"Flat Out Lie": Two Removed MPP Board Member Respond to National Chair Nick Brana's Statement on Alleged Sexual Harassment Accusations
"The statements that he is making is riddled with lies” Thomas Royko, one of five MPP board members abruptly removed, said in response to Brana's claim that an internal MPP investigation cleared him
On Wednesday, Nick Brana, the national chair of Movement for a People’s Party [MPP], issued a lengthy statement denying accusations of alleged sexual harassment by a female subordinate at MPP that Brana had, at one point, had a romantic relationship with.
Status Coup first reported on Tuesday that Brana had been under internal investigation for alleged sexual harassment since December 2021 by a special investigative committee [SIC] comprised of four MPP board members. SC also reported a rapid-fire removal of half of MPP’s board members after those board meetings called for a next-day emergency board meeting to discuss the investigation into allegations against Brana.
Saturday February 19th: Five MPP board members—Regina Clarke, Thomas Royko, Todd Jelen, David Schmelzer, and David Fishel—sent an emergency meeting petition, on Saturday February 19th, calling for a next-day February 20th emergency board meeting to discuss the SIC investigation into Brana.
**Regina Clarke and Todd Jelen were two of four MPP board members who were part of the separate internal SIC investigating the allegations against Brana.
Sunday February 20th: At 11am eastern, the five board members who had called for the emergency board meeting the day before meet via ZOOM expecting three other board members to join as well as MPP’s General Counsel (the final two board members, Nick Brana and his father Rodrigo Brana would not have been in this meeting since it was about the SIC investigation into allegations against Nick). Those three MPP board members didn’t show up. Soon after, four out of five of the MPP board members who called for the emergency meeting—Regina Clarke, Todd Jelen, Thomas Royko, and David Schmelzer, learned they had been removed from MPP’s board.
Monday, February 21st: The fifth MPP board member who, on Saturday February 19th, called for the emergency board meeting for February 20th—David Fishel—learned of his removal from MPP’s board.
Here is some of MPP National Chair Nick Brana’s February 23rd statement in response to alleged sexual harassment accusations (his full statement here).
“When she made these serious accusations, the board acted immediately and appointed a committee of three Board members to investigate. After taking written statements, interviewing both of us separately, and examining the evidence, the committee concluded that the allegations did not have merit and were a politically motivated attempt to remove me. They discovered that two board members, who had confided to others that they had long sought to remove me and take my position, had orchestrated the allegations with the accuser and a contractor.”
Brana’s public statement also described what he alleged was a “liberal takeover attempt” of MPP by the five removed board members.
Removed Board Members Respond
Regina Clarke, who was one of four MPP board members appointed to the SIC investigating allegations against Brana, challenged Brana’s claim that the SIC found “no merit” in the accuser’s accusation.
“That statement was not true,” Clarke told Status Coup. “In our special investigative committee meetings, all three original members stated that we believed the accuser. When the three of us then discussed it with the rest of the partial board [8 of 10 MPP board members minus Nick Brana and his father Rodrigo Brana], the partial board agreed that actions needed to be taken based on our findings of sexual harassment over Title 7. Later, a fourth person was added to the investigative committee over concerns about the integrity of two members of the committee and their communications with Nick Brana.”
Thomas Royko—who along with Clarke and three others was removed from MPP’s board on Sunday and Monday—had stronger words:
“That’s not true, flat out lie as far as I was aware,” Royko told Status Coup in response to Brana’s claim that the female accuser’s accusations against Brana was found by the SIC to have had no merit and been politically motivated. “The statements that he is making is riddled with lies.”
Royko—who was not a direct member of the SIC investigating allegations against Brana but was made aware of the details of the formal complaint with the accusations against him and the SIC’s progress since it was discussed in partial board meetings (eight out of 10 board members minus Nick Brana and his father Rodrigo Brana)—noted that, contrary to Brana’s statement that suggests the SIC completed its investigation and found no merit in the accuser’s accusation, the SIC never got the chance to formally complete its investigation.
