Hilfman Thanks Solombrino As GBTA Declares ‘No Misconduct’

More than a month after announcing an investigation into the behavior of former CEO Scott Solombrino, the Global Business Travel Association on Monday said it found “no misconduct or legal wrongdoing on his part.”

According to the early morning Monday statement, interim executive director Dave Hilfman said, “We thank Scott for his 25 years of service to GBTA and his passion and commitment to advancing the travel industry. We wish Scott success in his future endeavors.”

According to the statement, “Solombrino and the GBTA board agreed that it was time for him to pursue other opportunities.”

GBTA said the investigation was conducted by a third party, the law firm Polsinelli. That GBTA has used Polsinelli as legal counsel for years caused some, including employees, to question its independence.

Employment law attorney Karen Kramer is president of the Association of Workplace Investigators. AWI stresses the importance of impartiality and confidentiality in workplace investigations but, according to Kramer, it’s rarely clear-cut.

“There’s no easy answer, there’s no right or wrong and it depends,” she said during a phone interview last month. “I can say that, typically, you do not see outside counsel who was in an advocacy role for the employer conducting an impartial workplace investigation because of a) perception and b) conflict of interest.”

The controversy went public after whistleblowers on June 12 sent a message (later published by Business Travel News) to reporters containing serious allegations about Solombrino’s behavior, including “racist, divisive and derogatory comments.” They had originally sent the message to GBTA’s board on June 8, a day after Solombrino’s harsh email to employees, which The Company Dime validated and published on June 15. Three days after Solombrino issued to the industry a statement of apology, GBTA put him on administrative leave.

Meanwhile, GBTA last week said it hired MCI USA to conduct a “360-degree organizational and operations audit designed to reset the association.”

According to Hilfman, “We’ve retained them to look at every aspect of what we do, from the role of the board to operations, staffing and human resources, IT, event management and marketing. Our goal is to emerge from the pandemic in the best possible position to serve our members as the leading voice of the global business travel industry.”

Disclosure: The Company Dime in recent years has conducted business with membership associations, including the American Society of Travel Advisors, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, the International Air Transport Association and some of GBTA’s chapters. These are potential conflicts of interest which the reader should consider as part of their understanding of this article.


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Jay Campbell

Author: Jay Campbell

Jay Campbell in 2004 created travel business newsletter The Beat, in 2006 co-founded Travel Procurement magazine and in 2010 integrated them with Business Travel News. He served as editorial director until 2013. Jay made his travel industry media debut in 1993 at the Air Travel Journal of Boston while earning his undergraduate degree in journalism at Boston University.
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