Former Rogue Retreat head McComas opens up on departure

MEDFORD, Ore. —Rogue Retreat’s Board of Directors announcing the departure of its leader Chad McComas, after 24 years.  This comes after his church, Set Free Ministries, had been tied in a recent report to gay conversion therapy. That’s an attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

McComas denied any wrongdoing when the allegations first surfaced in June and continues to do so today.

“When I was confronted with these accusations of conversion therapy, I had never even heard what that was, it was like what is that? I don’t know” said McComas.

Following the allegations, McComas was put on paid administrative leave. The city even paused funding for Set Free Services, which is part of McComas church.

This, despite the fact that the city pointed out, Set Free and Rogue Retreat are different organizations, even though McComas has a leadership role at both. Soon after Medford’s investigation wrapped up, City Attorney Eric Mitton said it’s Set Free funding would continue because of the grant money for a food pantry and shower facility, were not used for religious activities.

“We found no evidence that Set Free Services in providing the grant-funded services, engaged in any sort of discriminatory behavior,” said Mitton back in July.

A third-party investigation, conducted by a private attorney and workplace investigator, looked into the discrimination allegations for Rogue Retreat. The non-profit says it found no evidence of discrimination or harassment toward anyone, by Rogue Retreat staff, participants, or by Chad McComas himself. Despite the report’s findings, Rogue Retreat announced McComas is in its words, departing the organization, citing restructuring. McComas claims there’s more to his departure than just that.

“The reasons had to do with administrative and financial things that I did, decisions I made that they felt were wrong or inappropriate or unprofessional and yet if I had a chance to go through that with the board which I didn’t have the chance there’s an explanation for just about everything,” said McComas.

A press release said the non-profit is doing an assessment and says its current budget will not sustain the current size of its workforce. It says, as a result, it let 25 people go last week. McComas says Rogue Retreat is having financial issues, but it’s not a result of poor management.

“One funding organization was supposed to have a new contract with Rogue Retreat starting July 1st and they are withholding it until I’m terminated,” said McComas.

McComas says in the end, he was told the board had voted to terminate him, but he could resign first if he preferred.

“What I’ve discovered is that even before the report came out, the rogue retreat board decided to terminate me on issues that had nothing to do with discrimination but issues we’ve never had a chance to discuss,” McComas said.

In a press release Wednesday, Board Chair Tom Fischer thanked McComas for his dedication.

He said in part, “Over the past 24 years chad has been a driving force in developing creative housing, shelter, and case management to improve the lives of those who experience homelessness in our community.  Chad is an inspiring leader who has not only left a lasting impact on the community but across the region.”

Rogue Retreat says it has not made a decision yet, on the future leadership of the agency.

For McComas, the shock is still sinking in. “I know my heart is with Rogue Retreat, that’s my baby, I started it 24 years ago, I worked at it all these years,” he said.

Fischer said in a statement, the organization is moving forward to serve the homeless community in the Rogue Valley.

Rogue Retreat issued the following press release:

“Rogue Retreat has been celebrated statewide for its breakthrough programs, assisting those who are struggling with homelessness. Founder and Executive Director Chad McComas has been a source of light and hope for so many.

“While celebrating our past and its leadership, any organization of Rogue Retreat’s size and impact must constantly evolve and move forward to maintain relevancy and solvency. For us, this means engaging in a thoughtful study and a realignment of services to maintain our core vision of delivering much-needed community services to our clients while remaining financially stable now and in the future.

“Rogue Retreat has also just concluded a third-party investigation (conducted by a private Attorney and Workplace Investigator) into claims of potential discrimination that came out in June of 2022. The findings of the report show that there is no evidence of discrimination or harassment toward LGBTQIA+ persons (or any other persons) by Rogue Retreat staff, participants, or by Chad McComas.

“Rogue Retreat is currently conducting assessment and process evaluations so that we can deliver much-needed programs. To best serve our vulnerable residents, our services must be delivered in a fashion that assures our financial stability both today and into the future. As part of this top-to-bottom review, we have concluded that our current budget will not sustain the current size of our workforce. We have reduced our workforce to align with our payroll budget. Sadly, twenty-five of our dedicated colleagues were let go last week.

“These decisions did not come without thoughtful consideration by the Board of Directors. Our first priority is and must be, to continue providing services to our residents. We wish all who departed the very best, and we thank them for their dedication to the residents we serve.

“The Board of Directors today also announced the departure of Founder and Executive Director Chad McComas. Board Chair Tom Fischer today remarked, ”Chad and Rogue Retreat have been a beacon of hope to so many, and we thank him for his tireless dedication.” Fischer continued by saying, “Over the past 24 years Chad has been a driving force in developing creative housing, shelter, and case management to improve the lives of those who experience homelessness in our community. Chad is an inspiring leader who has not only left a lasting impact on the community but across the region. We thank him for all of his dedication.”

“Rogue Retreat will move forward, in partnership with our community supporters, to guarantee that the homeless community in the region continues to receive the services it needs and deserves. We have made no decision as yet on the future leadership of the agency.”

Rogue Retreat representatives also released the following statement regarding protests and demonstrations:

“Rogue Retreat celebrates diversity and the fundamental right to free speech. We respect all opinions, including those who participate march [sic]. Chad has left us a tremendous legacy of caring for others in this community, which we intend to build upon. We thank Chad for his many years of dedication to Rogue Retreat. Going forward we will build upon this legacy, reshaping Rogue Retreat to continue to care for others, and also be financially stable.”

NBC5 News Reporter Jenna King is a Burbank native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at the U of O, she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through interning with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors, or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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