My final report on Neil Carter and Recovering from Religion.

This is long, but I wanted to be thorough. I will leave this up on my blog to the exclusion of any other post through the weekend while I’m at the Reason Rally.  Take your time, but I think it’s important.

First, I will endeavor to make no claims in this post for which I do not have proof.  However, there will be times when the proof I have cannot be provided (for all others I will provide documentation).  For those claims I will change the text color to blue.  What that color will indicate is that the proof is locked behind an NDA — an NDA I want lifted so I can provide you with the proof.  Sadly, as it stands, I must ask you to take my word with the promise that should that NDA ever be lifted (more on that at the end of this post) I will immediately and without reservation post that information and I assert with 100% confidence it will confirm the conclusions I have reached.

Second, this post does not contain all the information/evidence I have.  It doesn’t even contain half of it.  Why would I do that?  Well, I’m aware that Neil Carter may wish to write a response to this post.  This post will contain enough evidence to support the conclusions I reach and I want to be open to any ameliorating evidence that parties like Neil Carter may later provide.  The point of this post as well as my investigation is to get to the truth.  However, I also want people to have second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth doubts about lying to me (which, after reading this post, I suspect you’ll agree is a very valid concern).  Withholding a good pile of evidence while posting enough to confirm my claims leaves the door open to people being caught in additional lies if they make those attempts, unaware of what I have in the tank, while making evidence that could alter my conclusions perfectly safe to throw out.

Digging through all the details of this situation has already taken a tremendous amount of my time, and while I’m happy to test claims for truth and do my damnedest to disassemble lies, I do want to make people reluctant to just throw out boatloads of them.  My time is valuable.

Third, many of the images I use in this post had to be resized and may appear pretty small.  No worries!  Just click on them to see the full-sized versions.

So, that being said, let’s start with our cast of characters followed by the most eye-catching portion of this story.

Names you’ll need to know.

Neil Carter – Recovering from Religion contractor from September 1, 2015 (this will be disputed momentarily) until February 28, 2016 and blogger at Godless in Dixie.

Sarah Morehead – Executive Director of Recovering from Religion until October 25, 2015.

Dr. Darrel Ray – Founder and President of RfR.

Shanon Nebo – Friend to Neil who would eventually become a board member of RfR around December, 2015.

Susi Bocks – Volunteer and Database Manager for RfR.

Gayle Jordan – Would become Executive Director of RfR in early January, 2016.

Eliott Canter – Businessman and consultant to RfR, partner of Gayle Jordan.

Me – Me.

Nate Phelps, Teresa MacBain, RJ Redden – Board members of RfR at various times throughout this timeline.

The contract that couldn’t have been signed on September 4, 2015.

The Recovering from Religion board learned on October 10, 2015 that Neil had a contract with the organization from all the way back on September 4, 2015 (there is a section below, “October, 2015”, in which this will be discussed in more detail along with evidence to prove that this is the case).  This was the first the RfR board had heard of such a contract.

On October 11, 2015 Darrel asked Eliott to help him sort this out.  Together, they called Neil to discuss this contract as the board tried to figure out how this happened. Two days later Neil sent them this email:

Neil put together contract

This was their first confirmation that the contract was, in fact, signed.  It bore Neil’s signature and was dated September 4, 2015:

Contract redact

In the course of my investigation I happened upon a google document which appeared to be an earlier version of the contract, last edited on September 28, 2015:

Early contract redact

Early contract revision1a

The name of the last editor is blocked out.  I’m sorry, I don’t want it that way.  But I can disclose that it was not done by anybody presently a part of Recovering from Religion.  The first redacted name is the owner of the document who made the last edits.  The second is the person who uploaded the template.  I have plenty more of these for the rest of the contract, and it should be clear from this image that I do have them.

This struck me as incredibly odd.  Why continue making edits to a contract that had already been signed?  So upon discovering this I immediately began asking questions and I turned up irrefutable evidence that Neil’s contract was indeed still being assembled as of September 27, 2015 (and all-but-certainly hadn’t even begun being assembled before that date).  It absolutely, positively could not have been signed before that date.

I later uncovered another version of the contract created in google docs on October 10, 2015, which used the previous version as a template.  In the waning hours of October 10, 2015 it was made available to the board as the version Neil purports to have signed on September 4, 2015:

Attachment 14

I apologize for blocking out the names.  I wish I didn’t have to.

This version was not quite the same as the version that had been edited up to that point.  This was done intentionally, and I have additional evidence that makes this irrefutable. The biggest alteration is that it omits donor growth or any fundraising for Recovering from Religion as a stated condition of the contract (it will become important later why this is so important). Instead, according to this contract, Neil is supposed to work on establishing small groups.

So let me be as unequivocal as I possibly can: the claim that this contract was assembled on or before September 4, 2015 is an absolute lie. This is not a mistake, this is not a faulty memory, this is a lie. This contract did not exist on September 4, 2015 or even close to it. Neil did not sign it on that date.  The document he signed was first created in the early hours of October 10, 2015.  The evidence in my possession leaves no room for doubt.

The evidence I uncovered has been passed along to the authorities. I am happy to be deposed and/or to serve as a witness for any criminal proceedings that may occur in the future as a result.

A complaint was filed with Leavenworth County Sheriff’s office on May 27, 2016 at 12:50 pm. Case #16-2986.  As updates come in I will edit this section and/or make new posts.

Upon discovery of all this I immediately emailed Neil to ask if he recalled the date on which he signed the contract (and, honestly, with the hopes he’d come clean):

Neil confirming contract signed date

I knew at the time Neil couldn’t possibly have signed it on that date.  A few hours after sending this email to Neil the viewing privileges on the October 10, 2015 document became restricted to every present member of the RfR board.  The owner of the document and anybody with editing privileges could have done that.  Neil had editing privileges and the owner of the document no longer speaks with RfR.  Fortunately, I had already screen captured everything.

So why was this done?  Without a confession from those responsible it’s impossible to say with certainty, but I may have an idea.  I am prevented from reporting on some relevant details here, but I hope to be able to do so in the future.  You will learn later that a lot of things happen between October 9, 2015 and October, 11, 2015 (see the later section, “October, 2015”).  Some of them I cannot discuss, but they are hugely relevant to this.  What I can say is that during September 2015 the idea of returning the money to donors for Neil’s fundraiser was being floated around RfR (I can say this with 100% certainty).  It’s highly likely (given the evidence I have that cannot be discussed) that the contract was backdated to tie the board’s hands (hence why it was sprung on them so far into Neil’s term as indicated by the contract).

So, with that out of the way, let’s go back to February of 2015 when Neil was first brought on as a volunteer with Recovering from Religion.  From there we’ll go through the timeline as I’ve put it together to see how we got to this point.

February through June, 2015

Neil was brought on as a volunteer to RfR by then-Executive Director Sarah Morehead.  His job, so Sarah said, was to help organize their small groups:

iCarol2

 

July, 2016

In July Sarah Morehead, under the banner of Recovering from Religion, ran a fundraiser to provide Neil Carter with a new laptop.  The fundraiser closed on July 26 having raised a total of $1,043.50.

Having seen the documentation of RfR’s purchases related to this fundraiser, I can confirm the following purchases were made and sent to Neil:

July 22nd, 2015 Cellet Universal Premium Mono 3.5mm Hands-Free Headset $14.44
July 26th, 2015 Seagate Expansion 2TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0 $79.61
July 26th, 2015 2 black ink cartridges (HP C5X25A Deskjet 1513) $65.74
July 26th, 2015 Seagate Expansion 2TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0 $79.61
July 27th, 2015 Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E550 20DF0040US 15.6-Inch Laptop $756.99
July 27th, 2015 Three reams paper $14.99
August 28th, 2015 Mac of all Trades purchase $756.89
September 3rd, 2015 Amazon return on bank statement – $756.99

This makes for a grand total of $931.67.  All in all, including deductions taken by the fundraising site, the fundraiser was underspent by $32.22.  Later Neil decided this laptop would not work for him.  RfR then purchased him a refurbished Mac laptop for literally 10 cents cheaper than the Lenovo:

Mac purchase proof

Neil returned the Lenovo ThinkPad (the return shows on RfR bank statement on September 3, 2015).

Important facts from February-June, 2015:

  • RfR ran a fundraiser to purchase Neil a laptop, presumably for RfR work as well as personal use.

August, 2015

On August 10, 2015, the Hotline Project servers failed, as shown by this image:

Hotline down proof

The servers were down August 10, 2015 – September 14, 2015, at which point they came back up for two days before going down again. After October 5, 2015 they have been up consistently.  This created a great deal of turmoil at RfR behind the scenes as this was their flagship project at the time.  Estimations for a fix were “$3,000 minimum” but probably closer to $5,000.  Lots of research was being done to find cheaper alternatives such as VOIP or some way to use Google Hangout.

(There are some important details buried in how Neil’s fundraiser originated, but I cannot talk about them — believe me, I want to)

On August 17, 2015, at the behest of then-Executive Director Sarah Morehead, Shanon Nebo made a draft for the fundraiser available to Neil, allowing him to review and edit it:

Neil editing power proof

 

The issue with Neil’s access was resolved the following day via text messages with Shanon:

Neil Access1 Neil Access2 Neil Access3

Now, I’m not sure why this was necessary as Neil has been able to at least skim it the previous day:

IMG_4482

But no matter, Neil was able to get in and make edits:

IMG_4491 IMG_4492 IMG_4493 IMG_4496 IMG_4497 IMG_4498 IMG_4499

The premise for this fundraiser was that Neil would be doing donor development and fundraising for Recovering from Religion, as established by screen captures from his Indiegogo campaign (the one he edited and for which he gave his approval):

Fundraising proof1a

“…full time and attention to the fundraising needs of Recovering from Religion”

Fundraising proof2a

And, since Neil had reviewed his fundraiser and given it his ok, he was certainly aware of this and, one would think, ok with it.  As you’ll see later in the piece through emails I post from the RfR board, this is certainly what they thought they were getting (which makes sense, since the Hotline servers have been down for over a week at this point and the fix was not cheap).

Dr. Darrel Ray, founder and President of RfR sent me the following message (the parts in brackets are paraphrased to protect particular pieces of information, but these changes do not at all change the narrative):

I learned of the fundraiser after it was already going. [It was never discussed] with me or asked [of] the board. By that time, I felt I had no choice but to support…the effort. [There was a lot of extraneous things going on at that time], so I chose to not make a big deal out of it.

But internal documents show unease with the board upon learning of the Neil fundraiser because, as you recall, the Hotline Project servers were down.  Both board and volunteers wondered why money was being raised to pay somebody who was already volunteering rather than fixing the Hotline Project servers.  Ultimately though, the decision was made to publicly support the Neil fundraiser.

Important facts from August 2015:

  • The Hotline Project servers were down. The Hotline Project was RfR’s flagship project at the time and the fix was looking like thousands of dollars.
  • Neil was permitted to make edits to his Indiegogo fundraiser and gave the go ahead for its posting. The leading premise for the Indiegogo page was that Neil would be doing fundraising.
  • Darrel Ray claims the fundraiser was sprung on the board who supported it, despite misgivings considering that the Hotline Project servers were down, because it was already public and they didn’t want to be seen contradicting the then-Executive Director publicly.

September, 2015

Around September 22, Darrel receives the first check from Indiegogo.  It’s for $16,178.78.

Due to a developing situation, Darrel Ray felt he could not deposit that check into the RfR bank account in good conscience.  I agree with his assessment (and not by a small amount).  During that time, Neil was sent a check for $2,500 without the board of RfR’s knowledge.  He was advised by Shanon Nebo on September 26 not to deposit it and Neil, to his credit, agrees by saying:

“I may need to find a source of income for a month though.  [The check was sent as an advance], but I’m assuming that’s out of the RFR budget and I think it’s a bad idea for me to cash that right now.  You agree?”

(The portion in brackets is paraphrased for legal reasons, but I assert that it changes absolutely nothing and that should this evidence be made available in the future that it will, with 100% certainty, confirm as much)

Shanon responds that she agrees and was unaware up until this point that the check to Neil was sent.

The amount of $2,500 was the maximum amount permitted without board approval by the Recovering from Religion by-laws, section 1.6.3:

“Any financial transaction over two thousand five hundred dollars ($2500) shall be approved by a simple majority vote by the Board in writing. Electronic written approval is acceptable.”

On September 28, the assembly of Neil’s contract begins.  A template is uploaded to google docs and it begins morphing into something very close to what Neil would later claim was signed on September 4.

On September 30, Neil does deposit that check, or at least that’s when it cleared (this is a crop, but I have months of banking statements given to me by Recovering from Religion):

Neil first check deposit

Important facts from September, 2015:

  • Darrel Ray receives the first Indiegogo check, but felt he couldn’t deposit it due to the fact that the president, board, and treasurer did not have access to RfR’s bank.
  • Neil is sent a check for $2,500, long before the first due date for him to be paid, without the board’s knowledge.
  • By this time (September 4, 2015) Neil is supposed to have signed a contract with the organization, but the board has no idea such a contract exists.

October, 2015

And here’s where things start getting very, very messy.  During the board meeting of October 9, 2015, the board becomes aware that a contract exists between Neil Carter and RfR (the meeting minutes confirm this).

In the early morning of October 10, a contract is uploaded to google docs.  It is the one Neil will later purport was signed on September 4.

Later that day the board was invited to view that contract on google docs.  The following day the board is still digging into this new development and is very worried, as shown by the following email from then-board member Teresa MacBain:

Oct 11 Contract Review Email redact

The redaction boxes at the top are to obscure email addresses, all of which I’ve confirmed belong to those parties. The redaction box in the email itself is to obscure information protected by NDA — I do not wish for that box to be there, but it is what it is.

This contract was a violation of the Recovering from Religion by-laws, section 1.6.4:

Compensation — Compensation arrangements must be approved by the board in advance of paying compensation and must be documented in writing along with the date and terms of approved compensation arrangements. Compensation arrangements may be based on information about compensation paid by similarly situated taxable or tax-exempt organizations for similar services, may include current compensation surveys compiled by independent firms, or actual written offers from similarly situated organizations. The information on which is relied upon to base the decision, along with the source of said information, must be recorded and documented in meeting minutes. The secretary will record in writing the decision made by each individual who decided or voted on compensation arrangements.”

This was a concern for the board.  Another concern was how the contract differed from the Indiegogo fundraiser for Neil’s position, specifically that the contract contained no mention of fundraising (from the email screen capped above):

Oct. 11 Contract review details2

As with previous images, the redaction boxes are information I am not permitted to share (but would like to be permitted to share).

The contract also contained what lawyers refer to as an “escape clause.”  The verbiage indicates that any previous agreement is considered null and void and is replaced by this contract.

This raised a number of questions with the board.  Why was the premise for Neil’s fundraiser now absent from the contract?  Why was the board not made aware of this contract for a full five weeks after it was supposedly signed?  The contract indicates that Neil’s starting date with Recovering from Religion was September 1, so why had no work been done up until this point?

Neil’s first scheduled payment via this contract was October 15, 2015, presumably for what was supposed to have been a month and a half of work.  But no work had been done, and the board only learned of this contract five days before Neil’s first scheduled payment.

Eliott Canter had a history of consulting with RfR and was presently serving as a mediator with another dispute.  He was asked by the board at this point to look into some of these issues.  It was on this day, October 11, 2015, that he was first introduced to Neil.  This could explain why, in his later appearance on the podcast Dogma Debate (see the later section “Dogma Debate”), Neil described his first interactions with Eliott as “more like an interrogation”.

Eliott arranged to call Neil to discuss this contract situation:

Neil Eliott Oct 11 Text

During the October 11 call Eliott requested a copy of the contract from Neil so he could confirm it was signed.  Two days later, Neil provided it:

Neil email 10 13

The redacted emails belong to Eliott Canter and Darrel Ray. I also confirmed that the address from Neil Carter is, indeed, his.

Attached to the email is the signed contract, dated September 4, 2015 next to Neil’s signature (recall that this could not have happened).

October 15, 2015 was the due date for Neil’s first check as stipulated in the contract the RfR board had just learned about.  On this date Neil sends them an invoice for the remaining $6,000 ($8,500 minus the $2,500 check he had been sent).  Remember, in reality Neil had only signed the contract days before (the fundraiser for his position had concluded on October 3):

Neil invoice a

Now bear in mind that at this point no official work had been done by Neil.  The people who were to become his supervisors didn’t even any contract with him existed until the waning hours of October 10, 2015.

