From the August 2013 board meeting minutes:According to this document, artEAST board directors agreed to banish a member. On what grounds? There had been no hearing, no trial, no warning… The member to be banished was not notified and no explanation was offered. This post is about how I discovered that the artEAST board of directors* arbitrarily and secretly decided to ban a longstanding member and generous contributor in retaliation for expressing concern about the Executive Director’s behavior.
The “drafted letter” mentioned in the August board meeting minutes, above, was signed by board directors Megan Somerville-Loomis and Mike Larson, whom I have never met, and Jamie McKay. It was printed on stationery from Larson’s law firm and sent by registered mail (to impress and intimidate?) after the meeting. The bizarre contents of this document will be the topic of a separate blog post. In brief, it attempted to misrepresent me and my views, assert authority, and deny any wrongdoing amongst themselves. Also included was a Core Values Policy statement.
The letter sent to me by the three board directors contained no mention of a decision to remove my name from listserve, that my membership had expired, or that future membership would be denied.
In October, without any knowledge of the board’s decision and unaware that my membership had expired in June, I requested to see the minutes from the August board meeting. Mike Larson, a tax lawyer on the artEAST board of directors, told me that there were no minutes for me to see. Imagine my surprise when those non-existent meeting notes miraculously arrived in the mail a month later. The section relating to me is displayed above. I have covered my name to protect my identity, but the strikethroughs are on the document I received. I asked Mike Larson to explain this, and also of course, on what grounds the membership ban decision was based. There had been no wrongdoing on my part, most certainly nothing that could justify a penalty of this kind. I was being victimized in retaliation for responding to disrespectful treatment.
Mike Larson denied me an explanation to the strikethrough text in the board meeting minutes. Purely speculating; perhaps it was his intent to have that part of the text removed before sending the document to me and what I inadvertently received was actually instructions to his secretary?
The reason he gave for the decision to expel me from the art organization I have supported for many years was that my views are “different.” Naturally, I wanted to know what views he was referring to and how a difference in opinion could be grounds for discriminatory treatment. He informed me that no further explanations would be given, that I am not permitted to speak with any artEAST staff or representative, and threatened me with harassment charges if I made any further contact.
Neither the “reason” for the penalty nor the commands, which amount to blackmail, were agreeable to me and I persisted in seeking answers to my questions. Sure enough, artEAST leadership* escalated a conflict that was unnecessary in the first place and the role reversal twist (see DARVO) Larson had threatened with was added to their intimidation tactics and distortion campaign.
The strikethrough formatting in the August board meeting minutes remains a mystery. What the board actually discussed is also veiled in secrecy, with the vague reference to the ‘situation’. What I do know is that the participants were mostly people I have never even met, that they were presented with biased information, and that I was not part of the discussion that preceded a decision about me that would have serious implications for my life and well-being. Why I was not included was given an unhelpful tautological mention in the letter I later received; the purpose of excluding your participation was not to exclude your participation.
I am convinced that communication from artEAST leadership*, including the reason given for the remarkable decision to ban a contributing artist from the organization, was intentionally vague because of the malicious nature and arbitrariness of their decisions. If there had been reasonable cause to ban a member; say, violent, threatening, or disruptive behavior, the decision would be justifiable and could be made above board. Ambiguity would be unnecessary, as would the authoritarian approach and intimidation tactics.
Playground bullies grow up and become adult bullies, much more adept at evading accountability for their shady and harmful behaviors. It is a plotting and scheming game they enjoy. The rigging of virtual trip wires is a standard manipulative activity; provoking the target to say or do something that in isolation can be made to reflect badly upon her, while conveniently diverting attention away from themselves and their cunning strategic maneuvers.
Bullies are not interested in resolving conflicts. They enjoy the drama they stir up. Refusing to engage respectfully and offering only unreasonable or vague responses to their target’s concerns is done to antagonize, humiliate, and get rid of him/her. Simultaneously, the bullies create a scenario that allows them to state that efforts were made to resolve the problem but nothing satisfied the complainant. By leaving out the facts, they deviously paint the victim as demanding and unreasonable while falsely crediting themselves with heroic acts of good will. Adult manipulators are experienced in using impression management tactics, insidious innuendo, and loaded words to convince others of their righteousness and to win support for their malicious agendas. If not simply ignored, a request for evidence is likely to evoke an angry response, which is meant to intimidate the questioner and to discourage others from making inquiries. A bully expects his words to be taken at face value—and is highly “offended” if they are not.
Several types of blame-shifting tricks used by members of artEAST leadership have been recognized. Peaceful protests to violations of my rights and refusal to recognize abuse of power as legitimate authority have also been pointed to as justifications for the social aggression directed at me. Anyone with a broader view of the circumstances and the chain of events can easily see that such tactics attempt to put the carriage before the horse. Adult bullies exploit the fact that influential bystanders are lacking a broader view, and they will attempt to control information in an effort to maintain a favorable view of themselves and a nefarious image of the victim. In my case, tax lawyer Mike Larson issued a gag order—under threat of harassment charges and on his law firm’s stationary—to prevent me from speaking with artEAST staff.
Despite the explicit intent to deny me any further explanations; some alternative reasons—inconsistent with the first one—have surfaced. They are mostly vague in nature and characteristic of the standard bullying role reversal tactic; accusing me of behavior that the bullies committted. These other “justifications” for mistreatment will be examined in another blog post. Meanwhile, feel free to ask an artEAST director for the reason why a member is being penalized! Just be sure not to settle for innuendo and loaded words—ask for evidence!
*Wherever leadership is mentioned, note that much of the email correspondence I have received is undersigned with: “artEAST Board of Directors” without revealing the names of the actual authors. I certainly don’t want to discredit any honorable board member, but at this time, I have no way of knowing if each individual artEAST director actually supports—or is even aware of—each single act of hostility that has been directed at me. The decision to refuse me membership, I was later told by Mike Larson, was unanimous, although I have not been able to verify it. His statement is questionable, as not all of the directors were present at the meeting when the decision took place.