Former GitHub CEO quits after harassment investigation

Tom Preston-Werner says he'll 'fight any further false claims to the full extent of the law'

Former GitHub CEO Tom Preston-Werner has resigned from the company following an investigation into claims of harassment.

The investigation by a third party found there had been no legal wrongdoing but determined that "errors of judgment" and "mistakes" had been made, according to a blog post Monday by GitHub co-founder and current CEO Chris Wanstrath.

Wanstrath became CEO in January when Preston-Werner stepped down to pursue research and development at the company.

Last month, GitHub engineer Julie Ann Horvath quit, charging in a series of Twitter messages and in the trade press that she had been subjected to sexual and gender harassment.

Horvath's messages stirred considerable controversy, tapping into the hot-button issue of sexism in the field of IT.

In a subsequent interview in the trade press, Horvath described how the wife of an unnamed co-founder attempted to intimidate her in company matters. The wife was not an employee of the company.

She also described the GitHub work environment as being hostile to women, despite concerted efforts by her and the founders to bring more females into the company.

Preston-Werner announced his resignation in his own blog post Monday.

"With every decision I made at GitHub and in every interaction I had with employees, I tried to treat people better than they expected and to resolve conflict with empathy," he wrote. "Despite that, I've made mistakes, and I am deeply sorry to anyone who was hurt by those mistakes."

"That said," he added, "I want to be very clear about one thing: neither my wife, Theresa, nor I have ever engaged in gender-based harassment or discrimination."

He said he and his wife are "prepared to fight any further false claims ... to the full extent of the law."

Founded in 2008, GitHub provides a hosted environment for storing and maintaining software projects. The company has about 240 employees and hosts more than 11.3 million projects from about 5.4 million users.

GitHub's investigation "found no evidence to support the claims against Tom and his wife of sexual or gender-based harassment or retaliation, or of a sexist or hostile work environment," Wanstrath wrote.

In a series of caustic Twitter messages Monday, Horvath expressed severe dissatisfaction with the investigation.

In one message, she stated she met a mediator from the company who seemed to be most concerned with relieving GitHub "of any legal responsibility."

In another, she reiterated that company executives bullied her to quit.

GitHub is not the only Web-focused organization with executive ranks recently roiled by controversy. Earlier this month, new Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich stepped down after only two weeks in the post, due to protest sparked by his support of California's 2008 ban on same-sex marriage.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Joab Jackson

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