But there was a problem: the Recovering from Religion board did not have access to the RfR bank account.  I have proof of this, but cannot post it, nor can I explain why.  At this point Darrel Ray still had the Indiegogo check from Neil’s fundraiser but, out of a fiduciary responsibility to the donors, felt he could not deposit it into an account to which the board, the president, and the treasurer did not have access.

Darrel replies to the earlier email where Neil sent the signed contract with:

Darrel email to Neil 10 15

The God Virus is the name of a book authored by Darrel Ray, and it shows up for his name from this particular address. I have confirmed that the address does belong to Darrel Ray.

I am also in possession of another email from that same day in which the organization is trying to get Nate Phelps, their treasurer, access to the RfR bank account for the explicit purpose of getting Neil paid.  However, I am unable to post that one.  The minutes from the October 9, 2015 board meeting also prove this.  But it is clear by looking at these emails that the board and President of RfR were trying their damnedest to get Neil his money in a way that didn’t betray their obligation to RfR donors.  The description of “non-stop” work on this front is almost literally true.

On October 21, accepting that the board will be unable to get into their bank account any time soon, Darrel opens up a new checking account and deposits the Indiegogo check.  Darrel sends Neil proof that he has deposited the check:

Oct 22 proof of deposit

I am also in possession of an email from October 22 that proves beyond any doubt that the slowness in getting Neil his money was not the fault of any remaining members of Recovering from Religion and that they were making every effort to get it done.  Again, I cannot post this email, but very much wish that I could.  In these emails Darrel expresses that he wants to communicate with Neil and give a full explanation of what is going on.  He is prevented from doing so due to concern for managing any possible later legal ramifications.

The following day, on October 23, 2015, Neil responded to Darrel:

It has indeed caused difficulties, and I am not many days away from deciding out of unavoidable necessity that I will have to seek employment elsewhere. I am very behind on covering my own bills, and before too much longer I will have no choice but to find an alternative source of income.

Knowing from Indiegogo’s disbursement policies that this portion of the funds would represent the monies collected before the end of August and paid out by the end of September, I can deduce that these funds have been sitting somewhere undeposited for close to a month now. I have donors emailing me asking when their orders for gift incentives (coasters, glassware, etc) will be received, and I haven’t even received the first half of the funds from the campaign yet. I’ve avoided contacting them for quite some time now but I will need to send them some kind of reply very soon telling them that something is coming their way.

[NOTE: Two sentences here have been redacted due to them containing information I cannot present] But first I need to know from you that Recovering is an organization which intends to make good on its intentions and which honors its agreements. The indication that you may be desiring to redirect nearly half of the designated funds for purposes other than those for which they were given makes me wonder if I should be publicly endorsing what our organizational goals are, since I am unsure as to whether or not they will be changed after I have spoken on them.

I need to know from you that you will direct the funds to the places we all—all of us, quite pubicly—have stated they will go. I have too many other options to allow myself to work for an organization whose integrity I cannot trust. Please communicate something to me which gives me reason to believe you will do what we said we will do.

Neil C.

Darrel responded:

Neil:
I have been completely up front with you. We intend to pay the installment due to you as soon as the funds clear. We do not have access to any other funds or we would have given them to you. The money we raised will be spent exactly to the specifications of the fundraiser or we will send them back to the donors. Its that simple.

As I said earlier, things got very complicated and you were caught in the middle. The money is in the bank now and as soon as the bank will let us have it, I will get it to you. I think things with the Board will finally be settled by Sunday, but cannot promise anything. At that time, I want to have a phone conversation with you so we can create a strong working relationship.

I’m not sure what indication you have that funds may be spent for other purposes other than what they were given but that was nothing I have ever said or indicated. Ever! But, for my edification perhaps you can expand on that comment so that I can understand what the indication is that leads you to believe that.

Darrel

Proof:

Oct 23 Darrel to Neil

Darrel, in the last sentence of his first paragraph, was alluding to the absence of fundraising in Neil’s signed contract.  This email exchange was the first time, in all the documents to which I have access, that I ever saw things becoming tense.

Also, bear in mind, that while the contract lists September 1, 2015 as Neil’s start date, that contract could not have been signed prior to September 27, 2015 (and likely wasn’t signed until October 10, 2015).  Yet here is Neil demanding payment for the work he’s supposedly done during that period.

An email from Darrel to Eliott on October 28 suggests that Neil’s check was mailed. It also shows that the board was still wanting Neil to do fundraising as his initial Indiegogo had said he would:

Oct 28 Darrel to Eliott 2

The first couple redactions are just email addresses. The third is information I’m not permitted to post (but which does not alter what the email confirms). The last four are just names of people uninvolved with the Neil situation.

On October 30th, Neil deposits the check Darrel sent ($6000 via check #101 from USBank acct [redacted, but I’ve confirmed it was the new account Darrel set up]).

Important facts from October, 2015

  • The RfR board is made aware of a contract signed with Neil Carter dated September 4, 2015.
  • The board has misgivings with the contract and how it differed from the Indiegogo fundraiser for Neil’s position — did not include fundraising, which is what the board thought they were getting.
  • Neil provides a copy of the contract signed and dated September 4, 2015.
  • Neil’s first payment, due October 15, is late due to the situation with the RfR board not having access to their own bank account.
  • Darrel Ray opens up a new bank account with the Indiegogo check and issues Neil his payment from that account.
  • The RfR Board is still wanting Neil to do the fundraising that his Indiegogo promotion said he would be doing.

November, 2015

On November 5, 2015 an RfR board meeting is held.  The minutes for that meeting contain sensitive information, so I cannot post them in full.  However, I can post this part:

4.2. Discussion of Neil Carter Contract and Expectations

4.2.1. Neil will address the board with a 10 min. presentation on his plans, goals, time frames and deliverables.

4.2.1.1. Darrell spoke with Neil last week. Neil has chosen to stay home from the SF trip.

4.2.2. Concern over the Indiegogo information which states a different role than what the contract states.

4.2.3. Additional concern because he didn’t even begin working until 60 days into the contract.

4.2.3.1. Dates should be changed in the contract to reflect his start date.

4.2.4. Following the presentation, the board instructed Neil to prepare KPI’s to present to the board. He is further instructed to provide a list of cultivated and non-cultivated donors to the board.

There is still concern by the board at this point that the contract with Neil does not contain fundraising, which was one of the premises of his Indiegogo fundraiser to fund his position with RfR (from the fundraiser: “devotes his full time attention to the fundraising needs of Recovering from Religion”).  This also shows that Neil has not even begun working as of yet, even though he had been paid half of his salary and his contract stipulated his start date as September 1.

On November 16 Darrel Ray reaches out to Neil offering to go over his forthcoming board report with him:

Nov 16 Darrel to Neil

This shows that, at least at this time, Neil’s superiors were reaching out and being willing to help him.

The following day (Tuesday, November 17, 2015), Darrel sent this email to the board:

Nov 17 Darrel to board

Darrel got Neil’s report the following day, just shy of 9pm (the board meeting was to be held the day after):

Nov 18 Neil to Darrel

I highlighted the dates of Neil’s monthly progress reports because those will be important later in this post.  Neil also agrees to do fundraising, even though it’s not in his contract, even though it was in the Indiegogo fundraiser for his position — a fundraiser which Neil approved and edited (which, one would think, would have been the time to say “Whoa! Full time attention to fundraising? How’d that get in there?”).

On November 30 a couple of important things happened.  Susi, the volunteer manager, sent Neil an invite to an application called Slack.  This is how staff at RfR communicated and what they wanted to use in the future with their small group support leaders:

Slack1

On this day Neil also submitted his first progress report to the board as scheduled:

Neil progress report Nov 30

Ok, not bad!  But the board felt it lacked specifics.  So, in an effort to provide guidance for Neil, they created a companion document in google docs and made it available to Neil.  This document asked for specific achievements relating to his stated goals.  They then asked him to resubmit his report using the format in that document and to submit all future reports with it.

Important facts from November, 2015

  • RfR board is still concerned about not getting fundraising out of Neil, who has insisted he doesn’t want to do it.
  • Neil’s superiors work with him to try and create a distinct plan of what Neil will be doing with the organization.
  • Neil, in his report to the board, says he will submit monthly reports on 11/30, 12/31, 1/31, and 2/28.
  • Neil is informed that inter-organizational communication is done through a program called Slack and is asked to install it.
  • Neil submits his first report to the board which is very vague.

December, 2015

On December 3, Susi sent Neil a reminder about using Slack (Neil has now blocked Susi on Facebook, but it should be apparent that she’s speaking to him):

Slack2

On December 4, Neil received this email from Darrel on behalf of the board sending Neil the companion document with which to fill out his monthly reports.  This document makes sure Neil is submitting specifics:

Dec 4 Board to Neil

Two days later, on December 6, Neil texted Shanon Nebo feeling like the board’s tone (which he associated with Darrel, which is understandable considering the board’s email came from Darrel’s address even though it was signed “The RFR Board”) was too harsh.  Shanon tries to calm him down and encourages him to provide specifics:

Shanon to Neil 12 6

Shanon to Neil 12 6 part 2a

The redacted part contains information I cannot convey not relevant to the Neil situation.

Two days later, on December 8, Neil submits his report using the companion document the board made for him (please pay attention to the bolded name in Neil’s first paragraph, which I altered to protect the volunteer’s identity):

v Provide 2nd level interviews to Facilitator applicants presenting with “yellow flags” via the first level interviewers, for the purpose of determining appropriateness to the Local Group Program

o How many interviews have been accomplished to date

o Identify those interviewed

o How many yellow flags and who are they

Over the last couple of weeks I have spoken with [Name #1] of Toronto, Johnny C. McFakeName of [City], [Name #2] of Cleveland, [Name #3] of Grove City, PA, [Name #4] of Oregon City, [Name #5] of Dallas, and [Name #6] of Nashville.  There are several new recruits who have made it past the initial screening process but the messages that have been passed along to me contain no contact information for those people.  As soon as I get that information I will be contacting them as well, and there are several more whom I have already reached out to but have not yet returned my emails or messages. 

v Update the Facilitator Training manual used to train Facilitators Local Group Program;

o Specifically where are we with the update

o Examples of changes

o When will it be completed

I will need to get this to the board in a few days, as it is currently saved on my old laptop.  Long story, but a 13-year- old has borrowed the power cord for that computer and left it at his father’s house. I hope to have access to that soon. Per the timeline I sent on November 19, that will be completed by the end of this month.  

v Conduct bi-monthly online Facilitator Training classes for new Facilitators;

o How many classes have been conducted

o With whom

o Schedule for future classes

This class has not yet been designed. I am in the process of compiling ideas and procedures for that now. I am still making my way through contacting the new recruits, but also crucial to that process is talking to our veteran group leaders to get suggestions for best practices, etc. I also have set a Dec. 31 deadline for myself to have the aforementioned training manual ready for use by that time.  

v Conduct bi-monthly online Facilitator support meetings for established Facilitators;

o How many have been conducted

o With whom

o Schedule of future meetings

This also will have to happen after the completion of this orientation process. I am calling each of them individually, asking questions and soliciting suggestions. Once I have made my way through the list of active leaders, I will have a better idea for how to structure those meetings.  As projected in my message from Nov 19, those will begin in January and will run through the duration of my work with the groups.  

To date, I have spoken with [Name #7] of Toledo, [Name #8] in Honolulu, [Name #9] in South Africa, [Name #10] of Oregon and [Name #4] of Oregon City, [Name #11] of Phoenix, [Name #12] of Tulsa, and [Name #13] of the Metrolina group.

v Nurture emerging Facilitators through ongoing development of a support team of established volunteer Facilitators as available and/or appropriate;

o An update on this process

o Who has been identified

o How many still to be contacted

This effort will also have to wait until after our training process is under way.  Susi has sent me the start up guide which I would like to build into a new recruit packet, and eventually I would like to see some kind of mentorship started whereby veteran leaders can help coach new recruits as they are being onboarded.  I do not yet know who those people will be, but I suspect it would make the most sense to identify those leaders with the most experience and the most discretionary time to devote to staying in contact with new recruits. I would like to start by asking [Name #14] if she would be interested in helping with that.   

v Adjusting program direction and goals as necessary to best meet Facilitator needs;

o What changes have been made

o Why

o How will they advance our organization

All of the above fall under this category. I think increasing visibility and developing a training process are the key elements for this,  plus I would like to see RFR develop a social media team who could help start up new web pages, FB pages, Meet Up pages, and help new groups learn the ropes of promoting groups online through social media.  

I think we would benefit a great deal from developing a team of reddit users who can work to promote what we do on that medium, along with any other high profile platform (twitter, tumblr, facebook, etc)  

v Maintain ongoing communications with database manager to ensure Facilitators are properly documented as participating in support meetings at least quarterly

o Has this been accomplished

o Has an ongoing schedule been articulated

Susi and I are working on communicating and I am slowly catching up.   There was some confusion about how to best access the email after switching over from the previous server, so some messages fell through the cracks. But each of those people has been contacted, save for the few whose contact info didn’t get forwarded. I am working on tracking those things down as we speak. She and I will need to do a good bit more communicating this month in order for me to learn how to navigate the meeting software and the database management module as I am still fairly new to it and there is a bit of a learning curve. 

v Maintain ongoing communication with database manager to ensure Facilitators’ attendance and meeting records are accurately reflected within the volunteer management system;

o Has this been accomplished

o Has an ongoing schedule been articulated

See comments above. Same response. 

v Participate in weekly staff meetings with the Executive Director to review progress;

o Has this been accomplished

o If so what has been the results

o If not, why not

Darrel and I have our first of such meetings scheduled for Thursday at 11am. That time will work most weeks for me, if that works for him as well.

v Participate in additional outreach opportunities for the purpose of group development;

o How many opportunities have been accomplished

o With who

o Quantify results

I believe this clause was added to account for the presence of conferences at which Sarah and I would be speaking. It also was a part of a larger fundraising plan that is now irrelevant.  But I remain open to the board’s suggestion if they would like to have me represent RFR at upcoming events. 

v Coordinate with other Recovering From Religion Program Directors to streamline training programs in an effort to minimize overlap of volunteer skills acquisition;

o Has the coordination been executed

o With who

o Quantify results

Teresa and I will need to work together to make that happen. I would say we are already doing that as we are collaborating on web development. I will be contacting her soon to discuss how she sets up training meetings, and I will greatly appreciate her input on how that works.  I suspect that will be easier for us to accomplish in between school semesters, over the Christmas break. 

v Report directly to Executive Director in connection with the performance of these duties;

o How often have you communicated with the ED

o When the ED reaches out to you how long is the usual response time

The acting ED should notice an improvement on that already, with response times within a matter of hours. Nights and weekends are sometimes busy, as during those times I often have my four children, who are demanding. But during most days I am available for contact, given time to respond if I am driving or already engaged in calling RFR volunteers. 

v Perform additional tasks within the scope of this agreement upon request of Executive Director and as agreed upon by the Contractor;

o Have you been asked by the ED to perform additional tasks

o What quantifiable results

Thus far we have discussed reaching out to donors and prospective donors, but that has been tabled until such a time as our group development is more adequate. 

Neil C.

12/8/2015

Once again, not bad.  But this is kind of the beginning of where things start to really go downhill.  For instance, you may note earlier that rather than identifying somebody as [Name #X], I went with Johnny C. McFakeName (and bolded it).  He represents one of several worrisome variables that would plague Neil’s work over the next few months.

I was the RfR volunteer who did Mr. McFakeName’s vetting interview, and he passed with flying colors.  That interview took place on November 13th, 2015 and Neil was supposed to get in touch with him and claimed to have done so in his first report.  However, internal emails (occurring after a phone call with Mr. McFakeName) show he actually wasn’t contacted until March of 2016:

McFakeName

This is strange considering Neil’s contract expired on February 28, 2016.  However, later in this post there will be proof that Neil was contacting people/volunteers after his contract was up.

Another instance of this is with someone we’ll call Mario T. Plumber.  I also conducted Mr. Plumber’s intake interview (on December 9, 2015) and was very impressed, as my email to Susi at the time shows:

Mario

Neil was supposed to contact him.  But Mr. Plumber reports that this also didn’t happen until the cusp of March, almost three months later, on the very day Neil’s contract expired:

Mario2

Mr. Plumber did forward Neil’s email to RfR.  Here it is:

Mario3

I use Mr. Plumber as a highlight because he left such an impression on me when I interviewed him.  These are not the only cases of this happening, but I provide them here just to show that such cases do exist – and that while many volunteers claimed Neil did contact them, some (and some he claimed to have contacted in his first report) affirm he did not.

