Tag Archives: Mike Larson

No response to inquiries about August 2013 board meeting minutes

Tax Lawyer and artEAST board director Mike Larson denied the existence of the board meeting minutes I had requested to see, then mailed them to me a month later. The clip shown below reveals a decision to deny me membership but it is vague, lacks rationale, and has some peculiarities. In my email to Mike Larson, below, I ask for clarification, but this was denied me. 


Subject: Re: August board meeting
Date: November 6, 2013 1:44:23 PST
To: Mike Larson <MLarson@pivotallawgroup.com>


I made a request for information October 1, and after sending a second inquiry a few days later, you told me that you would respond on October 14. Last Friday, one month after my original request, I received your letter with what looks like minutes from the ArtEast board meeting of August 14.

The minutes refer to “the drafted letter” concerning me, evidently prepared before the August board meeting. What information sources was it based on?

It’s unfortunate that the wording in the minutes is vague. Phrases such as “the situation,” “this matter,” and “the issue” are used in the minutes and by you but it is not at all clear what is being referred to. There were concerns brought to the attention of the gallery team in the Spring, but I have not addressed the board and neither have I authorized anyone else to represent me.

The executive director acknowledged that the gallery team “messed up” and the vice president apologized profusely for how I had been treated, but at the August board meeting it was agreed that I “should be removed from ListServe and not allowed to renew membership” if I reapply. On what grounds did the board arrive at that position? I think I’m entitled to know who made the suggestion and why.

The line about banning me from ArtEast was striked through. This, too, calls for an explanation.

All questions were ignored. 

The Membership Ban

You are not safe to freely share your opinions or thoughts about any topic that goes against the narcissist’s reality. You are not allowed to express your own reality. It is the individual who won’t stop thinking for themselves and expressing the truth they witness who become the “scapegoat” in a family or social context; the person on whom all the problems and dysfunction will be blamed for or deemed the cause of.

Scapegoating is in effect a smear campaign. The individual who’s got the courage to face down the narcissist’s attempts to squash the truth is bullied by the group to enforce compliance with the group’s (the narcissist’s) mentality, lest face ostracism.

The decision to ban a longstanding member and generous contributor was made arbitrarily behind closed doors. It was kept secret—even the targeted individual was kept in the dark.

artEAST leadership has not been forthcoming with their reason and has refused to discuss the problems or consider an approach other than strictly authoritarian and unilateral.

The decision makers omnipotently acted as jury, judge, and executioner—without a hearing. Surreptitiously, and without the membership’s knowledge, some board directors contravene official rules and engage in ongoing ethical violations; harassing, malicious, and vindictive behaviors, employing underhanded and dishonest tactics to harm an individual member who has done nothing wrong—and with no accountability.

The member had mentioned disrespectful treatment from Karen Abel in a private email to Jamie McKay, who was vice president at the time. In retaliation, Karen Abel and her supporters have invested considerable ingenuity and effort to penalize and socially isolate the member, who has suffered a damaged reputation, mental anguish, exclusion from the local art community, and is barred from participating in events at the art gallery and other local art related cultural events—without a valid reason, without being heard, and without permission to appeal. artEAST board directors have made it clear that they will not engage in dialogue and Karen Abel has stated that the discriminatory decision is irreversible.

Contempt for the most basic principles of justice with a callous disregard for the rights and feelings of a fellow human being are implicit in acts of social aggression. Mike Larson, an artEAST director and tax lawyer with Pivotal Law Group in Seattle, has never met the targeted artist, yet has been a particularly active participant.

image0011Immediately after the board meeting when the decision was made, in August 2013, a letter was sent to the targeted artist by registered mail on stationery from Mike Larson’s law firm. The document attempts to cast the artist in a negative light by misrepresenting facts, but oddly, makes no mention of the board’s decision to take punitive and retaliatory action against her. Evidently, the decision to prevent the artist from continuing her membership was to be kept secret—even from the target herself.

It wasn’t until several months after the fact that I happened to find out. I asked Mike Larson for an explanation. This request was refused. Other artEAST representatives have also been unresponsive, and to this day, I have not been able to verify if the membership ban decision was unanimous, as claimed by Mike Larson, or the doing of a small clique without the knowledge of the other board directors.

turn the tablesPeople who know me will describe me as quiet, thoughtful, and reasonable. I had not broken any rules or behaved in any way that could even remotely be considered disruptive or threatening, yet now it became clear that artEAST leadership, including individuals I have never met, were using their positions to harm me.