“The committee did not formally finalize its recommended actions and results,” Royko said. “The recommendations have gone through evolutions throughout the process. I do know at one point the six-month probationary period [for Brana] was proposed but to my knowledge the investigation wasn’t finalized. There were calls for further recommendations and adjustments to be made to earlier proposals. In the partial board meetings I was in that discussed the investigation, it was never an option that Nick would face no consequences.”
Clarke echoed Royko.
“The investigation process wasn’t done. The five board members removed on Sunday were trying to finalize the results of the investigation. So Nick is manipulating this whole situation.”
MPP Board Member Removed
Status Coup has obtained documentation from Saturday February 19th showing on the same day five board members petitioned for an emergency next-day board meeting to discuss the internal investigation into Brana—Nick Brana, his father Rodrigo, and four other board members voted to remove several of the majority of the board members who had requested the Sunday emergency meeting.
Two of the board members who were removed, Regina Clarke and Todd Jelen, were on the SIC investigating Brana.
The documents indicate that, contrary to Brana’s public statement that claimed the SIC investigating him had “concluded” its investigation and found no merit to the accusations against him, the SIC had not formally completed its investigation or presented recommendations to the rest of MPP’s partial board (eight out of 10 board members minus Nick and Rodrigo Brana).
In the February 19th document, titled “Petition for Emergency Meeting,” five board members—Thomas Royko, Regina Clarke, Todd Jelen, David Fishel, and David Schmelzer—wrote to Michelle Ramirez, chair of the Partial Board (eight of 10 board members minus Nick Brana and his father Rodrigo Brana) calling for an emergency meeting to be held on Sunday February 20th for the “limited purpose of reviewing and discussing the recommendations of the Special Committee investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, improper behavior, and subsequent retaliation by the Board Chair (Nicholas Brana).”
As Status Coup previously reported, the five board members who sent this emergency meeting petition on Saturday February 19th requesting a partial board meeting on Sunday February 20th were informed of their removal from MPP’s board on that Sunday (Royko, Clarke, Jelen, Schmelzer) and on Monday February 21st (David Fishel).
Status Coup has obtained documentation that shows on the same day Thomas Royko, Todd Jelen, Regina Clarke, David Schmelzer, and David Fishel sent the emergency petition requesting a next-day meeting with the partial board to discuss the internal MPP investigation into Brana, Nick Brana, Rodrigo Brana, and four other board members voted to remove Royko, Jelen, and Clarke from the board (Clarke and Jelen were two of four members of the SIC investigating Brana).
Questions Over the Vote
Status Coup reached out to Nick Brana, as well as Phil Ateto, regarding Ateto serving as the sixth board member vote (see document above for Ateto’s signature as a board member) on February 19th to remove Thomas Royko, Regina Clarke, and Todd Jelen from the board (the latter two being two of four members of the SIC investigating Brana).
According to both Regina Clarke and Thomas Royko, and another MPP source familiar with Ateto’s board status, Ateto was not an active board member on February 19th of the vote and had not been for some time.
"Before we even started the investigation the process was to confirm who was on the board. During that process, Phil confirmed he was no longer on the board,” Clarke told Status Coup. “He also confirmed that when we interviewed him as part of the investigation. It just makes no sense—if you're not on the board and you've confirmed it several times, how can you vote on anything, especially on removing other board members?”
Royko said: "Phil Ateto was not a board member anymore when the vote happened on February 19th.”
Brana did not respond to Status Coup’s request for comment on whether Ateto was or wasn’t a board member who could vote on February 19th.
Ateto responded to a text message declining to answer Status Coup’s question about whether he was or wasn’t a board member who could vote on February 19th.
“I understand Nick is coming on your show, please ask him any questions related to me you would like. I will watch the show and if there’s anything I feel I need to correct or clarify, I’ll let you know.”
Status Coup reiterated its questions to Ateto on whether he was a board member able to vote to remove other board members on February 19th but he did not further respond.
Resigned Board Member or Board Member
In another document from Saturday February 19th, five of six board members who voted to remove Royko, Jelen, and Clarke signed onto a statement stating that board member David Schmelzer had already resigned from the board on May 16th, 2021.
