Kenny Leck, the founder of independent bookstore BooksActually has responded with a statement on Sep. 26, following a Rice Media exposé on the harassment that his employees allegedly experienced.
Caused pain to ex-wife
In a Facebook post, Leck addressed the allegations his ex-wife and former employee, Renee Ting, made.Ting said she was 19 years old when she was pursued romantically by Leck, then 34, who had broken up with his girlfriend at the time, another BooksActually employee.
After they got together, Ting claimed that she barely had a day off and would rarely get paid.
She recounted how she would spend nights sleeping at the back of the store. This, another ex-employee alleged, was Leck's reason for not paying Ting a salary, as he was already "housing" her in the bookstore.
During their marriage, Leck also allegedly started an affair with another young employee, which Ting said resulted in their divorce.
In his statement, Leck stated that he did not wish to speak about the affair.
However, he acknowledged that he had made mistakes and caused Ting "deep pain she may never heal from".
He also claimed that their divorce was properly initiated, and that a settlement was drafted to both parties' agreement, for which he is still making restitution.
Not ready to speak about other allegations
Other allegations in Rice's article included Leck making romantic advances towards his employees, the majority of whom are female and in their twenties.
Leck has also been romantically involved with several of his employees.
Some ex-employees told Rice that they were hesitant to speak up, as Leck would at times insinuate that he would use his connections to destroy any chances the people who offended him would have in the arts career.
He would also make allusions to his gang associations from his polytechnic days.
Leck admitted in his statement to his "personal failings as the individual running BooksActually", which had caused "immense pain" to certain former employees.
Nevertheless, he did not address any of the aforementioned allegations specifically.
He said that some allegations and inferences are "totally untrue", but that he is not yet ready to talk about these publicly, and wished for people to give him some privacy.
Leck removed from all decision-making processes
On Sep. 25, BooksActually released a statement acknowledging that its staff did not work "in a safe and professional workplace environment" in the early years of the store.
The statement also revealed that Leck will relinquish sole ownership of the store and Math Paper Press. He will transfer collective ownership of both entities to the team.
Leck shared that he had actually been ceding executive decision-making to some of his full-time staff since early 2020.
By relinquishing ownership, Leck will be removed from all decision-making processes from now on.
He added that the current team will be coming up with standard operating procedures for the workplace, including an anti-harassment policy for future hires.
These safeguards will be regularly updated as the work environment changes.
Leck concluded that he is "deeply sorry to everyone that [he has] caused pain to", and hoped that the current team at BooksActually will continue to receive the public's support.
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Top photo from kenny.leck / IG