. “He’s turned people’s lives around. He’s married people. The only thing I’ve ever seen him ask of people and about their personal lives is, ‘Do you have a faith?’ And he’s accepted you and loved you unconditionally no matter how you answered that question.”
Holland, who said she was homeless for five years, credits McComas with helping her change her life.
“We just had a staff meeting, and everyone was talking about how great their weekend was, so I decided to bring up the elephant in the room,” she said.
“I do not want to be in this organization without Pastor Chad. He inspired and built this place, and they’re cutting out the heart and soul. Even if it meant me being homeless again, I would not be afraid of standing up to fight this.”
Former Rogue Retreat employee Dana Bogdanove, who described themself as nonbinary, said McComas had been a constant supporter of their decision to “come out.” Having moved to Portland last year, Bogdanove said they were shocked by allegations against McComas and his firing.
“When I heard about everything going on, and that it started because someone accused Chad of being transphobic and homophobic, it was absolutely laughable,” Bogdanove said.
“I’m nonbinary and queer, and I worked there for over a year, and the only homophobia or transphobia I ever experienced was from a co-worker who was fired a week later. Chad never misgendered me and was always extremely accepting. Most of Medford is not quite up to date on pronouns, but Pastor Chad was someone who cared about how he made people feel.”
Bogdanove added, “He was actually the one who came and checked in with me after that incident with the co-worker, and that impressed me because he was at the top (as director) and I was at the bottom. I had to give grammar lessons to so many people when I came out, and Chad was not one of them.”
McComas said he learned that up to 50 layoffs had occurred in recent weeks. He took issue with his leadership and management of the organization being used as cause for termination.
“I’ve given 24 years of my life, 12 without pay. I almost lost my house at one point because we bought property, and it almost went upside down. This just hurts so much because it’s my baby,” he said.
“This is an organization that, when I left, had over 500 people a night in housing, over 100 employees and many, many contracts and agreements between multiple organizations in Southern Oregon who supported our mission.”
McComas added, “Because of the accusations in June, things have really gone south, even after there was no evidence of anything I did wrong. I talked to an attorney who told me, ‘You have no reason to resign, and I advise that you not do so.’”
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or bpollock@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.
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