Randall Goldman, who over two decades emerged as a guiding figure of Charleston’s restaurant scene, resigned as CEO of Patrick Properties Wednesday following a company investigation that revealed “unacceptable managerial conduct” toward employees.
The company announced Goldman’s resignation just hours before the glitzy kickoff to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, an event that Goldman once chaired.
He was ousted from the festival’s board last week, shortly after The Post and Courier published a story detailing allegations of sexually suggestive behavior against him by eight former employees. They accused Goldman of doling out backrubs, planting kisses and sending unseemly late-night text messages against recipients’ wishes.
In a written statement, Patrick Properties attorney Allen Holmes said an extensive investigation involving former and current employees “did not reveal any violation of any law prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace.” But the company concluded that Goldman’s conduct “created an uncomfortable and unacceptable work environment for our employees.”
Holmes did not say how many people were interviewed or what they reported.
An attorney for Goldman did not return a call seeking comment. But Goldman previously told The Post and Courier that he was always above board with his staff, and had received no complaints from workers about his conduct. Prior to Wednesday, the owners of Patrick Properties stood behind him, saying they hadn’t received complaints either.
His wife and second-in-command, Jennifer Goldman, also has left the company, although a Patrick Properties publicist declined to say what prompted her resignation.
The Goldmans were married in 1997, the same year in which Charles and Celeste Patrick founded the company that owns Lowndes Grove Plantation, the American Theater, the William Aiken House and the now-closed Fish restaurant. As the company’s top executives, the Goldmans had influence over some of the city’s most expensive weddings and elite culinary events.
On Friday night, Goldman and the Patricks were set to debut Parcel 32, a restaurant in the former Fish space on upper King Street, at a Charleston Wine + Food Festival signature dinner. The event will now go on without him.
Publicist Angel Powell, one of the former Patrick Properties employees who publicly challenged Randall Goldman’s behavior, said she felt vindicated by the Patricks' statement.
"This has been a difficult situation for everyone involved, but I'm glad to see that there is accountability for these actions," she said.
In addition to being removed from the Wine + Food Festival board, Goldman last week agreed to step down from the James Beard Foundation national advisory board “in light of recent allegations.”
His status as president of the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association is scheduled to be discussed at the group’s next meeting on March 7. Representatives did not return messages Wednesday asking how Goldman’s resignation would affect that decision-making process.
In interviews with The Post and Courier, former employees alleged that Goldman habitually positioned himself at a too-close physical and emotional distance, enveloping them in hugs and commenting on their appearance. Former employees who have come forward since the original story was published have echoed the allegations.
“It was nonstop,” said Tina Klickstein, who was general manager of The American Theater and then Fish from 2000-2002. “It was Randall. I don’t know how else to describe it: The hugs and the backrubs and the little kisses. Was it anything illegal? I don’t know. All I can tell you is it made me feel absolutely horrible.”
When Klickstein joined Patrick Properties, there wasn’t a designated human resources specialist or an employee handbook, leaving her unsure what to do when she had an issue with Goldman.
“There was nobody in that company to talk to,” she said. “There was no human resources: It was Jennifer who sat in the office. What was I going to say to Jennifer? Your husband is touching me again?”
Patrick Properties in November created its first human resources position; those tasks were previously assigned to Randall Goldman’s assistant.
Klickstein said it never occurred to her to approach the Patricks, partly because she rarely crossed paths with them. But she was also persuaded that her complaints were beneath their purview.
Klickstein said Goldman made her feel uneasy with hugs and compliments such as “You look very beautiful today.” She told him that she considered it unprofessional for her boss to be remarking on her looks, she said, but he persisted.
“I let him know it made me uncomfortable,” she said. “From that point on, he would back it up and say, ‘You look very beautiful today, and of course, I mean that only in a professional manner.’ It was just creepy.”
In a previous interview, Goldman strongly denied touching employees. He indicated that he occasionally complimented workers on their appearances, but never in an offensive way.
In the mornings before work, Klickstein said, she would frequently burst into tears in the shower at the thought of having to face Goldman. She described working for him as “absolute hell,” but said she was terrified to leave for fear he would get angry and her name “would have been mud” in the industry.
She said she eventually was let go from the company after refusing a transfer that would have led to a salary cut. Though she was out of a job, she said, she felt nothing but relief.