Nov. 6, 2011, Facebook post, Rob Curry wrote:Should I resign from the Atheists of Florida board of directors?
This is a difficult question which I am now forced to consider due to recent events. Such a momentous decision is one I would not want to make in haste, nor without consulting those whose thoughts I trust and value. So I will share my dilemma in the hope that I may obtain constructive input from those who have relevant and helpful insights to offer.
Please take a few moments to review the facts. They will be outlined below. I expect to take my time to consider all the ramifications, and my choice will also be influenced by other events, including whether the election in progress right now is canceled, obstructed, or otherwise tampered with. Since voting takes place from November 1-21, and the ballots are counted shortly thereafter, I will wait to see what transpires before reaching a final decision. However, in order to be sure I take into account all the details that matter, weighing each item carefully, I will begin the process of contemplation now.
The proper course of action and my decision, one way or the other, should be clear by the first week of December.
Will there be a valid election for the board of directors?
Answer: Unknown at this time.
One thing is certain. If the election is canceled or otherwise tampered with, then I will resign immediately and have nothing further to do with this organization or any board members who would intentionally or negligently permit an undermining of the democratic principles that Atheists of Florida was founded on. That is a red line. If the members are not heard, I leave.
Three days ago, Ed Gollobith told me in person that he wanted to ignore the bylaws and cancel the ongoing election, perhaps holding another one this time next year. I strenuously objected, with Nan Owens (also present) voicing her concern, too, over such an unheard of and unwarranted delay. Today, he tells me by phone that the election--now in process--will proceed.
What will actually happen? We will have to wait and see.
Attempts to reach compromise rejected
John Kieffer, acting in his capacity as President of Atheists of Florida, appointed an elections committee last month in order to make sure ballots were sent for this first contested vote in 15 years.
Imagine my surprise when the chairman emails the board to declare that because John was "tardy" in doing so, he--Ed Gollobith--was unilaterally declaring that he and the secretary are the elections committee. The only ones: just them, no one else. This willful attempt to circumvent the bylaws (only the President can appoint committees, not the Chairman) was only the start of a series of needless distractions from the vital work that Atheists of Florida is in the middle of potentially accomplishing.
Because conflict is inevitable in any group of people, I thought it was worth taking time to find a reasonable compromise.
Why not, I suggested, simply bring together all of those involved to have a unified elections committee? Let's not be petty and bicker. Let's work together like we always do. John accepted this as a way to reach out his hand in cooperation, but Ed flatly refused. He would not accept any compromise. None. It had to be his way or else.
Then Ed Gollobith, without consulting the board, unilaterally locked the officers out of the Atheists of Florida PO Box and also changed the locks to the headquarters. He went from zero to loose canon faster than you can say, "By Golly!"
During this time, I heard numerous slanders and insinuations from Ed--no facts, only the product of personal irritation and suspicion exaggerated into wild accusations directed against the active officers in the group. My preference is to avoid this kind of incredibly poisonous infighting. However, when I did not automatically agree with the conclusions (not arguing, simply not actively agreeing), I was subjected to a verbal barrage of insults that culminated with him questioning my integrity. If I did not see things as he did, then I must be either an imbecile or corrupt. After all, what other possible explanation could there be?
Fine, I thought. I'm not here to argue. We can sort this out at the upcoming board meeting, as is normally the case--out in the open, with reference to facts, with the ability to ask questions and receive answers. In short, a group of people with shared goals can settle things reasonably and fairly, allowing time for all views to be heard and considered.
The best result, in my opinion, would be to find a working compromise that gets us back on the path of more productive behavior, building on the success of the activism John and EllenBeth have tirelessly provided, as they worked to promote the core purpose of the group.
Instead, I discovered a strange sight. Some non-member was sitting at the right hand of Ed Gollobith, and introduced to me as his personal attorney. On the other hand, regular members of the group who wished to renew their recently expired memberships (and then quietly observe the meeting), were being turned away at the door. When have we ever turned away renewals from contributing members? What was going on here?
There has never been a case before in the entire history of Atheists of Florida when a board member brought his own personal attorney in to accompany him and coach him on what to do (or be careful not to do). I found this both unwise and highly objectionable, and stated as much for the record.
Such an adversarial approach is not how people work together for a common purpose.
