Simply Hope board member resigns after 8 On Your Side report - WNCN: News, Weather

Simply Hope board member resigns after 8 On Your Side report

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Ray Harris Ray Harris
PINELLAS COUNTY, FL - Within hours of an 8 On Your Side report that called on the carpet Simply Hope's board of directors, one board member submitted his resignation.

Related content:  Simply Hope board silent about incriminating recording

Simply Hope is a non profit drug rehab program in Pinellas County. It provides half way houses for substance abusers. Many are referred there by the Pinellas drug court. Simply Hope also receives some taxpayer money for housing clients represented by the Pinellas public defender.

The behavior of Simply Hope's director is at the center of an 8 On Your Side investigation.

At least 3 former female clients claim that director Ray Harris sexually harassed them, and more.

Harris is not talking.

Related content: Simply Hope: behind closed doors, simply nauseating

One of Simply Hope's board members, Tommy Gillis, resigned from the board hours after 8 On Your Side aired a story asking if he and the non profit's board condoned kissing encounters between Harris and female clients.

Gillis sent 8 On Your Side a copy of an email, informing other board members that he is resigning.

"As I have made known over the last couple of meetings of my desire to step down from the Simply Hope Inc. board due to personal changes in my life and after a lengthy deliberation and discussion with family I hereby tender my resignation," Gillis' email to fellow board members Tonya Cardinali and Ray Harris stated.

A cell phone recording obtained by 8 On Your Side revealed that in April, Harris put himself and a female client in an office alone. There, he crossed the line. The client, Jetta Deitchman hid the cell phone in her shirt. The video is obscured, but the audio clearly depicts that Harris was kissing Deitchman repeatedly.

"Do you think this is a good idea, what if someone?" Deitchman asked on the recording.

"Nobody's coming here, heh, heh," Harris said.

After hearing the recording, Pinellas public defender Bob Dillinger removed all of his female clients from Simply Hope housing.

Pinellas sheriff's detectives investigated the incident. They have forwarded their findings to the state attorney to determine whether criminal charges are appropriate.

Related content: Fugitive recounts ordeal at Pinellas drug rehab

Deitchman's attorney, Roger Futerman, says a serious issue with this case is that three women are claiming the same thing.

"If they didn't do what Harris wanted, they would go right back to prison," he said.

Harris' reports to the drug court carried great weight.

Harris attorney Kym Rivellini told 8 On Your Side that until the investigation is over, Harris is staying away from Simply Hope. Rivellini also said it is her firm's position that the conversation between Harris and Deitchman was recorded illegally and that its dissemination is also illegal.

According to its website, Simply Hope had only 3 board members, Cardinali, Harris, and Gillis.

"It has indeed been a pleasure to serve such a much needed and great organization," Gillis' email said.

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