The People’s Vote campaign has been engulfed in fresh controversy as sexual harassment allegations have been levelled against its new chief executive and concerns have been raised about campaign data security.
City A.M. understands People’s Vote chief executive – and former Labour election strategist – Patrick Heneghan is facing allegations of sexual harassment from at least one campaign employee, just 10 days after being appointed.
Heneghan was hired by Open Britain – one of five groups that run the People’s Vote campaign – shortly after the sacking of campaign communications chief Tom Baldwin and director James McGrory.
The change was masterminded by Open Britain chairman, and PR tycoon, Roland Rudd.
It triggered an open revolt from 40 members of staff who refused to work under Heneghan and have not returned to work since he was hired.
A letter has also been sent to the Information Commissioner’s Office, from Cardiff University professor Leighton Andrews, voicing concerns about Rudd potentially having full control of the personal data of 500,000 people.
Andrews is concerned the data, gained online from People’s Vote supporters, could be transferred to new Open Britain parent company Bainbridge Ltd, which is controlled by Rudd. Rudd’s spokesman said he was confident it is compliant with the necessary data regulation.
Open Britain told City A.M. it has appointed law firm RPC to conduct an internal investigation into the sexual harassment claims against Heneghan, which the organisation has described as “allegations of misconduct”.
Anne Weyman OBE, non-executive member of the board of Open Britain, said the claims were anonymised and made after the sacking of Baldwin and McGrory.
“In accordance with our established processes, a robust and rigorous investigation led by an external law firm, supported by leading counsel, is now underway,” she said.
“Its investigation is independent and will be thorough, fair and conducted confidentially.”
However, the independence of the investigation has been questioned by People’s Vote staff.
RPC works for Roland Rudd on other issues and have been sending out “threatening” letters to campaign staff, according to a People’s Vote spokesperson.
The People’s Vote spokesperson refused to confirm whether the allegations against Heneghan were sexual in nature.
“We are very serious about the investigation and staff have asked us to investigate the matter properly,” they said
“It’s absolutely mind-boggling that Rudd would hire his own lawyers to conduct the investigation.
“It doesn’t feel like an independent investigation at all to members of staff.”
Heneghan declined to comment.