So now that we’ve established that this is where things start to go downhill, let’s go backward one day to December 7, 2015 when Shanon Nebo, by this time a member of the RfR board, was asking Neil for some very basic information so she could fill out a report. Though Shanon said she needed it in the next couple of days, she waited a week and then nudged Neil again:

Shanon Text 9

Redacted sentence contains something I cannot share, but which does not alter the context.

Shanon has passed along this description of this exchange:

I asked Neil to provide budget information for groups so that I could complete our budget for 2016 and move forward on the ability of RfR to provide donors with information they require in considering our financial needs. I asked him for this on Monday, December 7th and requested that he provide his rough projected financial needs for the coming year in a day or two. I followed up with him one week later after getting no response from him and was met with more questions, which was frustrating because our board meeting was scheduled for the next day. Furthermore, he couldn’t talk to me about those questions until that evening, leaving me even less time to complete my work in time for the meeting.

Meetup.com lists their pricing for their groups on their website, so that information isn’t difficult to obtain. Neil needed to provide information for how many active groups there were at the time and make a projection for growth of those groups for the coming year. He basically did this with me over the phone.

As I go on you will notice that the lack of communication from Neil will become a theme.

And, as we know, on December 9 Neil is told to follow up with Mario T. Plumber and does not do so until the final hours of his contract, nearly three months from this date.

On December 31 Neil’s second report was due, but the board did not receive it.  Ever.  Neil knew it was due here because he presented that fact in his November 19 presentation to the board.

Important facts from December, 2015

  • Neil is provided with a companion document for his monthly reports to ensure that details are provided to his supervisors.
  • Neil resubmits his first report in this format, but expresses to Shanon Nebo that the board’s email rubbed him the wrong way. Shanon encourages him to simply provide the specifics of his work.
  • In that report, Neil claims to have contacted volunteers that he actually hadn’t.
  • Neil is asked by Shanon to provide some basic information she needs for a forthcoming report to the board. Neil is silent for a week and Shanon helps him assemble that information after calling him one night before the board meeting.
  • Neil does not submit his end of month report. Ever.

January, 2016

This section will not flow as smoothly as some of the other months.  Sorry, but there’s no way around it.  Just understand that it won’t be linear.

The first major thing I want to talk about is Neil becoming even more silent with his supervisors/co-workers during this month.

January 12th, Neil is scheduled to meet with Susi Bocks for their weekly meeting.  He texts her to cancel.

Text1

Susi’s records (posted later in this blog) indicate that Neil did, in fact, call the following day.  So no harm, no foul.

On January 19, Neil is once again supposed to meet with Susi Bocks and, again, texts her to cancel (he wanted to postpone til Thursday the 21).

text3 Text4

On January 21 Neil attends a meeting between himself, Susi Bocks, and “Molly” with a vendor that could help with support groups (Support Group Central).  They witness a demo of their software which, I’m told, took about an hour.  They discuss via Slack (this is likely what the request in the above text stream was for):

Slack5aSlack6a1Slack7a1
On January 27, Susi messaged Neil on Slack regarding the support group in Springfield, MO. She never received a response (see Slack screen shots above for proof).  Other screen shots of Slack show that Neil was radio silent on all but their discussion on January 21.

Recall that Slack is the messaging client he had been told was to be used for his job.

Slack3a1 Slack4a1

January 26, Neil is scheduled for his weekly meeting with Susi Bocks.  He texts asking for a rain check.  Susi agreed, then no call.

Text5bText5

The second major issue I want to talk about is Neil’s second payment, which was due on January 15, 2016.  In future social media posts Neil claims this payment was slow.  This is actually true, and neither side contests this.  Here’s what I found:

There is an email on January 7, 2016 of Darrel Ray responding to Neil, saying his check would go into the mail on the 8th (Neil’s payment was due on the 15th).

Darrel to Neil 1 7 2016

January 14, Neil, Darrel, and Gayle have a conference call where Darrel informs him that Gayle will be taking over Neil’s weekly calls with the Executive Director.  Neil informs Gayle that he has not yet received the paper check.  While the meeting with Gayle and Neil was over the phone, so I can’t confirm what was discussed for sure, Gayle did send me text messages that support her account:

Neil to Gayle1 Neil to Gayle2

Here’s proof of the Paypal transaction:

Paypal capture redact

The reason for the $2,000 (rather than the full $8,500) is because that was what RfR had in their Paypal account.  Darrel got home on the January 18 and immediately contacted Neil, offering to send a wire transfer:

Darrel to Neil 1 18 2016

Neil responds declining the offer of a wire transfer:

Neil to Darrel 1 18 2016

January 19, Darrel tells me he mailed a $6,000 check to Neil.  I have no proof that it occurred on this date, but I do know the check was sent because Neil deposited it on January 25 (see below).  So it was at least on or around this date that the check was mailed.  The check itself was also dated January 19, 2016 (screen shot a little lower in the post).

January 21, Neil and Gayle have their first weekly meeting.  Neil calls.

January 25, the $6,000 check Darrel sent to Neil is deposited:

RfR January financial cap

January check

Clearly the money is in the RfR bank account and always was, so it seems implausible that RfR was trying to do anything nefarious here, and the documentation shows they were on the up-and-up.

January 28, Neil sends this email to Gayle:

Neil to Gayle 1 28 2016 part 1 Neil to Gayle 1 28 2016 part 2

First thing to say is that Darrel tells me he has no recollection of Neil telling him to overnight the check.  Darrel’s quote to me when I asked him about this was:

I don’t have any record of him asking for overnight. We discussed it by phone, but I was able to send him $2000 immediately by PayPal and that seemed to satisfy him. I saw no need to send it overnight once we had settled on that plan.

I can actually sympathize with Neil a bit here.  He wasn’t privy, at least through the present members of the RfR board, as to why the Indiegogo check wasn’t deposited back in September.  Neil likely didn’t know that RfR didn’t have access to their own bank account.  I do know that they were working the whole time to resolve it and likely believed it would get resolved, but finally gave up on that notion which was when Darrel opened up a new account for the purpose of getting Neil paid.

I stand by my assessment that this was not the fault of any present member of RfR’s, but Neil has likely not seen what I have seen regarding that.

That being said, because Neil doesn’t have that information, we reach different conclusions about what happened back in September.  I cannot agree with his assessment that the amount of time the Indiegogo check went without being deposited was excessive.  I can understand why he’d feel that way, but I can’t agree that it was.  I also cannot agree that it caused Neil a delay in doing RfR work because, at that time, he wasn’t doing any (we know this from the board meeting notes in November, see that section, and we also know that through September Neil didn’t really have a contract in place).

Also, if Darrel received the Indiegogo check around September 22, 2015 and deposited it on October 15, 2015, then he sat on if for three weeks, not a month and a half (although, given the circumstances and Darrel’s responsibility to the donors, I wouldn’t have faulted him for sitting on it for a month and a half).

Similarly, when Neil says that the blame for the lateness of the January check cannot be put on the post office, I’m not sure why he thinks that.  He doesn’t give a reason.  What evidence does he have?  And if you’ll look above, you’ll see that I document that entire string of events starting on January 7.  A week to realize that the check has not yet arrived seems a reasonable amount of time.  Upon this discovery RfR immediately sent Neil the sum of their Paypal account ($2,000, received a day ahead of Neil’s due date to be paid, so Neil would have money to work with until this got resolved) and offered to wire transfer the rest (immediately on the 18th, when Darrel got home and that option was available), which Neil refused.  This, at minimum, suggests the money was in the bank (and we know it was a week later when Neil deposited the check and due to the bank statement I provided above).  Why tell a fib to pay Neil ten days late when the obvious intent was to pay him and the money was in the account?

Gayle Jordan responds to Neil that day via text:

Neil to Gayle text 1 28 2016

January 29, Susi messaged Neil on Slack regarding the NC support group, receives no response (see Slack screen shots above for proof).  It seems it was not communicated that Neil was taking a week off.  But she never receives a response.

January 31, Neil’s third monthly report is due.  It is never received.  Ever.  Neil knew it was due here because he presented that fact in his November 19, 2015 presentation to the board.

Important facts from January, 2016

  • Neil has a conversation on Slack after he, “Molly”, and Susi Bocks witness a demo for Support Group Central. Otherwise Neil is silent on Slack, not responding to messages from his supervisors and other volunteers.
  • Neil’s second payment is late due to the first check being returned. RfR does everything they can to remedy this situation. Ultimately a sum of $2,000 is sent early from Paypal and a second check is issued for the balance ($6,500) that Neil deposits on the 25.
  • Neil misses his scheduled call with the Volunteer/Database Manager on January 26. Asks for a rain check, never calls back.
  • Neil requests a week off due to the lateness of the check to tie up some other projects. It is granted by Gayle, the Executive Director.
  • Neil’s end of month report for January is never received. Ever.

February, 2016

February 2, Neil is scheduled for his weekly meeting with Susi Bocks, he doesn’t show and neither calls or texts.  Susi also sends Neil a reminder on Slack to get his review in for the Support Group Central report.  She never receives a response.

Thursday, February 4, a week from when Neil said he was going to take a week off.  This was the day Neil agreed to do his weekly meeting with Gayle.  He does not show and does not call, email, or text.

February 9, Neil is again scheduled for his weekly call with Susi Bocks.  Again, he does not call and does not contact her to explain why.

February 11, Neil is scheduled to have his weekly meeting with Gayle.  He does not show.  He does not call, email, or text.

February 13, Darrel tells me that on this day he receives the original $8,500 check he tried to send to Neil on January 7.  It is marked undeliverable.  I have asked for proof of this but am told the check has already shredded.  We’re left to infer what took place based on the evidence we do have, and my earlier line of reasoning stands for me:

Similarly, when Neil says that the blame for the lateness of the January check cannot be put on the post office, I’m not sure why he thinks that.  He doesn’t give a reason.  What evidence does he have?  And if you’ll look above, you’ll see that I document that entire string of events starting on January 7.  A week to realize that the check has not yet arrived seems a reasonable amount of time.  Upon this discovery RfR immediately sent Neil the sum of their Paypal account ($2,000, received a day ahead of Neil’s due date to be paid, so Neil would have money to work with until this got resolved) and offered to wire transfer the rest (immediately on the 18th, when Darrel got home and that option was available), which Neil refused.  This, at minimum, suggests the money was in the bank (and we know it was a week later when Neil deposited the check and due to the bank statement I provided above).  Why tell a fib to pay Neil ten days late when the obvious intent was to pay him and the money was in the account?

February 16, “Molly” messages Neil on Slack trying to get his input for the policy manual.  Recall that in his December 8 report to the board Neil said he was going to try and get the updates to this manual finished by December 31, 2015.  In the meantime “Molly” began making a rough draft to help Neil and was asking for his input.  Neil never responds Displaying Attach0.png(see Slack screen shots above for proof).

On this day Neil is also scheduled for his weekly meeting with Susi.  He does not call, email, or text.

Susi maintained a log of her appointments with Neil.  This is ultimately what it wound up looking like:

Susi call log

On this day Gayle also emails Neil asking that his final report be comprehensive:

Gayl to Neil 2 16 2016

Neil responds:

Neil to Gayle 2 17 2016

February 18, Neil is scheduled for his weekly call with Gayle.  He does not call, email, or text.

On February 21, Gayle sends Neil the following email.  This is the first time I see arbitration mentioned:

Gayle to Neil 2 21 2016

The following day, on February 22, Neil responded:

Neil to board 2 22 2016

Neil says that each time he’s had a call with the ED it was initiated by him/her.  As a curiosity, and because RfR has been so forthright, I asked Gayle to provide her phone records.  She did so.  Their meeting on January 21 (see the last section) was the only scheduled meeting for which the meeting actually took place, and it was Neil who called Gayle (I also have her phone records for every subsequent Thursday and they confirm Gayle’s account of Neil not calling for subsequent meetings):

Gayle Phone records 1

So Neil’s excuse there doesn’t really hold water.

The following day, February 23, Neil texts Gayle to arrange a phone call (redaction to protect donor information):

Gayle Text 1a
Gayle Text 2

The following day the call takes place.  Here we get conflicting accounts of what took place.  As somebody prioritizing proof in these matters it’s hard to come to a firm conclusion when dealing with phone calls.

The difference at point is that Gayle says she offered Neil the chance to work alongside Eliott for four weeks to complete the tasks laid out in the contract.  Neil claims in a later email that this offer was never made.

Internal emails between Gayle and the board show that Gayle at least believes an offer along those lines was made:

Gayle to board 2 24 2016a

Gayle to board 2 24 2016 part 2

A couple hours later Gayle emailed Neil acting as though the offer was made and asking Neil to contact Eliott about the offer:

Gayle to Neil 2 24 2016

Neil refuses this:

Neil to Gayle and board 2 25 2015

On February 25, 2016, Gayle sent the following email to Neil:

Gayle to Neil 2 25 2016

Among other things, this email confirms that by at least February 25, 2015 Neil was aware that Eliott was a consultant to the organization as approved by the board (that’s if you’re giving Neil every benefit of the doubt and assuming that Eliott was not introduced to Neil as a consultant to the organization during the phone call that took place back on October 11, 2015).  So Neil’s continued claims in blog posts and other media that he has no idea who Eliott is or the nature of his relationship to the organization and to the board are simply untrue.

Also on this day Neil emails the support group leaders and asks them to be in a google hangout with him over the weekend.  One of the dates he makes himself available, Monday, February 29, is a day after his contract is over (no member of RfR was CC’d or otherwise included on this email, a volunteer made Susi Bocks aware of it and sent it to her on March 24, 2016):

Neil Facilitator Email

February 28, the final day of Neil’s contract, Neil submits his final report along with a letter.  Here they are:

Ms. Jordan: February 28th, 2016

If you truly thought I was guilty of gross negligence, you could, and would, have terminated me.

You did not. Ergo, your threats of arbitration are designed only to intimidate and harass me. Additionally, the full amount from the fundraiser is due to me, immediately. Period. As you said so clearly, you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. The facts are clear, and your organization has repeatedly neglected the terms of this contract throughout its existence.

It is also ludicrous that you expect me to believe that the board has not already decided to pursue arbitration. Your email of Feb 21 stated, “you should also know we have contacted counsel and are reviewing remedies for failure of contract fulfillment and are currently in discussions regarding use of the American Arbitration Association in Mississippi as per the contract.”  Then you repeated your comment about “leaving [another issue] until arbitration” in your email to me Friday evening, and stated “we have every intention of pursuing this.”

There is no other reason for you to prematurely refer to the arbitration clause three times in two separate emails unless the board is already planning to pursue arbitration for a breach that hasn’t occurred. Rather than create a spirit of cooperation and teamwork, your threats (veiled and otherwise), manipulation, and your condescending attitude toward me as we approach the conclusion of this contract, coupled with RFR’s failure to comply with its end of the contract, have created and perpetuated the hostile work environment that I have endured during this contract period. Quite frankly, I was well within my rights to terminate the contract with the organization for its failure to pay back in the fall, and again this January, so your animosity toward me is unnecessary and inappropriate. You aren’t the only person at RFR who has behaved this way. The board seems to have wanted me to fail and has set up constant barriers to ensure that outcome.

You never “offered” me a 23‐day extension, nor did you ever tell me that my request for it had been granted. In fact, your email of February 21 made it clear that my request for the extension was denied. You wrote, “Your contract expires on March 1 with a final report due February 28. You asked for some additional time to complete your assignments. We are respectfully declining your request, and will not extend your contract beyond March 1. The board has agreed, however, to grant you one additional week for you to complete the final written report which was due on 2/28.”

At no point in your email of February 21 did you leave open the option of continuing to work with Eliott or anyone else. There is no reason to pretend outrage that I was not keen to have Eliott’s assistance when, in fact, you are the one who affirmatively and clearly foreclosed any such option that might have existed. Aside from this, I have been given conflicting information from RFR regarding Eliot’s role and responsibilities with the organization, and my own experience with his “intervention” has been tenuous at best.  

I don’t have any idea what “privileged” information you are referring to in your latest email. To the best of my knowledge, information and belief, I am not in possession of any privileged information. At the same time, however, I am also not blind nor deaf to things that happened during my association with Recovering From Religion, which began several years ago. As such, I am delighted to hear of the value placed on “transparency” in your statement, and assure you I agree wholeheartedly. Should the need arise, I fully intend to take whatever steps I feel are necessary to ensure complete and total transparency is brought to ensure the reputations of myself and others who devoted years of volunteer service towards this organization are upheld and protected.

