AOB is Not Qualified to Conduct an Investigation

About AOB

Here’s what the CRT said in their April 21, 2020 update about the experience of AOB:

“An Olive Branch has extensive experience with responding to allegations of misconduct on the part of spiritual leaders. As a neutral third-party, we are able to relate to reporters of harm, witnesses, and those refuting claims of misconduct. Our goal is a fair and balanced investigation.

The three consultants from An Olive Branch who are working on this project… together, they have advised and counseled [not investigated] 25 organizations experiencing allegations of ethical misconduct by a spiritual leader.

AOB has performed five projects for Buddhist organizations. Of the five projects, [ONLY] two were independent investigations, including interviewing students who reported harm and receiving testimony from supporters of their teacher and rebuttal witnesses.”

On the home page of the AOB website, it says the following about their background:

“An Olive Branch was formed in 2011 as a project of the Zen Center of Pittsburgh. Growing out of the need for greater understanding and reduction of ethical misconduct on the part of religious leaders, the work of the organization is centered on providing services to organizations in conflict.

We have expertise, knowledge of best practices, and standards of excellence for our services. Our consultants have complementary skills related to training, facilitation, governance and intervention.  The services they offer on their website are:

  • Responding to ethical misconduct
  • Training Services
  • Mediation Services”

Notice there is no mention of conducting investigations.

Questions about Education and Training

Guru Terath Singh, who as a NM State Prosecutor for 25 years, conducted thousands of investigations and was a judge for 20 years for the State Public Education Department, shared this email communication he had with Barbara Gray from AOB on May 8, 2020:

“One of the questions that you have not yet answered is the education and training of each investigator to do investigations. For some idea of what I was looking for, Google “Investigations Best Practices.” There are many examples of the education and training involved in becoming an investigator. See for example the Horton and Jones Day sites. While they refer to workplace investigations, the same universal principles apply.

It is my opinion that your approach and methodology here is more consistent with your “Listening Post” experience. And if your work with the Shambhala community is any indication of that work, it is very, very good. I believe that you are highly qualified and perform a very valuable service when you do that work.

But this is not a “Listening Post” assignment. It is supposed to be an independent, thorough and competent investigation.

Consider what is at stake. If AOB creates and the SSSC Board publishes a Report that states that YB did any of these monstrous and evil acts, his family will suffer extreme emotional distress, the more than 7,000 worldwide certified teachers and trainers of “Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan” and the hundreds of SDI ministers will all lose the respect of their students and parishioners and his worldwide reputation will be destroyed.

If Yogi Bhajan did any of these things, then these things will be the expected consequences of that behavior. But if he did not do these things, then this untold suffering would be truly reprehensible and irreversible. All of this depends on the completion of a competent, thorough and independent investigation.

It is my opinion that, for the reasons I have stated, this investigation by AOB is not competent, thorough or independent.

I regret that we are where we are. It could have been different if investigative Best Practices had been used from the outset.”

This can be fixed

AOB has only done 2 investigations.  That cannot be changed. Because of the importance of the anticipated consequences of this process, there may need to be new investigators hired who have the education, training and experience to do this work.

These allegations concern events which may have happened 20-50 years ago.  Spending a few more months to do this right and in a fair way should not be asking too much.