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Monday, September 7, 2009

Saints Board Member Shuts Down Facebook Page and Posts New One

Breaking news: Effective September 7, 2009, a board member has changed his Facebook page so we cannot view his list of "friends" anymore. Prior to September 4, when he shut down his site for apparent revision, he had over 75 Saints members listed as "friends." I have a print out of this list.

The list includes names of Saints members who are listed in the spotlight as well as many who are not. Some individuals have advised me that they were sent invitations and chose not to accept them. Others felt somewhat obligated or curious about their invitation. And some probably were "friends" or wanted to be "friends" with this Board member/Coordinator.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no harm asking people to join one’s Facebook page. The procedure is such that individuals may accept, ignore, or refuse a Facebook invitation. I did receive comments, however, that make this action somewhat questionable. Some members were reluctant to turn down the invitation since this board member is a Coordinator that handles sign ups for a venue that fills quickly. Some members were worried that they might experience difficulty getting those "hard to get" ushering opportunities if they turned down the request to be "friends."

My question is, "why am I being singled out for disciplinary action?" To date, no action has been taken in regard to this board member inviting members to be "friends" on his Facebook page. Prior to this board member reconstructing his Facebook page, the invitations and signing up of Saints members were brought to the attention of the board’s President, BJ Nelson. It was raised both in writing and in conversation. No action was taken.

If you read my June 2 e-mail (unedited copy appears in a separate post below), you will see that it is related to Saints’ business. In addition, I advised recipients that I would be glad to remove their name from my address book if they did not want to receive future communications. My e-mail was sent to the entire board of directors, including the President, BJ Nelson, and others who were listed in the Spotlight. Despite having the e-mail addresses of many members who ushered at Lifeline Theatre or attended orientations, I only sent the e-mail to those members whose addresses were published in the Saints' newsletter.

If the board’s action (5-4 vote) was truly not because of the content of my e-mail, and solely because I neglected to ask the President for permission before sending it, I want to know why the Saints Board has failed to take action against this other individual. I know of many members who have sent and received e-mails that were not for the express purpose of ushering. Until June 9, I assumed that this was not forbidden, nor should it be.

If allowed to participate as the Board member that I contend I still am, I would not vote to take disciplinary action against this board member, who had over 75 Saints members on his facebook. I would, however, have suggested that he discontinue the practice of asking members to join as long as he was a coordinator and/or a board member. Members, however, could have chosen to ignore or reject the Board member's request to be "friends" (some individuals did) just as people could have deleted my e-mail or asked to be taken off my mailing list. So I guess it depends on how paternalistic, or controlling, the Saints Board of Directors wants to be.

By the way, there are no Saints, and never have been any Saints, on my Facebook with the exception of my son, Zack, who was a Saint before going to college in Denver.

The first paragraph of the President’s letter, which was sent to all members of the Saints, states the following:

On June 2, 2009, Deborah Granite sent many Saints' Coordinators and Committee Chairs a copy of an email addressed to the Saints' Board. This resulted in her membership being revoked and her being banned from the Saints organization. The Board thought that it was important to inform all of you of the rationale that formed the basis of this decision. The reason for this action was that in sending that e-mail, she violated the “Privileged Information” notice explicitly stated in the Spotlight. The contents of Deborah's e-mail letter was not the issue in this case and had no influence on the Board's decision.

He concludes with the following:

We all, irrespective of whether we are Coordinators, Chairs of Committees, Board Members or Saints’ Members with no other responsibilities are expected to abide by one set of rules. There are no exceptions. No member of the organization is above its rules. Members of the Board of Directors, the Saints governing body, are fully aware of all Saints rules. When a Board member violates the rules, and violates them in a defiant manner showing no remorse, it is an even more serious issue and as a result deserves the strictest of consequences. The action the Board took was guided by the above facts and was necessary to maintain the integrity of our organization.

The President may call it defiant, however I do not feel any remorse about sending my e-mail to the board with copies to the Coordinators and Committee Chairs. Their addresses were listed in the Spotlight, and I viewed them as “middle management” of the organization. I still don’t believe that I was in violation of the Saint rules, and my e-mail was an effort to express the importance of freedom of speech, my right to express my opinions, and suggestions for more open communication. I stated that free speech was something that was even more important to me than my love for the performing arts. During the campaign, all candidates had been limited to the 150 words that appeared in the Spotlight, and all additional campaigning was forbidden.

My June 2 e-mail to the Board, Coordinators and Committee Chairs was drafted in response to a brief June 1 special board meeting held at Steppenwolf Theater while members were signing up to usher. I had requested that we hold the meeting at a different time so I could mingle with the new members and participate in the social part of the general meeting, but the majority of the board voted against my request. At that brief meeting, Jim Venskus and I, who had not signed the confidentiality agreement (printed below in one of the comments), were told that we could not hold office, could not attend executive sessions, would no longer have access to confidential information and that I could no longer serve as a usher coordinator for Lifeline Theatre. This was followed by the election of officers.

The following day an announcement was made of the election results and our names were removed from the website that night. In addition, we no longer had access to membership information, financial information or board documents which included minutes of past meetings, the bylaws and the standing rules. My June 2 e-mail was sent out of concern about the future of the organization and a futile attempt to restore the organization to a democracy.

My concerns are even greater now. The board has disenfranchised the membership. I was re-elected in May and received 13 votes less than the President. The board, however, revoked my membership and banned me from the organization. I believe that my removal from the board is illegal and am seeking legal counsel in regard to this.

The board has also hindered Jim Venskus, another board member, from fulfilling his duties by excluding him from executive sessions and information necessary to make informed decisions. It is highly unusual to ask board members of a not for profit to sign a confidentiality agreement, and the agreement is so broad as to be considered "unenforceable."

The public and members, who are unfamiliar with how to log into the "members only" part of the website, cannot e-mail Jim Venskus and Hugh Spencer because their names have been removed from the Home page. A new board member has been appointed with no announcement to the membership, and he was not one of this year's candidates. All committee members, even those on the benefit committee, are being asked to sign the revised confidentiality statement (kind of sounds like a loyalty oath, doesn't it?).

Dissenting opinions on the board are being silenced. I am very sad about making these concerns public but there is no other way to inform the membership than through the media and writing on this blog. You all were informed of my dismissal but you were not provided a copy of my e-mail or all the facts. In addition, you were given speculation as to the reasons for my e-mail which contradicts what I have written and told people.

The President's e-mail has increased fear about communicating freely. I have been the subject of personal attacks. I have not been given an opportunity by the Board of Directors to present my side of the story. The board certainly is not transparent nor have they made it easy for you, the membership, to know what is going on.

I invite people to e-mail me by clicking on this link and to post comments on this website. I also want to encourage you to attend board meetings as observers (arrangements must be made in advance with the President) and general membership meetings. The next board meeting is scheduled to be held at the Saints Office, 2936 N. Southport, on September 14 at 7:30 pm.

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