The Recovering From Religion board never had any intention of dealing with me in an honest, forthright manner or in good faith. When the board refused to deposit the initial fundraiser check or forward the initial payment on my contract, it decided to jeopardize the goodwill and trust I had with the organization. The board’s decision was unprofessional and inexcusable, and it laid the groundwork for our future dealings. Over the next three months there was an untenable amount of conflict over my job description and over reporting and software platform swapping that slowed my progress down considerably; then Recovering From Religion was late making the second payment on my contract. As far as I am concerned, this completely sacrificed what little trust remained. The blatant hostility of your email of February 21 just iced the cake.

Attached you will find my report due February 28th, per the terms of the contract. The breakdown of trust and communication, which has exponentially increased over the final weeks of this contract, is such that I am no longer in agreement to complete any additional work beyond the scope of the original terms. I deeply appreciate the motivations and intentions that were in place when my contract was originally decided, and I am incredibly disappointed and saddened by the lack of ethical fortitude, the faulty direction, and the malicious actions taken by the “leadership” of this organization in recent months. I do not anticipate a scenario where additional communication between us is necessary or would be fruitful.  

Regards,

Neil Carter   

Contractor Report: February 28th 2016

  1. I have been a contractor with Recovering From Religion from September 1st 2015 through March 1st 2016. Due to ongoing delays in payment by the organization I was forced to seek outside income during the following date ranges, and as such, was less available to dedicate as much time effort to the terms of this agreement as I’d have preferred:

1.1. On or around October 15 2015 ‐ October 30 2015

1.2. On or around January 15 2016 ‐ January 23 2016

1.3. On or around January 28 2016 ‐ February 11 2016

  1. I completed the following in accordance with the terms of the contract:

2.1. Provided 2nd level interviews to Facilitator applicants presenting with “yellow flags” via the first level interviewers, for the purpose of determining appropriateness to the Local Group Program. New applicants forwarded to me were contacted, processed and added to the facilitator spreadsheet according to group status. It should be noted that “yellow flag” was not a term that was defined or used in any communications with me, therefore were no specific or designated “yellow flags” to follow up on.  

2.2. Updated the Facilitator Training manual, attached via PDF with this document.

2.3. Conducted online Facilitator Training classes for new Facilitators as frequently as could be arranged considering the tremendous delays and disruptions in workflow created by the organization’s refusal to pay in a timely fashion. All new facilitators were contacted through multiple means (email, Facebook message, and text), but many did not respond or did not choose a date that fell within the contract period.

2.4. Conducted online Facilitator support meetings for established Facilitators as frequently as could be arranged considering the tremendous delays and disruptions in workflow created by the organization’s refusal to pay in a timely fashion. All current facilitators were contacted through multiple means (email, Facebook message, and text), many did not respond or did not choose a date that fell within the contract period.

2.5. Maintained ongoing dialogue with everyone who wanted dialogue. I nurtured emerging Facilitators through ongoing development of support teams, networking with established volunteer Facilitators as available and/or appropriate. I connected new facilitators with established ones via group Google hangout, email, telephone, and Facebook messaging. I added all new and returning facilitators for whom we have Facebook contact to a common support group for group development and mentoring.

2.6. Adjusted program direction and goals as necessary to best meet Facilitator needs. Per veteran facilitator feedback, focus was placed on re‐introducing an eye‐catching and interactive map showing the locations of all RFR groups, both active and in progress, similar to what was in place during the tenure of my original Executive Director. Map was approved and uploaded onto the appropriate page on the organizational website.

2.7. Maintained ongoing communications with the Database manager to ensure Facilitators are properly documented as participating in support meetings at least quarterly. To the best of my knowledge, the facilitator list is up to date at present. Defunct groups were weeded out and removed from active consideration, updated list of active facilitators and emerging facilitators with corrected phone numbers, emails, and website addresses added to group spreadsheet according to category. All pertinent information also added into the interactive map as described above.  

2.8. Maintained ongoing communication with the Database Manager to ensure Facilitators’ attendance and meeting records are accurately reflected within the volunteer management system. As per 2.7 all group facilitator contact information was updated however I was never given administrative access to the volunteer management system to complete these tasks myself.

2.9. I participated in regular staff meetings with each of the three Executive Directors during my tenure to review progress. Aside from a single miscommunication related to travel, we met within a reasonably scheduled time whenever they or I requested to do so.  

2.10. Support from the organization was not forthcoming to accomplish additional outreach beyond what was actually accomplished. I did, however, promote RFR during my Fall 2015 trip to Portland, Oregon, despite the questionable status of my role with the organization, and despite their payment being significantly overdue on the dates of the trip.

2.11. To the best of my ability, I coordinated with other Recovering From Religion Program Directors to streamline training programs in an effort to minimize overlap of volunteer skills acquisition. I worked with Hotline manager (also functioning as website developer) to integrate the map of groups into the main organizational website. I also communicated with the Volunteer Manager to provide second level interviews, integrated quick start guide into revised facilitator training manual, integrated ideas for training manual from a comparable organization, and worked with volunteer organizers to audit and test the viability of new volunteer organizational software.

2.12. I reported directly to Executive Director in connection with the performance of these duties. Because the ED became condescending and hostile, and because the payments were continually late and incomplete, I cooperated to the best of my abilities under incredibly difficult circumstances.  

  1. Due to the increased hostility and animosity experienced from, among others, the Executive Director, I no longer am able to agree to do anything else that wasn’t already contemplated by the contract and accomplished.
  2. Pursuant to paragraph 4.2.3 of the contract which states, “Balance of funds remaining from the targeted IndieGoGo fundraiser will be disbursed to the Contractor by January 15th 2016.” I demand payment of the remaining funds raised in the Indiegogo campaign. The total amount raised was $21,199 (twenty one thousand one hundred ninety nine dollars) and I have received two payments of $8,500 (eight thousand five hundred dollars). According to my calculations, the remaining amount due to me is $4199 (four thousand one hundred ninety nine dollars). These funds should have been paid to me January 15, 2016. They are now six weeks overdue. I will expect the funds to be delivered to me within 5 business days.

5. At this time I am collating and documenting any out‐of‐pocket expenses incurred in connection with the execution and successful completion of this contract, and will submit any applicable receipts for reimbursement within 60 days;

Phew, that’s a lot.  But I’m sure it will not elude most readers that it is very short on specifics and does not adhere to the companion document Neil was given back in December to ensure that specifics were reported.  So let’s talk about this and how it lines up with the evidence we already have.

Neil says:

It is also ludicrous that you expect me to believe that the board has not already decided to pursue arbitration. Your email of Feb 21 stated, “you should also know we have contacted counsel and are reviewing remedies for failure of contract fulfillment and are currently in discussions regarding use of the American Arbitration Association in Mississippi as per the contract.”  Then you repeated your comment about “leaving [another issue] until arbitration” in your email to me Friday evening, and stated “we have every intention of pursuing this.”

But it is clear from the emails I included that RfR was considering arbitration as an option and, wanting to be transparent with Neil, made him aware of that.  I see no reason to conclude that the board had already decided to arbitrate (and, as we’ll learn later, they tried to give Neil yet another out, which makes no sense if the decision to arbitrate was already made).

Neil says:

Rather than create a spirit of cooperation and teamwork, your threats (veiled and otherwise), manipulation, and your condescending attitude toward me as we approach the conclusion of this contract, coupled with RFR’s failure to comply with its end of the contract, have created and perpetuated the hostile work environment that I have endured during this contract period. Quite frankly, I was well within my rights to terminate the contract with the organization for its failure to pay back in the fall, and again this January, so your animosity toward me is unnecessary and inappropriate. You aren’t the only person at RFR who has behaved this way. The board seems to have wanted me to fail and has set up constant barriers to ensure that outcome.

Going back through all the included documents I see RfR trying to foster a spirit of teamwork.  I see them including Neil, asking for his input, offering their help, making themselves available, etc.  Don’t trust me, go back through this post and read the evidence for yourself.

He says that the board erected barriers set up to ensure Neil failed.  What were these barriers?  Neil doesn’t say.  And why would the board do this?  What did RfR have to gain by trying to ensure that Neil failed?

Neil says:

You never “offered” me a 23‐day extension, nor did you ever tell me that my request for it had been granted. In fact, your email of February 21 made it clear that my request for the extension was denied. You wrote, “Your contract expires on March 1 with a final report due February 28. You asked for some additional time to complete your assignments. We are respectfully declining your request, and will not extend your contract beyond March 1. The board has agreed, however, to grant you one additional week for you to complete the final written report which was due on 2/28.”

Yes, they declined Neil’s initial request to continue working on his own — likely because Neil had not been communicating and missed his two previous monthly reports, leaving the board with no proof of any work accomplished.  Understandably, they didn’t see a point to letting Neil work beyond the terms of his contract without supervision.

The evidence suggests that RfR did decide to offer Neil the chance to work an extra four weeks with Eliott working alongside him.  This help was to be provided for free, and makes little sense if the organization was erecting barriers to ensure that Neil failed.

Neil says:

At no point in your email of February 21 did you leave open the option of continuing to work with Eliott or anyone else. There is no reason to pretend outrage that I was not keen to have Eliott’s assistance when, in fact, you are the one who affirmatively and clearly foreclosed any such option that might have existed. Aside from this, I have been given conflicting information from RFR regarding Eliot’s role and responsibilities with the organization, and my own experience with his “intervention” has been tenuous at best.

The offer was supposed to have taken place over the phone.  And if it never took place, why did Neil refuse it in an email (see above)?

In Gayle’s email on February 21 she declined to let Neil work longer by himself (and had planned to grant his request, even convincing the board to allow it on Neil’s behalf until, once again, Neil failed to make contact at the appointed time to discuss it — Neil was aware of this as he discusses the contents of that email, so he certainly received it).

And what is this conflicting information Neil has received about Eliott’s association with the organization?  He doesn’t say, and I see no evidence for it.  I do see the RfR board communicating very clearly: he is a consultant.

Neil says:

I don’t have any idea what “privileged” information you are referring to in your latest email. To the best of my knowledge, information and belief, I am not in possession of any privileged information. At the same time, however, I am also not blind nor deaf to things that happened during my association with Recovering From Religion, which began several years ago. As such, I am delighted to hear of the value placed on “transparency” in your statement, and assure you I agree wholeheartedly. Should the need arise, I fully intend to take whatever steps I feel are necessary to ensure complete and total transparency is brought to ensure the reputations of myself and others who devoted years of volunteer service towards this organization are upheld and protected.

Because the referenced information is privileged, I cannot divulge it.  But I am in possession of emails between Gayle and the board after her conversation with Neil in which she talks about Neil asserting he was privy to information that was, in fact, privileged.  While this doesn’t prove that this took place, it does prove that Gayle believed it did.  Also, it’s my assessment that this paragraph contains hints to the very information discussed in the emails between Gayle and the board, leading me to believe that Neil knew what she was talking about.  But, to be fair, that is my assessment.  If I am ever able to post the documentation behind the blue text (and I expect to be able to do this sooner rather than later), you will be able to make an assessment for yourself.

Also take note of how Neil pays lip service to the value of transparency.  Indeed, he says he will take whatever steps he feels necessary to ensure complete and total transparency.  He would go on to make similar claims in a later blog post.  Bear this in mind as we go forward.

Neil says:

The Recovering From Religion board never had any intention of dealing with me in an honest, forthright manner or in good faith. When the board refused to deposit the initial fundraiser check or forward the initial payment on my contract, it decided to jeopardize the goodwill and trust I had with the organization. The board’s decision was unprofessional and inexcusable, and it laid the groundwork for our future dealings. Over the next three months there was an untenable amount of conflict over my job description and over reporting and software platform swapping that slowed my progress down considerably; then Recovering From Religion was late making the second payment on my contract. As far as I am concerned, this completely sacrificed what little trust remained. The blatant hostility of your email of February 21 just iced the cake.

As I stated well above in this very blog post, I am convinced that the delay in depositing the Indiegogo check was justified.  The board did not have access to their bank account and, out of a fiduciary responsibility to their donors, could not deposit that check into an account to which they had no access.  I understand that.

However, I also understand Neil’s frustration.  Whether RfR was justified or not doesn’t alter the fact that he was not getting paid at the time stipulated (even though the contract was likely only really signed days before).  It was a crappy situation all around.  But as for unprofessional behavior, scroll back up and look at how RfR handled the situation (“September, 2015” and “January, 2015”).  Neil asserts that it was unprofessional, but I don’t think the evidence supports this.  Unfortunate?  Yes.  Unprofessional?  No.

As for “software platform swapping that slowed my progress down considerably,” all the unpaid volunteers at RfR managed it just fine.  In fact, I installed Slack on my computer and phone to test it out.  To call it easy would make me a master of understatement.  In fact, while doing this test I learned something interesting about Slack.  You can download the Slack app for your phone or laptop, but you don’t have to. You can go to any computer and log in to your team right on the main page of slack.com.  And we know from the section “July, 2016,” Neil had a laptop provided to him via a fundraiser through RfR and orchestrated by Sarah Morehead.

Other software changes include learning to use Office 365.  Again, not particularly hard.  But even if Slack and Office 365 were incredibly difficult to use (they’re not), so what?  Learning how to use the relevant software is a part of many, many jobs, including this one.  You’re being paid full-time wages to do full-time work.  Neil’s argument that he had to learn to use new software and that this demonstrates how the organization left him out to dry is incredibly weak.

Lastly, I will leave it to the reader to determine if the evidence contained in this blog post fails to refute that the RfR board never had any intention of dealing with Neil in an honest, forthright manner or in good faith.

Alright, so let’s move on to the contents of his final report (which Neil would later admit were intentionally vague, see the later section “Dogma Debate” — this comes just two paragraphs after Neil accuses the RfR board of failing to deal with him in a “forthright manner in good faith”):

  1. I have been a contractor with Recovering From Religion from September 1st 2015 through March 1st 2016. Due to ongoing delays in payment by the organization I was forced to seek outside income during the following date ranges, and as such, was less available to dedicate as much time effort to the terms of this agreement as I’d have preferred:

1.1. On or around October 15 2015 ‐ October 30 2015

1.2. On or around January 15 2016 ‐ January 23 2016

1.3. On or around January 28 2016 ‐ February 11 2016

Well, let’s be sure to add some details in here.

What about the time between September 1, 2015 through early November, for which Neil got paid, but for which no official work was done?

I mean, Neil’s complaining about 15 days late payment from October 15 to October 30, which I detailed in earlier sections (and for which he did get paid), but Neil wasn’t doing any work for the organization.  Yes, he was under contract (which was signed on October 10, 2015, not on September 4, 2015), a contract none of the board was aware of, but no work was being done (or, at least, no record of it exists).  He’d also deposited an advance of $2,500 on September 30 (the one the board was unaware of, for the contract he’d not yet signed).  But yes, the point remains that the board was 15 days late paying him (though it was beyond their control).

Again, the 8 days late on the January 15 payment is documented above (in the section “January, 2016”).  It’s my conclusion that it was the fault of the post office and that the board did everything in their power to make it right.  Still, the circumstances don’t alter the fact that the payment was 8 days late (though Neil tries to lay the blame in all cases on RfR, which it never was — even though it surely sucked for Neil).

By January 28 Neil had been paid the sum of his salary.  He had said he needed a week off, a term which would’ve ended on February 4.  In the process he even agreed to do his weekly call with Gayle on February 4.  He did not show up.

What Neil is trying to claim here is that 37 days of not working is what kept him from fulfilling his contract.  Actually, it was a week of not working (January 28 through February 4), the rest of the time he was supposedly working while RfR dealt with getting him his money.

  1. I completed the following in accordance with the terms of the contract:

2.1. Provided 2nd level interviews to Facilitator applicants presenting with “yellow flags” via the first level interviewers, for the purpose of determining appropriateness to the Local Group Program. New applicants forwarded to me were contacted, processed and added to the facilitator spreadsheet according to group status. It should be noted that “yellow flag” was not a term that was defined or used in any communications with me, therefore were no specific or designated “yellow flags” to follow up on.  

Well, ok, but if Neil was confused about what yellow flags were, he could’ve asked.  If he doesn’t ask, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for his supervisors to assume he knows what the term means.