Tactics known as staging and framing or baiting and bashing, synchronized with smear campaigning, are standard practices of toxic personalities. Typically, they also enlist others to participate in insidious and cruel retaliation against a target who sets boundaries, expresses a difference of opinion, or objects to mistreatment. To give their spiteful behavior the appearance of legitimacy, abuser and supporters turn the tables and attempt to make the victim look like the wrongdoer. ( See DARVO and Playing the Blame Game as a Manipulation Tactic.)

Just as the intent to penalize and exclude me from the community was kept secret, so was the reason. Denied an answer from the people who are in a position to supply one, I have instead endured blatant abuse and intimidation tactics, including a distortion campaign, false allegations, gag orders backed up by threats, and stonewalling; behaviors unequivocally contrary to artEAST’s Core Values Policy, which also prescribes—but, it seems, is unlikely to ever enforce—disciplinary action for misconduct.

The membership has no say about who will represent them on the organization’s governing board. artEAST directors choose each other for these positions. Decision making behind closed doors and maintaining a low level of transparency allows leadership to abuse their powers and violate the rules of the organization when it suits them, with solidarity within their group ensuring them protection from criticism.

Without oversight there is no accountability, bullies expect no repercussions from their malicious activities, and abuse with impunity perpetuates. artEAST leadership has demonstrated repeatedly that it prefers to use power over reason and has no interest in resolving issues respectfully.

My persistence in requesting an explanation eventually delivered this remarkable statement from Pivotal Law Group tax lawyer and artEAST board member Mike Larson:

“The Board unanimously voted to not accept your membership renewal because your viewpoint on specific events continues to differ so significantly, and intractably, from our member’s feedback regarding the same events and thus we deem it absolutely necessary for all parties involved to completely end the relationship in order to close the issue and move forward. This member feedback extends beyond the November 13th incident* and to protect those members, we will not be providing names or additional information.”

What is he saying? Here’s one translation: 

We all agreed to ostracize you. Sharing the same (undisclosed) viewpoint about specific (undisclosed) events as our (undisclosed) member(s) is a condition for membership. We shall treat you with disrespect, violate your rights, and ignore you to prevent you from questioning or refuting the (undisclosed) statements made about you by (undisclosed) informants and to relieve these (undisclosed) informants, and ourselves, of accountability.

opinionsMike Larson implies that other member’s feedback, whigh might also be called malicious gossip, is the board’s justification for punishing and ostracizing a longstanding member and generous contributor to artEAST. His assertion that the board’s vote was unanimous is questionable, but with their stonewall policy in effect I have been unable to uncover the truth of the matter. Even in the unlikely event that all board members, having committed to supporting the local arts, artists, and an organization with open membership, feel it appropriate to counter a difference of opinion with social aggression; the actions that have been taken are beyond the scope of their authority and in breach of government expectations, not to mention morally reprehensible. There may be safety in numbers, but cowardice runs rampant there, too. Stonewalling is used to escape accountability.

Note that the board’s “investigation” and subsequent conclusions were made without the subject’s participation and without all relevant facts on the table. The bullies investigated themselves and found themselves to be without fault.

Larson also informed that no further explanations would be given. In other words; he would not clarify any of his ambiguous statements, the accused (victim) would not be allowed to know the charges held against her or who was making them, or permitted an opportunity to defend herself. Furthermore, he delivered a gag order; commanding her to not speak with anyone connected with artEAST under threat of harassment charges.

*The “November 13th incident” refers to Karen Abel’s unexplained refusal of this artist’s contributions to the last Small Works Show, despite successful participation in years prior.

The obligation of lawyers…

Despite the fact that Mike Larson, a tax lawyer and artEAST board director, had never met me or communicated with me; he produced a document concerning me, presented it at the August 2013 board meeting, and apparently, had it approved by a group of people, including several who have never met me. The letter that I subsequently received, based on the approved document, gives the appearance of answering questions and addressing concerns—but they are not my questions or concerns. The letter does not represent me at all. Instead, it consists of offensive disinformation and innuendos. I asked him about his information sources but he would not tell me.

Recognizing the blatant bias, distortions, and disregard for my experiences in the matter, perturbed about being misrepresented, and curious about established ethical expectations of his profession, I did a little research and found a statement on wa.gov that validates my own view of how a lawyer should conduct himself:

Fundamental Principles Of Professional Conduct 1 (wa.gov)

The continued existence of a free and democratic society depends upon recognition of the concept that justice is based upon the rule of law grounded in respect for the dignity of the individual and the
capacity through reason for enlightened self-government. Law so grounded makes justice possible, for only through such law does the dignity of the individual attain respect and protection. Without it, individual rights become subject to unrestrained power, respect for law is destroyed, and rational self-government is impossible.