There will be no discussion!
John Kieffer made the announcement that because his court date was no longer pressing (it was scheduled for this week, but has been delayed until next year), he was actively resuming his duties as president. He also announced a new chapter director who--as a chapter director--would also have a seat on the board: Jessica Parish.
The Chairman refused to accept Jessica as a board member, stating that she could not be on the board because she had not been a member for at least six months. As a matter of fact, she has been a paid member for over a year. But the facts were not relevant. They were not worth his time. He banged his gavel, said that he had made his ruling, and that's that. Facts didn't need to be heard.
The only order of business was to pass out a ballot for the retention or removal of officers. No reasons were offered and no discussion was permitted. Before anyone had a chance to speak on the motion set before us, a pre-arranged motion to call the question was recognized by the chair, with the intent to silence any possible debate. Not only do the facts not need to be heard, neither do board members who wish to speak.
I've never seen anything like this travesty of a despotic procedure before, and I sincerely hope to never see it again.
Furthermore, it should be noted that because the Chair improperly refused to recognize a sitting board member, the vote to call the question (stopping discussion before it even started) did not really pass by the required 2/3 majority. What was recorded by the Secretary as a 7-3 vote should have been 7-4.
I walked out.
This was one of the most reprehensible, disgusting experiences of my entire life. Realizing that this had been carefully orchestrated in advance, with no intent to let me (or anyone) speak--not even to ask a simple question, such as "What is the reason for doing this?"--I saw the proceeding as a kangaroo court. Why sit through such a complete farce?
Also, in the face of this flawed board of directors meeting with a pre-determined purpose to railroad the President and Vice President out of their leadership positions without any opportunity even for a dissenting voice to be heard, let alone facts to be reviewed for accuracy, John Kieffer and EllenBeth Wachs both resigned their officer positions in protest at the deceitful machinations involved.
I'm particularly outraged that board member Jim Peterson, who so eloquently recommended the virtues of discussion in an October 31 email to the board (saying in part that "It is necessary for these issues to be debated"), nevertheless voted to quash any discussion, any comment, any potential for debating issues. No facts were presented. No questions were asked. No answers were given. This comes across as incredibly hypocritical.
Ed Gollobith is now President of Atheists of Florida, due to succession when the president and vice president resigned.
John, EllenBeth, Jessica and I all walked out of the meeting. As I was advised later, the rump board proceeded to vote pointlessly to remove from office exactly the two officers who had just resigned. Don't ask me what they were thinking. They just went through the motions, then went home.
Should I remain on a board like this?
What would you do?
Nov. 6, 2011, Facebook post, Gael R Murphy wrote: To the new A of F board of directors:
Who elected you? I don't like this one bit! How can you make these accusations without giving us, the members, any proof. I want the facts. You have the audacity to say,"both have been expelled from the membership for seriously obstructing the organization’s business, misappropriating the organization’s name, misappropriating the organization’s funds, and acting in a way that discredits the organization." and you offer not one explanation, or proof. What, am I , an atheist, expected to take this outrageous list of accusations on FAITH???? I came to the meeting today, 11/6/11 to learn more about those on the ballot. I was a little late, but the meeting was set to last until 4PM. Why did you not conduct a normal meeting? Why was the subject a secret? Why was no discussion allowed? What the hell is going on here?
EllenBeth Wachs and John Keiffer have NOT discredited Atheists of Florida! They have put their freedom on the line for me and YOU!
You have called two people, whom I greatly admire, thieves, and you had better have proof. Secrecy is what discredits our organization.
You write, "This is an exhilarating time in the life of our country and culture when dissenters from centuries-old standards of belief and expectation are becoming the pioneers of a new society." And this is how you treat these dissenters and pioneers? This is how you treat EllenBeth, who went to jail for defending OUR constitutional Rights? This is how you treat John Keiffer, who may yet end up in jail for YOU?
What is it? Do some of you want this to be a little social club? Are you not grateful for the completely law abiding steps these two heroes took on our behalf? I attended, and spoke at some of those meetings in Polk County and elsewhere. I left instructions for friends to care for my animals in case I, too, was arrested. I took that chance. Are you suggesting that standing up for separation of state and church is not what we are about?
If you are really concerned about the reputation of the organization, just consider what the media and our sworn enemies will do with this petty infighting.