And, as we learned earlier, Neil did not reach out to all the new contacts that were forwarded to him.

2.2. Updated the Facilitator Training manual, attached via PDF with this document.

In his November 19, 2015 report to the board Neil had said he would have this finished by December 31, 2015.  He uploaded it on February 28, 2016 along with his letter.  Here it is, if you want to see it.  It is a 15 page document, smaller than the previous 18 page document, which is perfectly fine if the new version simply removes filler or is more efficient.  That’s just good writing.  Of course, if it’s shorter due to lack of effort, that’s another thing.  That assessment will be left to the reader here in just a moment.

Much of Neil’s version is copy/pasted directly from the old policy manual, which had been made available to Neil to use as a guide for the new one (this, it should be pointed out, is a strange way to erect barriers to a person’s success).  Here are some examples from the first few pages of the old manual that got copy/pasted over (redacted parts reference things I’m not allowed to divulge) and the parts next to “**” represent the volunteer notes (yellow sections got copy/pasted over):

Manual copy part 1

Manual copy part 2a

Manual copy part 3

You get the idea.  While this undoubtedly took some time, it doesn’t appear to be a herculean undertaking.  And remember the Slack screen shots earlier in this post prove that in early February volunteer “Molly” began working on a rough draft to help Neil — an effort that was encouraged by Susi Bocks (a fact which undermines the narrative that the organization was erecting barriers to keep Neil from succeeding).  Neil chose to do it this way rather than by availing himself of “Molly’s” help, but I can’t imagine that if this were my full-time job (as it was supposed to be for Neil) that replicating this would take me more than a couple days at absolute most (and, realistically, it would take me less than one).

Consider for a moment that this blog post is 30,831 words long (144,536 characters without spaces) and full of documents I had to comb through and redact myself (Neil’s policy manual is 4,734 words, 24,550 characters without spaces).  The documentation used represents only a minute fraction of the documents I had to read through over and over.  And I had to put this all together by starting to ask questions and dig on May 5, 2016.  I began writing this post on Thursday, May 26.  During that time I ran other software tests Neil wouldn’t have had to do (installed Slack, recreated the interactive map, and lots of other tests that didn’t make it into this post).  All of this has taken me roughly five days (three of which were Memorial Day weekend which I mostly spent with house guests who arrived Friday evening).

How long would it have taken a competent writer (which Neil is) to assemble this 15 page document (1 page was the front page, which is the logo and some text, 1 page is the table of contents, 1 page is crisis numbers that would’ve been easy to find, and much of the rest is copy/pasted)?  Now ask yourself how much this would contribute to $17,000 worth of work.  Could a volunteer have done this same thing for free with similar quality (if not better)?

2.3. Conducted online Facilitator Training classes for new Facilitators as frequently as could be arranged considering the tremendous delays and disruptions in workflow created by the organization’s refusal to pay in a timely fashion. All new facilitators were contacted through multiple means (email, Facebook message, and text), but many did not respond or did not choose a date that fell within the contract period.

To RfR’s knowledge no classes were ever held.  And perhaps some of the new facilitators didn’t choose a date that fell within the contract period is because they were contacted on or around the last date of Neil’s contract period.

2.4. Conducted online Facilitator support meetings for established Facilitators as frequently as could be arranged considering the tremendous delays and disruptions in workflow created by the organization’s refusal to pay in a timely fashion. All current facilitators were contacted through multiple means (email, Facebook message, and text), many did not respond or did not choose a date that fell within the contract period.

It is unsure how frequently this was, as Neil never communicated his progress on this front to the board even though they had provided him with a companion document requiring specifics back in early December of 2015.  “As frequently as could be arranged ” could literally be any number without the reports, filed in the format of the companion document provided in December, that Neil was supposed to be submitting monthly.

2.5. Maintained ongoing dialogue with everyone who wanted dialogue. I nurtured emerging Facilitators through ongoing development of support teams, networking with established volunteer Facilitators as available and/or appropriate. I connected new facilitators with established ones via group Google hangout, email, telephone, and Facebook messaging. I added all new and returning facilitators for whom we have Facebook contact to a common support group for group development and mentoring.

The evidence contained in this post proves that far from “maintaining ongoing dialogue with everyone who wanted dialogue,” that Neil was actually extremely poor in communicating with people at the appointed times and often failed to communicate at all even though it was part of his job.

Of course, Neil could conceivably argue that they didn’t really want dialogue.  If so, he should be asked to show why he thinks that.

2.6. Adjusted program direction and goals as necessary to best meet Facilitator needs. Per veteran facilitator feedback, focus was placed on re‐introducing an eye‐catching and interactive map showing the locations of all RFR groups, both active and in progress, similar to what was in place during the tenure of my original Executive Director. Map was approved and uploaded onto the appropriate page on the organizational website.

He gives no specifics about what adjustments were made, and I’ve not seen evidence of these.

And let’s talk some more about this interactive map to which Neil devotes a great amount of attention in his final report and in later blog posts.  Now I admittedly know almost nothing about web development.  So I wanted to know how long it would take somebody like me to make such a map.  So I googled “how to make a google map” and clicked the first link I came across.  Now, while Neil would have been able to copy and paste addresses and contact information for the ~50 entries from the database provided to him by his supervisors at RfR, I elected not to do that.  I opened up my address book and just put various people I knew into my map, complete with addresses, phone numbers, and even some notes for some of them.

I timed myself.  This took me one hour, seven minutes, and fifty-two seconds.

It was clear from documentation I posted above that Neil was to be working on this map back in December.  In fact, if you look at the minutes from the RfR board meeting on December 29, 2015, you can see that they were worried even then that this map was taking way longer than it should have:

Map4

(It should be noted that the reason I included the fundraiser for Neil’s laptop, which RfR ran, at the top of this post was because I foresaw Neil possibly saying he couldn’t get Slack to work on his phone, hence why he almost never responded to any messages there.  However, we know he has a laptop through the fundraiser RfR ran for him and that Slack can be accessed through their website).

RJ was right, the map shouldn’t have taken more than a day.  To anybody who didn’t have to learn how to make such a map from scratch (like me) or who could just copy and paste information into it (like Neil) it shouldn’t have taken more than an hour.

As for whether or not the map was approved and uploaded, more on that later.

2.7. Maintained ongoing communications with the Database manager to ensure Facilitators are properly documented as participating in support meetings at least quarterly. To the best of my knowledge, the facilitator list is up to date at present. Defunct groups were weeded out and removed from active consideration, updated list of active facilitators and emerging facilitators with corrected phone numbers, emails, and website addresses added to group spreadsheet according to category. All pertinent information also added into the interactive map as described above.  

The database manager was Susi Bocks with whom Neil was supposed to have weekly meetings.  Neil missed most of them.  So saying he “maintained ongoing communications” with her is, to put it generously, quite a stretch.

Along with his final letter, Neil uploaded a master spreadsheet.  Here it is:

Master Upload1a Master Upload1Master Upload2 Master Upload3 Neil master access

I asked Susi Bocks in an email exchange to help me make sense of all this.  Here is what she sent:

I was wrong on the date when he made the last edits. It was actually 2/25/16, right before the end of his contract. Included are the exact dates of revisions/access made by him. This doc was created on 10/28/16 and he never accessed it until 12/28/16. He will tell you that he downloaded the original one from google docs and worked offline, but as you can see with the final revision, there was relatively little info except he created new tabs to identify what the groups were. no notes except for the ones I put up if I had contact with the volunteers. He communicated virtually nothing.

Accessing this document was a major part of his job.  It’s odd he would not access it until December 28, 2015.  Here is the screen shot to prove that this was the case (and Neil had to have known about it because he references it in his November report):

NC access on master on 365 4

Also, he was supposed to be working on the interactive map.  How was he doing it without this information?

Also, much of this information was already populated by the time Neil began — that’s how Neil got it in order to contact people.  So, once again, while this would take some time, recall that this is supposed to be Neil’s full-time job.  If I’m being generous I would say that this would take a couple days of actual work between contacting people and making these notes.

2.8. Maintained ongoing communication with the Database Manager to ensure Facilitators’ attendance and meeting records are accurately reflected within the volunteer management system. As per 2.7 all group facilitator contact information was updated however I was never given administrative access to the volunteer management system to complete these tasks myself.

The database manager was Susi Bocks with whom Neil was supposed to have weekly meetings.  Neil missed most of them and it can be proven he ignored other communication as established in earlier screen shots.  Of the ten scheduled calls Neil was supposed to have with the Database Manager he missed seven of them, four with no excuse or contact (see Susi’s records screen captured earlier in the post).  So the claim that he maintained ongoing communication doesn’t seem to withstand the test of evidence.

Neil also says he was never given access to the volunteer management system, but this is simply untrue.  I interviewed Susi Bocks about this point.  What happened was that at the end of November, in an effort to save money, they downgraded their account with Volgistics.  This meant they would be allowed to have two people on the account.  Those two people would be the admin (which, at the time, was Teresa MacBain and would later be Gayle Jordan, the Executive Director) and the Database Manager, Susi.  Here is proof of that change:

Volgistics capture

From that point forward Susi was responsible for updating all the files and Gayle was kept on as oversight.  However, up to this point (November 30, 2015) Susi insists Neil did have access and that the change was conveyed to Neil via phone call.

The following screen shot proves that Neil was, in fact, added to the volunteer management system on August 8, 2015 (some names have been removed, but none that alter the point being made or that would in any way have a negative impact on anybody):

Volgistics5

I pressed Susi for what Neil did with that access.  She sent me the following screen shots along with this quote:

These are screen shots from the activity log on Volgistics. It shows when [Neil] gained access, what he did in there every month, and when he was removed. He didn’t access any individual’s files from what I can tell, only ran monthly reports. If I recall correctly, I looked at those reports and because he never set the search parameters up correctly, they never gave him any valid info. Also, they were set to run automatically.

Volgistics1 Volgistics2 Volgistics3 Volgistics4

So while it’s true that eventually Neil was removed for explainable and understandable reasons, in the time he had access he did virtually nothing with that access.  Susi would take over updating records on November 30, 2015 and, if these screenshots are any indication, it looks like she had a pretty good handle on it.

Also, bear in mind that though Susi took over this responsibility from Neil, Neil was the full-time employee and Susi an unpaid volunteer.  Though Neil claims the organization never tried to help him succeed, this paints the complete opposite picture.  An unpaid volunteer actually took over his responsibilities.

2.9. I participated in regular staff meetings with each of the three Executive Directors during my tenure to review progress. Aside from a single miscommunication related to travel, we met within a reasonably scheduled time whenever they or I requested to do so.  

The evidence contained in this post proves otherwise. Of the ten calls Neil was scheduled to attend with Susi Bocks he missed seven of them, four without excuse or contact.  I emailed Gayle to ask about his attendance in their scheduled meetings.  This is what she sent back:

I spoke with Neil in a conference call with Darrel on Jan 14, and Darrel told Neil that I would take over the weekly calls. Neil called the following Thursday (Jan 21). He was to call every Thursday at 11. The next Thursday (Jan 28), he sent the email I just sent you about having to pick up extra work, and not talking that day. He said in that email he would call the following Thursday (Feb 4), but he didn’t call then, nor on Thurs Feb 11, Thurs Feb 18, or on Thurs Feb 25. He called on Wed Feb 24, but that was in relation to the email we had sent him asking for his final report, and was scheduled specifically to talk about that, and not as one of his weekly call-ins. So he fulfilled one of the 6 meetings we were to have had.

As I said earlier, Gayle’s phone records confirm this.  So I cannot conclude that Neil participated in regular staff meetings with his supervisors, even though this is precisely what was expected of him.

2.10. Support from the organization was not forthcoming to accomplish additional outreach beyond what was actually accomplished. I did, however, promote RFR during my Fall 2015 trip to Portland, Oregon, despite the questionable status of my role with the organization, and despite their payment being significantly overdue on the dates of the trip.

If support from the organization was “not forthcoming to accomplish additional outreach beyond what was actually accomplished” what more would Neil have needed?  He doesn’t say, and I have to admit that it looks to me like the organization was very supportive even up to the final week of Neil’s contract.  Hell, they brought on a consultant to work with him to help him finish up the work.

2.11. To the best of my ability, I coordinated with other Recovering From Religion Program Directors to streamline training programs in an effort to minimize overlap of volunteer skills acquisition. I worked with Hotline manager (also functioning as website developer) to integrate the map of groups into the main organizational website. I also communicated with the Volunteer Manager to provide second level interviews, integrated quick start guide into revised facilitator training manual, integrated ideas for training manual from a comparable organization, and worked with volunteer organizers to audit and test the viability of new volunteer organizational software.

Almost everything in this point was claimed in other points.

As for the interactive map.  I spoke earlier about the time frame it should’ve reasonably taken.  But also, I can find no evidence that it was ever up on the RfR website.  While Neil says, “I worked with Hotline manager (also functioning as website developer) to integrate the map of groups into the main organizational website” the functioning website developer (RJ Reddin) has no recollection of this.  In fact, this is what RJ sent to me:

I took over the website stuff in the middle of February (did the overhaul on Feb 19 – 21). Teresa had it before me. She had control of it from mid-October until I took it over. I never, never, never published that map. To my knowledge, it wasn’t ready at the time Teresa handed over control to me in the middle of February. You will want to confirm with Teresa on this one, to make sure she never published it either.

I also used the internet wayback machine to confirm this, which catalogues old websites. You can check it here: https://web.archive.org/web/*/recoveringfromreligion.org There is never any showing of the map between mid-October and today.

I did check those archives and confirmed that at no time do they show an interactive map on the RfR website.  I have reached out to ask Teresa if she recalls putting the map up, but as of this posting I have not heard back.  I will update if/when I hear from her.

To Neil’s credit, he did work with other organizers to audit and test the viability of new volunteer organizational software.  That is shown in his lone missives on Slack from January 21, 2016 (see above).  He never submitted his report on Support Group Central (the aforementioned organizational software) which slack screen shots above prove was expected, but he did talk with the other volunteers on the day they looked at the demo for the Support Group Central software (January 21).  I’m told the demo took about an hour.

2.12. I reported directly to Executive Director in connection with the performance of these duties. Because the ED became condescending and hostile, and because the payments were continually late and incomplete, I cooperated to the best of my abilities under incredibly difficult circumstances.  

He missed most of his meetings with Gayle.  He also failed to submit his monthly reports in December and January.  He submitted the report we’re discussing right now at the end of February, but he didn’t use the companion document he was provided with back in December 2015 (and told he must use for such reports to ensure that specifics were provided).  To Neil’s credit, I do not believe this represents “the best of his abilities.”

  1. Due to the increased hostility and animosity experienced from, among others, the Executive Director, I no longer am able to agree to do anything else that wasn’t already contemplated by the contract and accomplished.
  2. Pursuant to paragraph 4.2.3 of the contract which states, “Balance of funds remaining from the targeted IndieGoGo fundraiser will be disbursed to the Contractor by January 15th 2016.” I demand payment of the remaining funds raised in the Indiegogo campaign. The total amount raised was $21,199 (twenty one thousand one hundred ninety nine dollars) and I have received two payments of $8,500 (eight thousand five hundred dollars). According to my calculations, the remaining amount due to me is $4199 (four thousand one hundred ninety nine dollars). These funds should have been paid to me January 15, 2016. They are now six weeks overdue. I will expect the funds to be delivered to me within 5 business days.

5. At this time I am collating and documenting any out‐of‐pocket expenses incurred in connection with the execution and successful completion of this contract, and will submit any applicable receipts for reimbursement within 60 days;

Ok, this one actually isn’t so clear cut.  The relevant portions of the contract are as follows:

4.2.3. Balance of funds remaining from the targeted IndiGoGo fundraiser will be disbursed to the Contractor by January 15th, 2016.

4.2.4. Funds raised in excess of the amount due were donated specifically to support Contractor’s term with this organization. Contractor has offered to donate funds in excess of his fee to the Company for designated use.

The wording here is kind of vague.  In 4.2.3 it makes it sound like the sum total was supposed to go to Neil, but the following section makes it sound like RfR was to keep them.

Part of this was due to the hastily-written contract.  Neil has also said that for tax purposes he needs to get the money in his hands then hand it right back to RfR.  However, the fundraising recipient was RfR, not Neil.  The fundraiser was done under RfR’s tax ID number, etc.  The tax bite should only affect RfR.

Ultimately, I think both sides may have a point here.  It’s hard for me to figure out who’s right on this one.  So I wash my hands of it, but provide the information here for anybody else to try and sort it out.