Lawyers, as guardians of the law, play a vital role in the
preservation of society. The fulfillment of this role requires an understanding by lawyers of their relationship with and function in our legal system. A consequent obligation of lawyers is to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct.

Letter of August 15, 2013

The adult bully is a master of
deceit and insidious innuendo.

“Smear campaigners carefully and strategically use lies, exaggerations, suspicions, and false accusations to destroy your credibility. They hide behind a cloak of upstanding heroism and feigned innocence in an attempt to make as many people as possible think their efforts are based not on their vindictiveness, but on upstanding concern.”

“You still have the same opportunity…”

Blatant lie. This deceptive statement conceals the board’s decision to deny my membership renewal, which I didn’t find out about until several months later.

“Karen Abel made multiple attempts…”

This statement implies that Karen Abel made heroic efforts to correct the situation, and therefor, cannot be at fault for failing. Both sides are misrepresented through this tactic. The target is falsely implicated as demanding and unreasonable while Karen Abel is falsely attributed with sincerity and goodwill.

“It is our finding that she followed protocol…”

Karen Abel did not follow protocol. The “finding” is based solely on her testimony about her own behavior, as the victim was never heard. Conclusions were reached without properly investigating the matter and the word “finding” is used deceptively to imply otherwise. artEAST officials have acted in blatant disregard of the most basic principles of civility and justice.

“…monetary contributions cannot…to do so would not be ethical…”

Another malicious misrepresentation; a straw man, formulated as if a response to an inappropriate request for preferential treatment, when in reality, nothing of the sort had occurred. Insidious innuendo is used to implicate the target as morally depraved while crediting the bullies with moral integrity. How ironic—not to mention hypocritical—for the author(s) to speak of ethics while engaging in such moral treachery!

“We do take our members concerns to heart.”

behavior never liesThis contradicting declaration appears in the context of secretly deciding to ostracize a concerned member. It is nothing but another disingenuous impression management tactic. How is it possible to take anyone’s “concerns to heart” without hearing what they have to say?

“…your request…”

What request? I made no request. I wasn’t even heard. The phrasing is yet another unscrupulous incrimination tactic contributing to Mike Larson’s framing strategy.

“…a perceived lack of respect and consideration…”

A base form of invalidation. Derogatory comments are disrespectful and inappropriate—independently of how they are perceived.

Core Values Policy

See separate post.

A membership ban is unacceptable: 11 reasons

Respect our disrespect—or else!

On Nov 19, 2013, Mike Larson, tax lawyer and artEAST board director, wrote:
[Victim’s interpretations in brackets.]


Your November 17 email has been forwarded to the full board of directors.  We will not be further exploring the November 13 incident directly with you because other members witnessed the incident, your subsequent attempt to renewal your membership and your visit to the gallery on the afternoon of Thursday, November 14.  Those individuals can provide independent feedback. [ We will not hear your side of the story because we care only about our own version, and because some people saw you at the gallery when you were there.

The Board unanimously voted to not accept your membership renewal because your viewpoint on specific events continues to differ so significantly, and intractably, from our member’s feedback regarding the same events and thus we deem it absolutely necessary for all parties involved to completely end the relationship in order to close the issue and move forward.  This member feedback extends beyond the November 13th incident and to protect those members, we will not be providing names or additional information. [You have been banned because we know—without asking you—that some of your opinions about some things are different from some other members’ opinions about those things.] 

We are requesting that you respect our concerns and immediately end the relationship and all communication with artEAST.  Not accepting our request to end the relationship and communicate with any staff or board member will be understood as a continuance of a harassing, intimidating pattern of behavior toward artEAST. [If you defy our gag order or protest mistreatment, we will retaliate with false allegations.]

This will be the last communication you will receive from artEAST. Please respect that. [We shall continue to violate your rights and treat you with disrespect, ostracize you, ignore your attempts to be heard, deny your requests for clarifications and explanations, and refuse to engage in rational dialog and conflict resolution. If you do not submit to our bullying, we will say that you are behaving disrespectfully.]

Michael A. Larson
Attorney at Law


One Union Square, Suite 1730
600 University Street
Seattle, Washington 98101
Telephone 206.340.2008
Dir 206.340.1131
Facsimile 206.340.1962

The information contained in this electronic message may be privileged and confidential information intended only for the use of the individual or entity named above. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by telephone (collect, if necessary) and delete any and all copies of the electronic message.

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice in this communication (including attachments) is not intended by Pivotal Law Group, PLLC to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of: (1) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code; or (2) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

Please consider the environment before printing this email. Thank you.

No. This is not acceptable.