But despite the document that says Schmelzer had already resigned on May 16th, 2021, Status Coup obtained another document, this one from February 20th, 2022, in which Nick Brana, Rodrigo Brana, and three other board members—who signed their names the day before to Schmelzer having had resigned on May 16th, 2021—stating that the “Board of Directors affirms the resignation of David Schmelzer from the Board for having four (4) or more absences from regular meetings in the past twelve (12) month period.”
For Schmelzer, the document lists a significant number of board meeting dates he missed far beyond May 16th, 2021—for which the above document stated he had resigned from the board. The dates listed as Schmelzer having missed range from May 17th, 2021 through January 31st, 2022. This document cites these missed dates as a reason for Schmelzer’s removal from the board.
As shown below on the left, the February 19th document lists David Schmelzer as having resigned from MPP’s board on May 16th, 2021. But, as shown on the right, a February 20th document cites the long list of regular board meetings Schmelzer missed after May 16th, 2021—ranging from May 17th, 2021 through January 31st, 2022.
Status Coup asked Brana why the February 19th document lists Schmelzer as having resigned on May 16th, 2021 but then, in a February 20th document, Nick Brana, Rodrigo Brana, and three other board members voted to remove Schmelzer from MPP’s board based on a significant amount of regular board meetings he missed long after the May 16th, 2021 date the document claims he had already resigned.
Brana did not respond.
Status Coup also reached out to David Schmelzer with questions on this. He did not respond.
On the same document listing Schmelzer’s missed board meetings as reason for his removal, missed board meetings are used as the reason for the removal of Regina Clarke and Todd Jelen—two of four members of the SIC investigating allegations against Brana.
Clarke shared with Status Coup context about the meetings she missed.
“From the beginning when asked to be on the board, I said my schedule tends to be crazy. When I had moments where I couldn’t attend, I made them aware. The last quarter misses were due to my cousin being diagnosed with a rare blood cancer and me needing to help her through it. I asked if I needed to step down as well as said if I needed to Rose or Raul would be great. They were two other volunteers in our working group. They excused my absences and welcomed me back in December after my cousin stabilized.”
Status Coup asked Brana about this and whether he disputed Clarke’s explanation for the board meetings she missed due to helping an ill family member. He did not respond.
“Nick Wouldn’t Have Known the Findings”
Clarke said that the February 19th emergency meeting petition she and the other soon-to-be-removed board members called for to discuss the investigation into allegations against Brana, and recommendations, contradict Brana’s claim that the investigation had already “concluded.”
“Nick wouldn’t have known the findings of the investigation because two out the four investigative committee members were removed from the board before the investigative committee could present its findings and recommendations to the rest of the board,” she told Status Coup. “There was never a conclusion to the investigation because the board was purged before the requested emergency meeting to present the findings of the investigation.”
Brana did not respond to Status Coup’s questions about how it is possible that, according to his public statement, the SIC investigating him had “concluded that the allegations did not have merit and were a politically motivated attempt to remove me” in light of the February 19th emergency petition penned by five board members calling for a next day meeting for “reviewing and discussing the recommendations of the Special Committee investigation” with the partial MPP board (8 of 10 MPP board members minus Nick Brana and his father Rodrigo Brana).
Since Brana’s public statement said the SIC investigating him concluded the allegations against him had no merit, Status Coup also asked him if he could provide details or documentation of any formal board meeting having taken place—before the February 19th emergency petition calling for a next day reviewing of the SIC’s investigation and recommendations—in which the SIC investigating allegations against him formally reported to the rest of the board that they “concluded that the allegations did not have merit and were a politically motivated attempt to remove me.”
Brana did not respond.
“Liberal Takeover Attempt”
Brana’s public statement denying alleged sexual harassment also claimed that these five board members were removed because they were part of a “liberal takeover attempt” of MPP that planned on “hijacking of the party’s message and purpose.” He also said there was “collusion” between his accuser and removed board members.
Clarke told Status Coup that while she was part of the SIC investigating allegations against Brana, she was part of other day-to-day meetings with him. In a finance meeting, Clarke alleged, Brana suggested his female accuser was part of a political campaign to remove him as MPP chair—and attempted to “discredit the accuser by bringing up her past work experience.”