Do you really think the members should have no say in this matter? Do you think you can just make these unfounded accusations, toss out two martyrs, and just go on as though nothing had happened?
You write, "Atheism is the door of personal discovery". What a sappy load of claptrap! Now is the time when atheists are being demonized, christians are being told that we are the reason for all the ills and evils in the world. We are heading for a nice pogrom, and you, in your wisdom "expell" the most courageous among us. What is your REAL reason. What is going on?
Lifetime, card carrying, member of Atheist of Florida
There is much I do not know, but what I do know is this. If an explanation and/or evidence is not provided by the current President of Atheists of Florida, and if our Board of Directors is not elected by democratic process through the current ongoing election, I have no interest in expending any more money or time on Atheists of Florida. Is this an unreasonable thing for me to expect as a life member of the organization? I think not.
What say you,members?
Ron Pittser wrote:
My best goes out to you during this trying time EllenBeth. As if you hadn't already taken the figurative bullet for atheism it would seem some folks want to pour salt into the wound. I want to share a couple of situations that might give you balnace ...
First, and more probably relevant, an eerily similar thing happened to my beloved organization American Atheists (the "original" Madalyn Murray O'Hair group) when the board stupidly removed Ellen Johnson from our national presidency several years ago. It took YEARS for us to recover and many of us are still hurt by this action and the method by which they undertook it. We have some good, committed leadership now but the general membership was really hurt for a LONG time over this and many of us state directors were shocked at the intransigent actions of many of the board and insiders. After putting her entire life into the organization, especially the years following the murder of our founder and her family, Ellen faded away from the center ring of activism.She was unfairly hurt and is still feeling the effects.
Secondly, I too was once unfairly and summarily fired from the very company I created with my own sweat, tears,blood, and a considerable amount of money. I was unhorsed by a vindictive and very greedy little group of insiders who I had placed into positions of power. After building the business to success in 3 states we became very profitable. I had a vision and stuck with it and ignored the calls to "shortcut" the process and chase pure profit versus creating a sustainable organization. It paid off but it went against the vision of the others who manipulated themselves into positions of dominance. Power and greed are incredible forces to fight when you are alone. I was too trusting and full of my success; ripe for their deceitful coup and found myself on the outside looking in. It was a crushing defeat for me and the peak of my success. A divorce and other personal tragedies followed as icing on the cake.
So, to finalize my little tome ... As crushing as my defeat was it was in retrospect and after deep reflection a necessary and painful lesson for me. It forced me to move into areas I NEVER wold have ventured and helped me become a much happier person in the end. As trite as it sounds, and YES it does sound trite, things like this are sometimes the crucible by which a new path is forged.
You, like me probably weren't looking for a "new path" but it could be an opportunity. I wouldn't blame you for thinking me presumtuous in postulating this thought in your name but I truly feel this could be at least another way of viewing it.
You don't know me well enough to trust my judgement and you certainly owe me no allegiance in these thoughts but I will leave you with my best unolicite advice ... Please DO NOT give up Ellenbeth! Make YOUR position in the atheist movement the focal point. You probably already sense this but let me say it ... YOU gave a LOT of us folks in the atheist movement hope and a blueprint for action. As an atheist in Oklahoma and the atheists I've met in other religious backwaters like we live in we NEED talented, intelligent, and BRAVE individuals like you. Do not stop now. Take this and yoruself to the next level. You have a lot of support out here.
-Ron Pittser, Oklahoma
SusanRussell70: @EllenBethWachs guess i won't be joining A of FL! assholes!
SusanRussell70: @EllenBethWachs i sure as hell wouldn't ever want to be a part of an organization that behaves that way. @John_Kieffer
SusanRussell70: @EllenBethWachs sounds to me like a new organization needs to be formed. that behavior is disgusting! @John_Kieffer
SusanRussell70: @EllenBethWachs i'll be watching. i only wish that there was something i could do to help.
SusanRussell70: @EllenBethWachs my pleasure! please let me know if there is any way i can help you.
cherokee_autumn: @EllenBethWachs I'm shocked!
cherokee_autumn: @EllenBethWachs Sorry to hear of this. Very disturbing.
cherokee_autumn: @EllenBethWachs I know you did and it pains me.
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