Subject: Re: artEAST
Date: November 20, 2013
To: Mike Larson <MLarson@pivotallawgroup.com>


A membership ban is unacceptable because:

1.  I have paid my membership dues.
2.  I have done nothing wrong.
3.  I have not been given a reason.
4.  No allegations of wrongdoing have been presented.
5.  I have not had the opportunity to respond to allegations that are either secret or don’t exist.
6.  I don’t believe that all of the directors support social aggression.
7.  I don’t believe that the membership supports social aggression.
8.  The board does not have the privilege to ban members without due process.
9.  The board does not have the privilege to ban a member who hasn’t been proven guilty of grave misconduct.
10. The board does not have the privilege to discriminate against any member for personal reasons, such as bias, malevolence, or retaliation.
11. ArtEast is not a private club. No one has the authority to decide at their discretion who may or may not join.

My requests for clarification have been ignored repeatedly. Your innuendo about a “viewpoint on specific events continues to differ…” is too vague to be meaningful. What viewpoint? What events? Differs from what? I think I am entitled to know what you are referring to. I believe that the members of ArtEast, along with me and anyone who values freedom of expression and open, respectful discussion, will regard your statement about a “differing viewpoint” as an expression of intolerance—not a valid reason to ban an upstanding member. If you have a justification, then cut to the chase and spell it out. Your continued refusal to be specific and give me a reason makes it pretty clear that you don’t have one. “Thus we deem it absolutely necessary” is not a reason.

As a lawyer, you should know that judging and penalizing anyone without any charges and without a hearing contradicts basic rights, judicial practices, and moral values. If the “independent feedback” you mention contains allegations of wrongdoing, than I am entitled to know what they are. I should also be allowed to face any accuser and to defend myself. If not, then the so called “independent feedback” is nothing but malicious gossip and should be dismissed as such.

The use of threats and intimidation tactics is uncalled for, inappropriate, and ineffective—fitting for a mafia, perhaps, but a disgrace coming from a representative of a reputable artists’ organization—and your gag order is simply outrageous. You will not succeed with bullying me into silence, especially not in the face of injustice.

You have made it clear that you intend to continue ignoring my valid questions and that you have no intention of furnishing a reason for the extraordinary decision to ban a longstanding member and generous contributor, presumably unheard of in the history of the organization, leaving serious issues unresolved.

ArtEast members expect honorable, respectful conduct from their representatives and I am confident they will find this witch-hunt deplorable. My rights have been seriously violated. A board that takes such extreme measures against any individual member without due process is no longer representative of the membership. Anyone who has abused their position, acted out of malevolence and against basic moral principles and the interests of the members, is a liability to the organization and shall be held accountable. An option, probably worth considering for some board directors, is to resign now.

Social Aggression

The term bullying typically refers to direct, confrontational attacks on another person. Social aggression, however, typically lacks direct confrontation and is often done covertly. It takes the form of spreading rumors, gossip, excluding one person from a group, verbal attacks, and cyberbullying. Studies have found that those who are socially aggressive typically use this form of bullying to protect their place among peers or place themselves above their peers.

imageIn the U.S. alone, over 100,000 students miss school every day due to indirect bullying. This type of bullying is often attributed solely to adolescents, though it is common among college students, in suburban neighborhoods, and workplaces. In adulthood, the most common form of this type of aggression is usually gossiping, spreading rumors, and exclusion. In general, the smaller the community, the more this issue occurs.

Relational aggression can have damaging effects on victims.

Adolescents who have been subjected to these types of attacks are more likely to develop depression and eating disorders. Relational aggression may also be responsible for a drop in academic performance and almost always harms a young adult’s social life. Among adults, this aggression can cause stress related physical disorders, limit job productivity, and greatly reduce self esteem.

The effects of social aggression often depend on the amount of support a victim has outside of school or work. Children with supportive parents, caregivers, other adult figures, or friends tend to handle this type of bullying better than those without this foundation. In severe cases, indirect bullying can be a catalyst for suicidal thoughts or actions; in some cases, it causes a victim to take his or her own life.

Due to the potential damaging and life altering affects of social aggression, especially for young adults, many schools have adopted zero tolerance policies for bullying. Teachers and parents are taught to recognize signs of social aggression in both the perpetrator and the victim. Abusers are typically punished and in extreme cases, may be suspended or expelled from school.

In the adult world, social aggression can be a form of entertainment for a personality disordered individual in a position of power over their target.

Once the crude schoolyard bully, they have become skilled at undercover ‘baiting and bashing’ tactics and avoiding accountability. Targets for abuse, chosen because of their personality traits and vulnerabilities, may find themselves subject to a smear campaign and marginalized, gratifying the sadistic pleasure of a bully to no fault of their own.