But while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about how much this money actually is.  It’s not $4,199 and Neil knows this.  The actual surplus after you deduct Indiegogo’s fees and paying for fundraising perks to be sent to contributors was $1,523.34:

Fundraiser Surplus

The list of proof in my possession is described in the above screen capture.  This was communicated with Neil through multiple avenues.  This is also confirmed with texts between himself and Shanon Nebo:

Neil perks text

Here is Shanon’s description to me of what took place on Nov. 3 in those conversations:

Neil is referencing the amount of money the perks will cost in the first text. I ordered all of the perk items and shipped them from my house. He was worried that RfR wouldn’t want to cover that cost and clearly knew that there were costs to be covered above what he was due to be paid to him. I was assuring him that everything was aboveboard and that the mediator, Eliott, was aware of the charges.

I detailed these costs to Eliott and Neil both in an email. Please see the email from Shanon to Eliott and Neil regarding Indiegogo perk costs.

On November 11, 2015 I asked Neil to call me so that I could attempt to talk him through some of the difficulty I knew he was having. In my work with Eliott and Darrel, it seemed as though their expectations were reasonable and I was unsure why Neil still seemed combative with them. I thought, as his friend, I could help him to have a productive working relationship with RfR and Eliott. This was before I was brought on as a board member.

Neil was aware of the perk costs, that they would come out of the Indiegogo overage, and he was also aware that Indiegogo would charge fees for their services.  So Neil’s future insistence that the overage he believes is owed to him (to hand directly back to RfR) is ~$4,200 is him floating out a number he knows is not accurate.

And that takes us to the end of Neil’s final report.  Honestly, I can see where RfR was frustrated and, in places, where Neil was frustrated (primarily the slowness in getting paid).  But on the whole, I don’t see how any objective person can conclude that RfR appeared out to get Neil from the get go.  It looks to me like they worked with him.  They let him out of the major premise of his Indiegogo fundraiser (you’ll note Neil’s final report doesn’t mention donor development or fundraising at all).  Recall from Neil’s October 23, 2015 email to Darrel Ray when he said, “I need to know from you that you will direct the funds to the places we all—all of us, quite publicly—have stated they will go. I have too many other options to allow myself to work for an organization whose integrity I cannot trust.”  Well, how much fundraising did Neil do even though he had stated –quite publicly–that this was to be his job?

And considering that the start date in Neil’s contract was September 1, 2015, ask yourself: does this look like 6 months of full-time work?  We have the map, an updated spreadsheet which undoubtedly took some emails and phone calls, the updated policy manual and… what else?  And I went through and tried to figure out to the best of my abilities how long each of those should have taken.  Ask yourself, and be honest, does this even come close to representing six months of work and $17,000?  If you said no, and you were a member of the RfR board, what would you do?

If you said no, and you were one of the donors, imagine how you’d feel.

It seems clear to me that RfR worked with Neil, kept their frustration with his lack of progress in the background, made every attempt to communicate plainly with him, and were incredibly forgiving up until the last week of his contract.

Important facts from February, 2016

  • Neil goes largely silent for the majority of the month despite attempts by his supervisors and other volunteers to reach him.
  • He ultimately misses 7 out of 10 scheduled calls with the Database Manager.
  • He ultimately misses 5 out of 6 scheduled calls with the Executive Director.
  • Gayle asks for a comprehensive final report, since Neil has missed his last two and been largely silent on his progress for quite some time.
  • Neil asks for additional time to complete the contract. A phone call is scheduled to discuss this and Neil’s request denied after he failed to call.
  • Arbitration is mentioned as a way to recover funds if Neil’s final report reveals he has not fulfilled the tasks laid out back in November/December of 2015.
  • Eliott is brought into the situation with Neil. An offer is made for Eliott to work the extra time with Neil to help fulfill the terms of the contract. Neil refuses, insisting he has fulfilled them.
  • Neil attempts to set up meetings with volunteers after his contract has expired.
  • Neil submits his final report which is intentionally vague, doesn’t use the companion document the board provided him with to ensure specifics, and contains multiple exaggerations and inaccuracies.

March and April, 2016, the issue goes public

So that’s where we left off February.  March and most of April pass without a hitch.  Then the shit hits the proverbial fan.

Sometime on or around Wednesday, April 20, 2016, Joey Lee Kirkman made the following Facebook post:

Kirkman FB

As a result, Neil was then approached in April by an RfR donor on Facebook.  The person is very pointed, but it ends with Neil giving permission for them to seek details from RfR:

FB1 FB2 FB3 FB4 FB5 FB6

This person proceeded to email Gayle, including screen shots of her conversation with Neil giving his assent to her discussing the nature of his contract.  Seriously, good on Neil here, as this looks like the transparency he has often claimed to want.

Here’s that email:

April 21 email 1

Gayle responded that day:

April 21 email 2

This person then sent the email to Joey Kirkman who posted it to his Facebook wall with some additional text:

Kirkman FB2

The full additional text was:

So far, ALL of the evidence I have collected from various sources points to Recovering from Religion (RfR) being victimized. They are 100% willing to be transparent with their books, and they were already working on a legal strategy for the Neil Carter fundraiser/contract. It’s protected legal information. However, they can confirm they are working on it.

Why am I involved? You may remember that I was personally thanked (along with some others) by Sarah Morehead for helping to make the GoFundMe fundraiser go “viral.” A lot of my friends and contacts donated. Over $18K was raised to help pay Neil Carter to complete various tasks. Neil has been explicitly telling people that he completed his contract satisfactorily. When pressed for further details, the nondisclosure agreement was always brought up. Neil’s lawyered language, in my opinion, means the length of time, not the actual work.

There will be a lot more in the coming days.

Here is an email (with redactions to protect sources) from an email I obtained from the current Executive Director, Gayle Jordan.

This was then shared, along with the extra verbiage, on the Facebook of Nate Phelps, a board member with RfR (it has since been deleted).

I’m a little torn here.  I think people who work for organizations should be entitled to their own space.  On the other hand though, if you’re talking about the goings on at the organization of which you are a part, even on your personal space you’ll probably be seen as representing that organization.  Nate should definitely not have done this.

This prompted Neil to make a Facebook post of his own:

Neil FB

I don’t blame Neil for responding.  I really don’t.

However, if you think that the public eye is not the place for these things to be handled, then contributing even after someone else makes a public statement with something other than “This isn’t the place for this” escalates things.  And escalate, it did.

But do take note: Neil says “I feel that those who have supported both me and RFR need to have access to accurate information regarding the use of their donations.”  As we have seen above, Neil’s final report contained many things that were not accurate.  And, as we will see, Neil’s tune on this front will change significantly in the coming weeks.

And here is when I first became involved.

On April 27 I received a call from Eliott.  He told me that RfR was likely going to issue a press release rebutting Neil’s Facebook post and that in order to do it effectively they would have to release some of their damning evidence of him.  He asked me what my take on Neil was.  I told Eliott that I thought Neil was a stand-up guy who, due to his friendship with Sarah Morehead, may have come into his relationship with RfR with a chip on his shoulder.

But I went to Neil’s defense and I encouraged Eliott to try and reason with him to find a common ground solution without this getting too messy.  I would later write in a blog post:

And that’s why I urged Eliott to communicate with Neil.  Eliott called me, told me RfR was considering legal action against Neil for work undone, and asked me what my take on Neil was.  I had just written my post dealing with many of the rumors about Sarah Morehead.  I told Eliott that my conclusion was that Neil was a good guy who may have shared some of Sarah’s bitterness after she was no longer affiliated with Recovering From Religion, but that he was a good guy, good at listening, who could be worked with — and who probably didn’t deserve to be dragged through the mud publicly.  I wanted them to sit down with good will and try to work it out.

Of course, at that time I had none of the information I’ve presented in this post.  Eliott did, so I can only imagine in retrospect what a jackass I sounded like.

Eliott eventually agreed with me and asked me to set up a call with Neil.  I agreed to do so.  One of Eliott’s stipulations was that it had to be by the night of April 28 at 8pm. I messaged Neil on Facebook:

I was talking with Elliot last night, and was telling him that, in my eye, you were largely ignorant of much of what Sarah was doing.
He wants to have a chat with you, not recorded, about actually helping you if that’s the case.
Hope you trust me enough to know there’s no pretense here, but I can kinda see how it might look that way.
Anyway, if you want in, he needs to do it by 9pm tonight (and I know that sounds awfully demandy, but a lot’s going on now that this story has broke).
Anyway, delivering the message. I care about you and would not be interested in setting you up for anything, this is straight up a “come to terms with stuff” talk that I pushed for. Take it or leave it.

Neil was clearly playing it close to the chest.  I knew there was bad blood between RfR and Neil, but had no idea the extent of it.  I am happy to release those conversations if Neil consents to it.  But I apparently convinced Neil to make the call because he did.

Then Neil made the post that would kick all of this into overdrive and pull me further into it.  The post was called Nice Reputation There, Be a Shame If Something Happened To It, and it was posted on May 5, 2016.  In it, Neil asserted that Eliott had attempted to blackmail him into doing free work for RfR over the phone call that I had helped to set up.  This was surprising to me.  I was hoping to have helped this whole situation get resolved, not escalate into this.  And Eliott had sounded like he wanted to give Neil a way out of arbitration when we spoke on the phone.  What happened?

The following day, May 6, 2016 I resigned my volunteer position with The Hotline Project (which is run by RfR).  In doing so I told them that my reason for doing so was because I wanted to investigate and find out what happened to the best of my ability, and that I couldn’t do that as a volunteer with their organization.  They understood.  I also messaged Neil to inform him what I was doing and to ask for any evidence he had to corroborate the assertions he made in that post.

One of the things that needs to be discussed in some of the verbiage RfR has publicly used.  In one of their news releases on May 11 they said:

We have approached a reputable blogger in the community, known for his high standard of investigatory excellence, and have asked him to investigate this issue. We are committed to opening any and all documents, up to and including internal documents, screenshots, emails, timelines, tweets, texts, and login information so that this investigation can occur. We will cooperate to the limit of our restriction of non-disclosure, and each of us will make ourselves available for personal interviews and statements.

This betrays some confusion on RfR’s part.  I started asking them questions on May 6.  A few days later they offered me a document dump and then made this post.  They did not approach me to write this article or to investigate what happened between them and Neil Carter.  They did approach me with a document dump.  They encouraged me to do a full investigation and to post my findings (even if those findings were negative), but they were not the genesis of my curiosity as I was already trying to get to the bottom of things by that time.

Sadly, those interactions took place over Skype, so I have no means to prove it.  I can just assert it’s the truth.  I posted screen captures of my conversations with Neil in a previous post showing that I informed him when I was beginning to ask RfR questions, but that’s the best I can do.

That being said, let’s talk about Neil’s post.

Neil’s May 5, 2016 blog post Nice Reputation There, Be a Shame If Something Happened To It

Remember, throughout this whole ordeal Neil has called for transparency and honesty.  In fact, at one point, after finding out that I was looking into all this, Neil accused me of attempting to mislead the public.  So clearly Neil does not have a favorable view of attempts to mislead the public.  I’d like you to keep that in mind during this section.

In the post, Neil says:

“In late August of last year, they promoted a crowdfunder designed to raise enough money to enable me to devote more than just nights and weekends to developing their small groups (I had previously been teaching high school full-time).”

Neil says it was for developing their small groups.  He fails to mention that the major premise of his crowd funder was that he’d be doing fundraising.

“Very soon into that phone call the tone of the conversation turned coercive and I began to feel that I was being interrogated for some reason. I was being asked for details about private conversations without any explanation for the intensity of the conversation. Eventually I interrupted the line of questioning to ask why I felt like I was being cornered about the details of a public fundraiser which their own board members had promoted beforehand and celebrated afterwards.”

If you go back to the sections of this post for September and October, 2015, you will see why Neil’s first conversation with Eliott would include some of those questions, and why this was understandable.  They had just learned that a signed contract had apparently existed with Neil for six weeks which, up until that point, they did not know about.  I’d later find that the contract was backdated.

Also recall that the RfR board was blind-sided by this fundraiser.

“Most of Eliott’s questions seemed to circle around why a donor had designated three additional months for my contract, and whether or not that money was in fact designated for that purpose or if it could be considered available for other uses within the organization (questions for which I was certain they already knew the answers, which disconcerted me).  I assured them that to my knowledge it was entirely the donor’s idea to designate it for group development, and under such circumstances, you can either receive the money for that purpose or else you can just refuse the gift. This line of questioning went on for some time, and it left me wondering why it seemed the board of RFR was suddenly unhappy with the outcome of the fundraiser. And also, who was this Eliott person, and why was he calling all of the shots?”

But as I established above, Neil knows that Eliott is not “calling all of the shots.”  Even if Eliott was not introduced to Neil as a consultant for these phone calls (RfR claims he was, Neil says he wasn’t), as I showed in the February, 2016 section of this post Neil was made aware then that Eliott is a consultant with RfR, has been for some time, and is not calling all the shots but is, instead, working at the behest of the board and reporting to them.  Several internal documents supplied to me by RfR show precisely this type of relationship.

I did ask Eliott how he’d respond to the accusation that RfR wanted to use designated funds elsewhere (that would contradict emails I’ve posted from RfR board members in this blog where they are insistent that the funds be used for their stated purpose).

This was Eliott’s response:

Sure, let him prove it. If there is a tape let him produce it. I don’t remember his quotes and assurances as being part of that call at all.

My recollection was introducing myself as a consultant and asking him about how we wound up with the contract we saw for the first time the prior day, it’s evolution and why it didn’t mirror the fundraiser.

I also remember Neil not being cooperative. The board was unhappy because the fundraiser and contract didn’t match up. There is a significant difference between “calling the shots” and asking questions.

Moving on…

“In the end, the board decided that the donations needed to remain designated for the purposes for which they were given, and they agreed that they would in fact honor the contract that had already taken effect nearly a month before.”

That contract absolutely did not take effect nearly a month before, though it was made to appear as such.  The board actually relented to Neil’s insistence that the donations not go entirely toward the purpose for which they were given.  Neil was supposed to be doing fundraising.  People donated for that cause.  It never happened and was specifically taken out of the contract Neil signed without the board’s knowledge.  This was done to make a concession to Neil to work with him, which contradicts Neil’s entire narrative of the board being out to get him.

But the board, ultimately, decided to honor the contract Neil had signed, even though it had taken place without their approval or knowledge.

“Only it didn’t come. The date for delivery stipulated in the contract came and went, but no check arrived from the board of RFR. Two weeks went by, in fact, beyond the due date for the balance of the first half of my compensation before I received a check from the chairman of the board, a full month and a half after he had first received it. “

If you go back to the section September, 2015, you’ll see that Neil leaves several relevant details out of his post.  He’s trying to make it sound like the board was trying to not pay him when the exact opposite was true.

“Over the next few weeks, another disturbing development arose when it became clear to me that the board of Recovering, with Darrel acting as the interim executive director, couldn’t seem to make up their minds about what they wanted me to be doing for them.  Over the months leading up to my contract, RFR had been referring to me as their director of group development (see card below) and the contract they had approved specified that this was in fact what I was brought on to do for them.”

Yes, the contract left out fundraising — the contract that was backdated and which the board did not learn about until October 9, 2015 (and didn’t learn was signed until October 13).  But that was not the board’s fault, and it certainly wasn’t shadiness on their end.

It wasn’t that the board couldn’t make up their minds about what they wanted Neil to do — they knew what they wanted him to do: fundraising.  They wanted him to do what his crowdfunding page, which he had seen and edited, said he’d be doing.  It was the resistance from Neil to fundraising that was creating the tension.

Again, Neil leaves out several pertinent details (which is what people can do when they make assertions but provide no evidence).  For the first month and a half of Neil’s time with RfR the board didn’t even know he was under contract (see sections September, 2015 and October, 2015).  Then it became about looking into why that had taken place.  However, if you defer to the section of this post “November, 2015,” you’ll see that Darrel and RfR become very specific about what Neil was supposed to do (while getting Neil’s input on this as well).  Documentation was created for Neil to ensure that specific goals were communicated and specific data on Neil’s progress requested (see “November, 2015” and “December, 2015,” specifically the companion document parts).  It was Neil who failed to provide specifics of his progress.

