Sparrow CEO on leave following sexual misconduct allegations

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Sparrow Health System CEO Emory W. Tibbs Jr. is accused in a lawsuit of sexually harassing and assaulting a female coworker while he was employed in Virginia.

According to court records, the incidents allegedly took place while he was the Chief Operating Officer at Centra Health Inc. in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The wrongful termination lawsuit was filed by Stephanie Ann Hale, who worked at Centra Hospital as a nurse. She claims she started getting sexually suggestive emails from a person named Ethan Toms. Hale rejected those advances, and she later found out she wasn’t the only one who’d interacted with this person.  

“That associate of hers produced a voicemail from the man she knew to be Ethan Toms, and played the voicemail for Stephanie,” her lawyer, M. Paul Valois, said. “And when Stephanie heard the voicemail, she became virtually certain that ethan toms was actually E.W. Tibbs.”

Hale’s boyfriend sent an email back acting as hale implying she knew it was Tibbs. It was then Hale was fired from her job at the hospital a move she believes Tibbs was behind.

After that, the lawsuit claims Hale’s boyfriend came up with a plan to blackmail Tibbs, and confirm his identity, by arranging a sexual encounter at a hotel. Valois said Hale only went along with the plan to get her boyfriend to stop harassing her about the emails.

Her lawyer also sent 6 News video of the setup, which took place at a hotel in Lynchburg in March 2017. The video appears to show Tibbs in the hotel room being confronted by Hale’s boyfriend. 

Before the recording started, the lawsuit claims Tibbs stripped naked, and demanded Hale take off her clothes as well. She tried to run into the bathroom–but he allegedly grabbed her, tried to take off her clothes and groped her.

Since the allegations surfaced a release announcing Tibbs’ recent hire as CEO has been taken down from Sparrow’s website.

Valois says she’s ready for whatever happens in the proceedings.

“Stephanie understands that they’re gonna come after her and they’re gonna paint her out to be a participant in some sort of extortion plot or blackmail plot,” he said. “She denies it, and she understands that’s probably gonna happen.”

Tibbs resigned from Centra in October 2018 to become CEO at Sparrow.

In a statement, Sparrow Hospital announced it put Tibbs on paid administrative leave in light of the allegations. Read that statement below:

“We have been made aware of allegations against Mr. E.W. Tibbs, Jr. that occurred prior to his employment at Sparrow. These allegations are disturbing to us and we are taking immediate action. Effective immediately, the Sparrow Board has placed Mr. Tibbs, Jr. on paid administrative leave pending further thorough investigation. This move will have no impact on our patients or staff who provide such great care for our community. Also, effective immediately, current Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Joe Ruth, has been appointed by the Sparrow Board as acting President & CEO.”

Our affiliate in Virginia, WDBJ, reports Centra Health is working with an outside agency to investigate the allegations against Tibbs. Read the statement from Centra’s spokeswoman below:

“As soon as we were made aware of the allegations involving personal conduct by our former CEO, we began an internal review to determine whether they have any merit.

“We are working with an independent third party to conduct a formal investigation of the alleged claims. We are not able to comment directly on the lawsuit at this time, except to say that these are very serious allegations that require an appropriate level of due diligence.

“Centra operates under a strict code of conduct and we expect all members of our team to exemplify those high standards.”

You can read the lawsuit below:

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