“To be clear, the investigative committee did not find any political motivation behind the accuser’s accusation,” Clarke continued. “During the investigative committee’s interview with the accuser, she did not ask for Nick’s removal.”
“To my knowledge, no,” fellow removed board member Thomas Royko told Status Coup regarding there being any determination made by the SIC investigating allegations against Brana that found political motivation behind the accuser’s accusations.
Status Coup asked Brana if he denied that, during an internal investigation into alleged sexual harassment against him, he attempted to discredit the woman accusing him to Clarke—one of four SIC members investigating allegations against him.
He did not respond.
Status Coup obtained text messages sent by both Nick Brana and his father Rodrigo Brana to two of the removed board members who Brana claimed were part of the “liberal takeover attempt” of MPP.
One message was sent by Nick Brana to Thomas Royko; the other by Rodrigo Brana to Regina Clarke. Both father and son messaged Clarke and Royko on Sunday February 20th—hours after Royko, Clarke, and other board members learned they had been abruptly removed from the board by Nick, Rodrigo, and the remaining board members the day before.
In both text messages sent by Nick Brana and Rodrigo Brana, they request that Royko and Clarke speak with them and other board members the following day. In Nick’s message to Royko, he alludes to information that had been allegedly presented to MPP by “whistleblowers” from a past employer of his accuser about her making similar allegations.
“Exactly what she did with us. Let me know if you want to talk with Dave and me tomorrow,” Nick wrote to Royko.
Rodrigo Brana’s message to Clarke also alludes to alleged “whistleblowers” from the accuser’s past employer and what, according to Rodrigo, those whistleblowers disclosed to MPP about the accuser’s time working there.
[Status Coup is not publishing the full text messages from Nick and Rodrigo Brana to Royko and Clarke because there is information in them that could identify the female accuser. To date, the accuser has not publicly come forward with her accusations]
In response to Rodrigo Brana, Regina Clarke texts back: “feel free to email me.”
“Better to speak first. When you called me, I called your back,” Rodrigo responded.
Clarke responded: “Rod, no thanks! That lawyer is taking you guys down the wrong path…maybe purposely. I tried to warn on that call,” she wrote, referring to MPP’s General Counsel.
“This situation is REALLY bad now, but it could have gone more smoothly had the others not interfered with the process,” Clarke continued, adding that integrity was important to her and she wanted “no parts of any more manipulation.”
Both Royko and Clarke told Status Coup it makes no sense that Nick and Rodrigo Brana reached out to them—after voting to remove them from MPP’s board because they were part of an alleged “liberal takeover attempt”— to share “whistleblower” information about Nick’s accuser.
“If we’re all of this, why are you reaching out to me?” Clarke told Status Coup about Rodrigo Brana reaching out to her. “Is this to keep me quiet? To convince me not to trust the accuser?”
On Rodrigo Brana reaching out to her to discuss the female accuser against his son Nick, Clarke added: “It’s absolutely a conflict of interest and more manipulation.”
Status Coup reached out to Rodrigo Brana for comment and asked why he reached out to Clarke after her removal if she, and the other removed board members, were, as his son’s public statement said, part of a “liberal takeover attempt.” Status Coup also asked if he disputed Clarke’s assertion that his reaching out to her about his son’s accuser was a conflict of interest.
Rodrigo Brana did not respond to request for comment or questions.
On Nick Brana reaching out to him, Thomas Royko said: “I interpreted it as him trying to kick up dirt on the accuser and I also found it a highly inappropriate message. If he had this so-called information at his disposal, why did he not present it to the investigative committee which is proper procedure?”
Status Coup asked Nick Brana why he and his father would reach out to Royko and Clarke, after voting to remove them from MPP’s board, to try and speak with them about “whistleblower” information about Nick’s accuser—particularly if, according to Nick’s public statement, Royko and Clarke were part of a “liberal takeover attempt” of MPP. He did not respond.
Nick Brana has not answered multiple emails from Status Coup with details questions sent over several days. But he has agreed to come on Status Coup’s YouTube broadcast on Friday, February 25th (today) at 3pm eastern.
SUPPORT Status Coup’s investigative reporting by becoming a member for as low as $5-10 bucks a month. We stay independent because of YOU.