Here’s the card Neil posted (to prove that his job was Director of Group Development which, even were true, wouldn’t undo any of the Indiegogo promises of fundraising):

Neil Card

And yes, in the months leading up to his contract he was referred to as Director of Group Development.  The then-Executive Director, Sarah Morehead, had brought him on in February, 2015 for that role in a volunteer capacity (hence the business cards).  However, Neil seems to be implying that this is what his Indiegogo was for to the exclusion of fundraising, which is simply, and provably not the case.  This card does not even come close to proving otherwise.

“But Darrel informed me that he didn’t want me doing that job. He told me “We could get a volunteer to do that job. Anybody could do that. What we need you to do is help us raise money.””

A volunteer could do that job, because that’s what Neil was doing in the few months before his contract (though documentation I posted at the start of this post throws into question just how much he did in that role).  And why is it so wrong for Darrel to expect Neil to be fundraising?  That’s what the Indiegogo crowdfunding effort, which Neil edited and approved, said he would be doing.

Neil wants to act like Darrel wanted something that was never promised, and that’s simply not the case.

Please continue to keep in mind Neil’s distaste for anybody who attempts to mislead the public.

“I told him again and again that while I have plenty of past experience working with small groups, even helping to plant home groups for churches over the better part of the previous decade, I had zero experience as a fundraiser and I didn’t feel qualified for that job.”

Then why was that a major premise of the Indiegogo fundraiser for Neil’s position which he edited and approved?

“It took at least a few more emails, conversations, and ultimately being asked to phone into a board meeting for them to finally concede that group development was what I was being brought on board to accomplish. As late as mid-November, nearly halfway through the term of my contract, the board was finally agreeing to allow me to focus entirely on doing the thing for which I was brought on to do.”

Fundraising was what Neil was brought on to do (perhaps including other things, but fundraising was a major premise of the Indiegogo campaign Neil edited and approved).  To say otherwise is provably misleading.

“Over the course of the following weeks, a great deal of work had to be done to make up for time lost deliberating with the board about what I was supposed to be doing for them, and soon after I was finally given administrative access to the 60+ Facebook pages associated with as many support groups around the world. Recovering’s list of groups required a great deal of updating as roughly two-thirds of those groups had become inactive, and I had to devote a large chunk of time to tracking down where all of their group facilitators went. I whittled down their list of active groups to about twenty and made contact with their leaders in order to find out how RFR could best support them and help them grow.”

Ok, I imagine Neil sent out Facebook messages and/or emails, maybe even made some calls to the facilitator leaders in the RfR database.  One of the quotes I have from the Database Manager, Susi Bocks, is:

I’d also like to add out of 98 potential calls to make, he gave us feedback here on only a very small number. He may have updated the spreadsheet to reflect not being able to get a response, but for those he didn’t have contact info for he never asked me to look them up for him. He only asked for contact info on those new interviewees I had passed on to him. Also, no notes are on the spreadsheet about what their calls consisted of, what they talked about and where he left them as far as what would come down the pike.

But recall that this was Neil’s full-time job.  I provided relevant screen shots above.  You can decide for yourself if this was “a great deal of work” on Neil’s part.

Neil proceeds to say:

“Every organization seemed to blanket their dealings with nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), which would make sense for large media-related organizations which require embargos on important press releases and other creative projects. But why would so many smaller nonprofits include NDA clauses covering financial dealings, donation records, receipts, and other such matters of public interest? Why the distinctive lack of transparency, and I mean across the entire secular movement?”

And here we go with the calls for transparency.  Why do organizations blanket their dealings in NDAs?  Clearly, Neil is not a fan of NDAs.

Yet, for all his calls for transparency, why has Neil neglected so many important details that, if he had been truly transparent, wouldn’t have required immense amounts of my time to dig up and organize?  In fact, in this very same post, Neil says:

I was willing to concede that perhaps some of the mutual distrust which characterized both the beginning and end of our working relationship could have originally stemmed from the sudden and unceremonious dismissal of my original executive director, Sarah [Morehead]. Perhaps the allegations of mismanagement with the other organization could explain why their confrontational tone carried over from the person who brought me on to affect their perception of me as well. I was willing to consider that possibility. I am an incredibly patient person (probably too patient), and I am always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, multiple times in fact.

He wants to know why Sarah was dismissed, but gosh darn it, that’s protected by those NDAs that Neil so hates.  Such secrecy, stopping Neil (and me, and you) from knowing what was up with Sarah.

Taking a cue from Neil, I emailed the RfR board with a proposition: would the board of RfR rescind their NDA against Sarah Morehead if she agreed to do likewise?  The RfR board voted unanimously to do so.  I even wrote about it:

Sadly, I’m finding that Sarah’s history with RfR is greatly entangled in the spat between Neil and RfR.  Once more, because of the NDAs, transparency has been thwarted, keeping us from getting at part of the story.

So I asked the board of Recovering From Religion if they’d consider waiving Sarah Morehead’s NDA if she, in turn, will waive theirs.  Today I got this email back from the board:

At the request of JT Eberhard, for purposes of his investigation, I move that RfR rescind the Non-Disclosure Agreement we have with Sarah Morehead. Should Sarah Morehead agree to rescind her NDA with RfR, we will make available any relevant information to trusted key parties who can examine it themselves and come to their own conclusions. Such parties will include JT Eberhard or others, as approved by the board.

The Motion to rescind our NDA with Sarah Morehead has been seconded and unanimously approved at the request of JT Eberhard.

I believe this would be a win for everybody.

Neil wants transparency, he’s said so in his posts.  He’s also expressed his disgust for NDAs (in a post literally titled We’re Committed to Transparency, But This Conversation Never Happened).  So I would think he’d be on board for this, and perhaps he can get an appeal through to Sarah that I could not.

In social media Sarah has directly implied she would love to offer a defense against particular accusations, but regretted she could not because Non-Disclosure Agreements were in place.  This will allow her to defend herself, not in full (since she would still have an NDA with the Reason Rally), but at least in full with regard to Recovering From Religion.  RfR would be allowed to do the same.  This is what Sarah has purported to want.  This is what RfR clearly wants.  So they both ought to be on board.

As for me, it would help with me doing my best to imitate an actual journalist with regard to my present story.

And yet, when I pressed Neil on if he would support this deal, so that the full truth about Sarah (which he claimed to want out in the public) could be known, suddenly his passion to get to the truth behind NDAs evaporated like a stain of breath upon a mirror.  Though Neil, in this very post, makes the far, far, far less restrictive NDAs to which every RfR volunteer agrees his business, he specifically told me that Sarah’s NDA was none of his business.  Imagine that.

You know all the blue text in this post which I don’t want?  Well, NDAs are the reason for it.  Want it to go away (or rather, to be supplemented with the evidence I claim to have)?  The RfR board does.  They want transparency here.  But it’s no longer their call to make, and after I asked Neil when his contract was signed suddenly he was way less interested.

“I began to hold out hope that RFR would select a new ED who would come in and dig into the details behind Sarah’s sudden resignation and the subsequent confrontational interactions between the board, their proxy Eliott Canter, and me. It made me tentatively hopeful when I heard from Darrel that they were conducting “a nationwide search” for a new head to the organization, and I was greatly disturbed to discover that after this exhaustive national search, the board settled at last on Eliott’s partner, Gayle, as the new face of RFR.”

Again, Neil wants people digging out the details about Sarah’s sudden resignation.  The details can be heard if Sarah agrees to waive her NDA in exchange for the board waiving theirs.  But even though Neil wants people digging into those facts, he’s somewhat less passionate about Sarah waiving her NDA.  Strange, that.

So let me talk about the hiring process for the position that ultimately went to Gayle.  First, RfR in their document dump made all their records on hiring available to me.  While I have the ability to post all of it, I don’t wish to reveal the names of the other applicants or to talk much about them specifically, their scores, etc.  I will say that if any objective person had access to all of what I have, there is little doubt in me they’d come to similar conclusions.

RfR announced via their newsletter and via their Facebook that they were looking for a new executive director.  Here is Gayle’s resume:

Gayle resume 1 Gayle resume 2

Upon receiving a number of applications/resumes, the whittling process began.  Each candidate was then evaluated by the selection committee, which was comprised of Darrel Ray, Nate Phelps, and Shanon Nebo.  Here is the rubric they used, provided by Darrel Ray who had used it multiple times in his professional career:

Hiring1

Each candidate was ranked by each member of the committee separately from one another so they could not influence each other’s decisions.  Afterward the rankings were made available and averaged to produce the score for each candidate.  Two candidates were clearly above the rest of the field, Gayle was the higher-ranked of the two.  Interviews were then conducted with both applicants and a decision made.

Eliott, Gayle’s partner, recused himself from the entire process.

All-in-all, the process by which Gayle was selected seems to be on the up-and-up.

“After her first month in charge, Gayle asked me to summarize the work that I had done thus far for the benefit of their donors, projecting what I believed could be done in the future, should these programs continue on the trajectory in which they were already headed (read my contribution to that newsletter here). You can’t tell by looking now, but at that time the support groups page on their website prominently featured the completed map that represented so many hours of my work for the organization.”

That email came on February 16, 2016 (and is included in this post).  It came after weeks of silence from Neil with no specific updates on the progress he was making (this after missing his monthly reports for the past two months, which would’ve provided some specifics as well).  And as for featuring that map, RJ took over the website on February 19 and says she never put that map up (or took it down).

The reason I’m told the map never went up is because RfR had no way to know if Neil had made suitable contact with all the group leaders contained in the map.  When Neil posted the map to his blog, this concern was shown to be a very good one:

Gayle Text 2

I was also asked to pass that message along to Neil:

Map1 Map2 Map3

Now consider where the board is with this (at the time, I thought I was just playing messenger because I was apparently a person trusted by both sides, I had no idea about all the context I’ve since acquired).  They had months of vague claims, excuses, no shows by Neil, no way to track the specifics of Neil’s progress, etc.  How were they to know if Neil had done his due diligence?  And they have a responsibility to protect those volunteers.

And when they immediately get a message from one of them saying that a great deal of harm could be done to him due to Neil posting a map with his information, I can understand RfR’s immediate concern for the rest of them.  Neil should’ve taken the map down immediately, but it’s still up.

And the map didn’t take that long to make, especially considering that this was supposed to be Neil’s full-time job.

“But when the time came for the chairman of the board to meet the second prescribed deadline for compensation, the deadline came and went without the balance being paid for a second time. This introduced even more tension between myself and the board, especially since I knew all too well how ambivalent they were about releasing the balance of my compensation to me in the first place. I was beginning to wonder if it was going to happen at all. It had been two and a half months since the last check came, and I was becoming increasingly unable to meet my own financial obligations.”

And that sucks for Neil, I get that and I understand.  But I also can’t conclude that this was the fault of RfR, even though Neil tries to spin it that way.  Go back to January, 2016 and you can see the full documentation of what took place.  The board did everything they could to get Neil his money after a mishap that was in no way their fault.  They were forthright and diligent with Neil.  They even offered to wire transfer the money, which Neil declined.

“After several days passed without seeing anything in the mail, I had to contact Gayle to inform her that due to the board’s delinquency, I was forced to seek additional income through side projects, setting aside my work on RFR’s goals for a time in order to get my own bills paid. It was a nonexclusive contract, so Gayle responded saying, “Of course. No worries.” By my calculations, the board had been delinquent in paying me for a total of 23 days, and it turned out that three weeks was just about the right amount of time needed to get caught up on meeting my own financial obligations. It seemed to me like maybe this would work out after all.”

This is not entirely true.  Neil deposited the check on January 25, 2016.  The money was already in his account by the time he messaged Gayle that he was going to take a week off.  Still, if he had to take some time to tie up some loose ends, cool, and Gayle was ok with it.  Of course, as we know, Neil requested a week (see the January, 2016 section) off.  Here he implies that he communicated that he’d be taking off for 23 days.

And what immediately followed “no worries” was Gayle asking Neil to do their scheduled call a week later on February 4.  Neil agrees, then never shows up (see section January, 2016).  Neil conveniently leaves that out.

What’s more, after six whole months of work and turning in his final report (which I go over in the section February, 2016), does anybody really believe that it was a week of not working that caused Neil to submit such lacking results?  We’re talking about half a year to…what?  Contact volunteers?  Make a map that took me just over an hour to make?  Make a 15-page policy manual (much of which was copy/pasted)?  Do various other contacting tasks with volunteers?  Oh, and to submit monthly reports and attend weekly calls with his supervisors, which we know he largely failed to do (despite claiming to have done so in his final report).

And we know fundraising didn’t get done.

Even if I grant him his total of 23 days, is that really what kept him from producing more?  And RfR ultimately was still willing to grant Neil more time, just working alongside their consultant after seeing months of minimal progress and participation to ensure the work got done.  Neil declined.

“But when I returned to my work on the contract three weeks later, I received a sternly worded email from Gayle disclosing that the board of RFR intended to pursue arbitration against me per the clause in my contract stipulating the terms under which that should happen. She demanded a final report a full week ahead of schedule detailing the work I had completed up until that point, and assured me that they would be pursuing legal action against me regardless of what happened next.”

Neil says “But when I returned to my work on the contract three weeks later.”  Go back to the section January, 2016.  Neil requested a week off (see his January 28 email to Gayle) and agreed, via text to attend his regularly scheduled meeting with the Executive Director a week later (before no-showing without explanation).  Now he tries to convince the readers of his blog that he communicated that he’d be gone for three weeks.  This is not anywhere close to true.

And at no point did Gayle say they would be pursuing legal action against Neil regardless of what happened next.  Indeed, several attempts were made by the board to find a solution (such as letting Neil work alongside Eliott).  That assertion by Neil is simply not true.

“By this time, I had accumulated a great deal of feedback from volunteers via phone calls, emails, video conferences, and face-to-face meetings at conferences. But the successful transfer of what I had learned depended on good communication between me and the leadership of the organization, and I soon found that they had removed my access to all 60+ support group pages. I tried adding dozens of volunteers into a Facebook discussion group in order to make sure they could communicate with each other, to make sure that they all knew how to access the new group facilitator manual I had developed for them, and perhaps most importantly, in order to encourage them to promote the new interactive map for publicity purposes. But I was told by their database administrator that I must stop doing that at once.”

Yes, because RfR was wanting to move volunteer discussion into Slack.  Neil was aware of this:


Neil Slack

Neil Slack 2

Yet, for some reason, Neil pretends like the reason was mysterious and shrouded in secrecy — like it was RfR taking steps to impeded his otherwise reliable progress.  In reality it was clearly communicated to him and explained, and the problem was actually Neil having to be told at least a second time how to do things.

“I also discovered at that time that they had taken down the map entirely from the RFR website.

Why would they do that? Why on earth would they disable one of the most important pieces of work I had done for them, representing the culmination of so many hours of communication with volunteers, in direct response to one of their most commonly recurring requests?”

Well, there’s still question as to whether or not the map was ever up.  But let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that it had gone up on their website.  Why would they take it down?  Well, perhaps for the same reason they may not have ever put it up: for fear that an anonymous volunteer might get outed.  There was minimal communication from Neil, no reports for December or January, so no way for RfR to know the specifics/reliability of his work.

“I also reminded them that the final portion of the fundraiser money (to the tune of $4,200) was to have at least passed through my hands so that I could properly gift it to the organization per the terms of the contract. To date, that has not been done, leaving a financially significant portion of their side of the contract unfulfilled. It’s a technicality, but an important one for the purposes of financial records and taxation.”

I discuss this in the section on Neil’s final report.  I didn’t come to a conclusion about it, but we do know that the overage was not “to the tune of $4,200”.  The actual overage after various deductions was $1,523.34.  Neil knows this, as I proved in that same section (or, at least, he knows is sure isn’t $4,200).

“The first part of the answer is that the board of Recovering from Religion has chosen to make this dispute public through a continued pattern of direct and indirect sharing of their grievances, not through the prescribed legal channels, but through the unaccountable (and much more public) avenues of social media.”

See the section “March and April, 2016, the issue goes public.”  RfR, as an organization, hasn’t done this.  Nate Phelps, a board member, posted a negative repost to his personal Facebook page.  This was very stupid of Nate, and Nate has deleted it.  But to characterize this as “RfR has chosen to make this dispute public” is inaccurate, in my opinion.  This was not a decision the organization made, it was a very foolish thing one of their board members did in their personal capacity.  If Nate had robbed a bank, nobody would say it was RfR that robbed the bank.  Same principle.

What’s more, Neil is the one who made a blog post accusing RfR’s consultant of blackmail.  That was the point at which this got taken far away from a mere contract dispute.

