SVO Appoints Robert Linschield as Interim President and CEO, Announces Listening Sessions to Improve Sensitivity

The Silicon Valley Organization has appointed Robert Linschield as Interim President and CEO to guide the business group over the next three to six months, and has planned a series of listening sessions to help improve sensitivity and better engage with the broader community, according to a statement from the board of directors released on December 9. The board also announced findings from an independent investigation by CDF Labor Law, LLP, which it hired to look into the matter, indicating ‘no single individual was responsible’ for the ads, and detailed next steps to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion play an integral role in SVO culture going forward.

The move is part of the ongoing overhaul of one of the South Bay and West Valley’s most prominent business advocacy associations following a racist political posting on the group’s website. The posting enraged the region and led to an exodus of prominent business members amidst the public outcry that included local elected officials, candidates, and editorial boards. 

The organization has since dissolved its Political Action Committee, fired its media consultancy firm and accepted the resignation of former CEO and President Matt Mahood. This week, the board assumed full responsibility and blame, referencing internal shortcomings that allowed the creation of the ads. It also pointed to a ‘pattern of insensitivity in PAC ads’ and said the arm “operated largely independently and with little oversight and direction from the SVO Board and executive management” and “outside of clearly defined SVO policies and procedures.” 

According to the investigation, the image in question was posted to the SVO website by an SVO employee after that employee believed the image had been approved by the political consultant. The consultant denies approving the image, which was sourced from a free source website. No one else at the SVO appears to have reviewed or approved the image before it was published.

Additional details will not be forthcoming. “Given the sensitive nature of the investigation, the privacy rights of individuals involved in the investigated activities, and in order to preserve the Attorney Client privilege, the original Independent Investigation report must remain confidential,” according to the statement.  

A nationwide search is underway to find a suitable permanent replacement for SVO’s CEO, and plans are in place to provide all SVO staff with continuing training on implicit bias, and diversity and inclusion principles. Process and procedures have been reviewed to ensure proper oversight and supervision.  “As a board we pledge to ensure an incident like this never happens again,” organization leaders said.