“Two other friends of board members soon joined in and began accusing me of somehow being involved in financial decisions related to Apostacon (I did mention that I had zero responsibilities for the conference, right?).”

I have no record of this as it’s been deleted.  :\  But also, I don’t think the RfR board can be held accountable for what their friends do (which is the implication I’m getting from this passage in Neil’s post).

“If RFR believes that they have grounds for some kind of legal action, why are they talking to people who are neither board members nor arbitrators about these things?”

If I had to guess, and this is merely a guess, arbitrating this would probably run around $10,000.  The contract stipulates that this cost will be shared, but Neil has no money/very little money.  So let’s imagine RfR went to arbitration and won a judgment (which I believe they easily would).  They’re dropping thousands of dollars to get…what?  They have a responsibility to their donors not to waste their money for no return, but at the same time Neil has written a 10,000 word blog post accusing them of all sorts of horrible things.  I’m sure they don’t want to piss away even more money trying to get blood from a stone (regardless of whether that blood is owed), but they do want to make sure the public has the facts so Neil, or anybody else, can’t manipulate the public.

And, as we’ve seen, RfR has submitted evidence of criminal fraud to the authorities.

“Furthermore, why are these ubiquitous nondisclosure agreements so conveniently ignored whenever it is the organization that wants to make a case against one of its former representatives, but expected to be adhered to by the person who leaves?”

What NDA did RfR violate?  We’re not told, and I’m not sure what he’s referring to.

“By the way, if you believe that organizations write NDAs to protect the people who leave them rather than the orgs themselves, I’ve got a fantastic line of weight loss supplements I’d like to sell you which will melt away pounds overnight!”

Well, the organization is willing to rescind the NDA that covers a great deal of the relevant facts about this case.  They seem to have nothing to hide. And Neil has said that this specific NDA is “none of his business” even after he said he wanted to know what it was hiding and that someone should be digging for those facts.

“I never signed an NDA for my work with Recovering from Religion.” * * Update: I’ve just been informed that while neither I nor RFR could previously find a record of me agreeing to an NDA when I was still a volunteer for them (my contract did not include one), after posting a follow-up post to this one, they discovered that I did in fact agree to the terms of their volunteer manual back in 2014, which included the relevant nondisclosure paragraph. Not sure where that leaves any of this, given the questionable legality of restrictions as comprehensive as the ones found therein, but I guess we’ll find out. From the wording of the NDA, it appears that essentially means that now they can officially terminate me as a volunteer. Heh.

That was actually me who informed him of that.  Rather than waiting for a “gotcha” moment in a blog post, I contacted Neil with what I had found (this was, of course, before he accused me of trying to mislead the public and before he stopped responding to me):

Neil NDA

Neil responded:

Neil NDA 2

So… Neil did agree to adhere to an NDA but, by his admission, because he hadn’t really read the document to which he was agreeing to abide.

“The second reason to why I decided to write this post occurred this past weekend, during a phone call on the night of Thursday, April 28th.  In the wake of last week’s allegations of mismanagement of Apostacon’s accounts, a common friend of mine and RFR’s informed me that the board of Recovering wanted me to contact Eliott Canter (there’s that name again…what is his official title, exactly?) to revisit the status of my relationship with the organization.”

Eliott is a consultant who answers to the board.  I’ve shown emails in this very blog which prove Neil is aware of this fact, but in his blog he pretends not to be.

“The first problem I noticed was that our common friend said that I should make a call to Eliott (not to the board of RFR), that it needed to happen within the next eleven hours, and he also stated explicitly that I should not record the conversation.”

“Stop right there. I am not a young man anymore, and I have been through enough hard life experience to know that when someone tells you something like that, someone is up to no good.”

When realizing that it was me who said that I immediately contacted Neil to tell him that Eliott never made that request.  Yet this part of the post remains unchanged.

“Maybe not the messenger himself, granted, but I was beginning to wonder if Eliott is allergic to written communication. Searching back through dozens of emails with the organization in which they kept deferring to his judgment, I noticed that while he is copied in a number of interchanges I’ve had with the board, I don’t have a single written word from him in any of those interchanges. It’s almost as if he insists on doing everything behind closed doors, and in private conversations, putting almost nothing he says into print.”

Or maybe it’s because he’s a consultant who is actually calling no shots and is not a member of the board.

“This is where I stop again and ask, who is this person and why is he calling all of the shots?”

He’s a consultant who answers to the board.  Neil was, and is, well aware of this.

“He is not a board member.”

He’s a consultant.  Neil was, and is, well aware of this.

“I am not aware of any official title with Recovering from Religion.”

Yes, he is.  This was communicated to Neil in an email from Gayle on February 25, 2016 (see the section February, 2016), and likely over the phone.  When Neil tells his readers he is unaware of what documented emails to Neil prove he knows, I’m not sure how a person escapes the conclusion that Neil is lying.

“He calls himself a consultant”

So does the Executive Director, in at least one email to Neil.  So does the board.  So does the President.  Neil is aware of all of this.

“…and yet he is unilaterally making decisions on behalf of the board.”

No, he is not.  There is no evidence for this, and plenty of evidence that Eliott works at the behest of the RfR board due to his history in business and in mediation.  Having the confidence of the board to negotiate on their behalf is not the same as calling all the shots, and obviously so.

“Eliott spent the first several minutes of the conversation monologuing about his own importance within the atheist movement. He told me how closely he works with virtually all of the most influential organizations within the subculture to which I belong, eventually dropping the names of a number of leaders of those organizations and other notable spokespeople for the cause of secularism. He made sure that I knew that he was also at the annual meeting of the “heads” of all of the secular organizations held every January. The point came through loud and clear: He wanted me to understand that he is a deeply connected man with the ear of all the important people within the movement. He is good friends with virtually all of them, it would seem.”

“In fact, I’m almost certain there is a word for this. What do you call it when you threaten someone, using language clearly meant to intimidate them, but then offer to forgo the retribution as long as the other party surrenders a portion of some good or service from which they ordinarily derive their livelihood? The term has slipped my mind, but maybe it’ll come to me.”

So, we now know that Neil did record this call.  We also know that Neil has permitted only one member of the public to hear it: David Smalley.  For an appearance on the Dogma Debate podcast, Neil sent Smalley the recording of that phone call.  David was to listen to it, render his opinion, and discuss it with Neil in about an hour-long recorded segment on the show.  Smalley concluded that the recording does not match Neil’s description (for more, see the “Dogma Debate” section later in this post).

“And what is with all these NDAs everyone keeps throwing around? If you are preparing for an event in which you need to keep headliners a secret for the purposes of timing press releases, that makes perfect sense. But asking even volunteers to sign nondisclosure agreements relating to every aspect of an organization’s work, including financial details such as the use of donations received? No. That doesn’t cut it at all, and I am suggesting that more people within the movement demand more transparency from the organizations they support.”

I agree.  So… why is Neil suddenly disinterested in seeing Sarah Morehead’s NDA with RfR lifted?  He did say he wanted to know what happened.  Well, RfR wants to tell what happened (and give Sarah the chance to tell her version).  Also, Neil has a recording of his call with Eliott that could confirm his account.  Why, for the sake of transparency, has he not released it?  Things like this make Neil’s calls for transparency ring very empty.  In this context it seems Neil is just trying to suggest that RfR engages in secret, nefarious dealings, but that when it comes to actually creating transparency suddenly it’s none of his business.

Now, you might say that his lawyer may have advised him not to air the tape publicly.  Ok, but what competent lawyer would issue that advice while also saying it’s permissible to make the public accusation of blackmail (not ok to release the proof, but perfectly ok to make the accusation) or that it’s ok to send the tape to a radio host to get his public opinion?  As many of you know I do a bit of writing on law, and in my meager opinion I’m going to say that even a Liberty Counsel attorney wouldn’t be saying such things.

“Three non-RFR individuals in particular offered a number of accusations which they didn’t even take the time to make sure checked out (e.g. that I was even involved in any financial matters with Apostacon, or that I believed I was under any NDA’s in my relationship with RFR). I am far less interested in their own motivations than I am in what you will do next.”

I’m not sure why what non-RFR people are saying is relevant.  People say wrong shit on the internet all the time.

RfR did have a record of Neil agreeing to abide by an NDA.  I posted the email above.  Those non-RfR people were right.  Neil admits in his update to this very post that he made such an agreement.

Neil then wants to know what the reader planned to do next after reading this post.  What I did next was to start digging for evidence so I could come to an informed decision about which side was lying to me.

“But it often comes down to moments like this. I have just relayed for you a pattern of relating to people that is coercive and quite frankly bullying, a strong-armed negotiation maneuver which strikes me as highly suspicious and unethical, and I want to know: How you are going to respond to this?”

What Neil did was make a bunch of accusations sprinkled with tiny bits of truth and containing a number of exaggerations and falsehoods.  He provided little to no corroborating evidence for any of those claims.

So you want to know how I responded (and how I think any fair-minded person should have responded)?  I reserved judgment until I could acquire evidence.  Those were some pretty severe accusations and, because I was friends with Neil, I wanted to give them a fair hearing.  That’s how I responded.

Unfortunately, that’s not how everybody responded.  Plenty of people swallowed them whole despite the absence of any accompanying evidence.  They were outraged, saying they’d never donate to RfR again!  They wondered how anybody could be so cruel to Neil.  None of them stopped to ask, “How do I know if any of this is true?”  That’s how they damn well should have responded.

“Will you be unable to see through the manipulative tactics that I have recounted above?”

Well, I put in enough work to realize where the manipulation was coming from.  And, after putting in that work, I released it to the public so they could know how I came to those conclusions.  I’d like to think I’ve seen through it.

“That would represent a failure to engage your skepticism, in my view. If you can’t tell what’s going on here, seeing through the smokescreens and character assassinations being issued in unregulated digital spaces rather than through the appropriate legal channels, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to respect your opinion enough to worry what you think about me.”

This amounts to “if you don’t accept what I’ve told you, then you fail as a skeptic.”  That’s an emotional appeal and a rail thin one.  It’s also the opposite of what it means to be a skeptic.  As it turns out skepticism, like justice, is not just for our enemies.  No, a good skeptic reserves judgment and pursues evidence and then reaches a conclusion.  And, let’s be clear, Neil has issued plenty of “character assassinations” in unregulated digital spaces — it’s just that many of his have turned out to be unsupported or false.

“I will not support a movement that isn’t willing to deal with its own problems—not at merely the individual level where scapegoats can take the fall for the rest of us, but at the systemic level where things like cronyism, insularity, and a lack of transparency create an environment in which people far too easily get hurt.”

The fact that I have the mountain of documentation and evidence for this blog post is proof of RfR’s commitment to transparency (and, I’ll be honest, this represents only a fraction of what I have).  Conversely, Neil is disinterested in the removal of an NDA that could reveal so many more facts about this case (RfR is willing to waive theirs).  He’s sent me no evidence despite multiple requests from me (which is his prerogative).  He also won’t release the tape of his call with Eliott (even though I, the RfR board, and even Eliott — the man he’s accusing — want him to release it).  Neil, instead, is choosing to let his mere accusation carry the day, all while keeping the supposed proof away from the public eye (it’s ok for the accusation to be public, but not the proof).  He’s also left out several convenient facts from his mega post that undermine his narrative.  Neil is in no position to make pretensions to occupying the high road on transparency.

RfR, on the other hand, made a multitude of documents available to me at my request.  Neil, by comparison, stopped responding to me (which is his prerogative).

“If this movement does not value honesty and integrity, if it condones and protects abusers of power or of wealth, then you can have it. I don’t want any part in it.”

Honesty, integrity…

Who, in their right mind, could conclude that the champion of honesty and integrity in this dispute has been Neil Carter?

If that’s still you, then let’s talk about Neil’s contract and when it was signed…

Dogma Debate

On May 18, 2016, Neil Carter appeared in a recorded segment on the podcast Dogma Debate with host David Smalley.

The short of it: Neil recorded the phone conversation with Eliott which lead to his post Nice Reputation, Be A Shame If Something Happened To It.  He made that recording available to host David Smalley with the stipulation that Smalley would listen to it to make his own judgment.  One of Neil’s stipulations was that Smalley would not release that recording to the public.

David Smalley concludes that Neil’s description of that phone call does not line up with what he heard.  He also concluded that some of the things Neil said about his documented emails with RfR’s Executive Director were not in those emails.  Smalley also says that the way Neil described many aspects of the call seemed unrealistic (a few times Smalley uses the word “misleading”).

I will not include every instance of this interview to which I could respond, but will instead encourage people to listen to the broadcast.  As it stands, only one member of the public has heard the recording of Neil and Eliott’s phone call.  As someone who hasn’t heard the recording, if you think Smalley’s assessment was unfair (or if you’re one of the people like me who is reserving judgment, but who would like to know), there’s a very simple remedy: encourage Neil to release the tape.  I want him to.  RfR wants him to.  Eliott, the man Neil is accusing, wants him to release the tape.

It boggles my mind how anybody who hasn’t heard that tape can find the temerity to tell David Smalley that he’s full of shit.

Neil also repeatedly tells Smalley that having context would change his assessment of things.  Today I have endeavored to provide that context.

I will also say that should the recording ever be made public, I will go through the transcript and fact-check it.

The recorded segment with Neil begins at 1:26:35 in the recording.

(1:31:17)  Neil says:

“I had already been working, which is maybe what’s confusing, I had already been working as a volunteer for the organization for quite some time, for at least a year prior to that.”

He had been a volunteer with RfR for seven months as established by screenshots in the section “February through June, 2015.”

(1:31:38)  Here Smalley quotes a bit from Neil’s Nice Reputation post:

I wrote the board and told them I was interested in reopening discussion with them, but that we needed to restrict our communications to print so that there wouldn’t be any miscommunications. Gayle wrote back and insisted that this be handled by Eliott and Eliott alone, and that it had to be over the phone. She informed me that the board was deferring their judgment completely to him, and that he had “the board’s confidence and approval to discuss and negotiate on our behalf.”

Neil did write the board, that much is true.  Here’s the email:

Reopen

But here’s the email of Gayle’s he’s describing:

Reopen2

Where is the insistence that this be handled by Eliott alone?  I mean, yeah, it would be Eliott making the phone call, but it’s clearly Eliott acting at the behest of the board.

Gayle never says the board is deferring their judgment completely to Eliott.  That’s simply not there.  In fact, the email contains a passage talking about Eliott approaching the board and asking for their permission to reach out to Neil.  This makes no sense if Eliott is somehow vested with power beyond that of the board’s.

And Smalley notes all of this.

Neil’s explanation is that they have a difference in interpretation and that Smalley reaches his conclusion because Smalley lacks context.  Hopefully now, we all have a great deal of context to work with.  But it should not go unnoticed that Neil claims things were said that simply weren’t.

(1:35:21) Neil says:

“My understanding is that [Eliott] is not an official staff member of any kind.”

Neil is aware, as confirmed by emails (see “January, 2016”) and probably over the phone in October, 2015 , of Eliott’s role within the organization.  His statement here is simply untrue.

(1:36:11) Neil says:

“[She says] “he has been our consultant from the very beginning, and is in a position to be most knowledgeable about all of the issues.”  That’s a note from the executive director of the organization deferring judgment to a different person who’s not on staff or the board of the organization suggesting he knows more about what is going on and is in a better position to negotiate with me, a contractor, than anyone else actually on the board.  I see that as a problem.

Gayle did not become the Executive Director until late December, 2015.  The whole contract fiasco began way before her time and Eliott was brought on board to investigate it.  Eliott also has a history in business, mediation, and negotiation, so he has that skill set.  I don’t think it’s a problem for the Executive Director to acknowledge that their consultant, who was closer to this situation from before her time, should be employed for those reasons.

Neil once again says that Eliott is not a person on the staff or the board.  Eliott is a consultant.  He has been for a while.  Neil is aware of this.

Smalley, again, makes a similar point.  He also points out that Neil’s quotes of Gayle’s were written as exact quotes, when she never said those things.

Neil again says context would change Smalley’s (and presumably anybody else’s) assessment.  Well, now you have it.  Now if the world could just hear the tape that Neil won’t release.

(1:50:44) Neil says:

“David…David you missed out on seven months of interaction between me and this organization and I’m telling you that that blog accurately captures the nature of the relationship between my interaction with them increasingly over the course of that time period.”

On this I can comment and I have done so (see the section “Neil’s May 5, 2016 blog post Nice Reputation There, Be a Shame If Something Happened To It“).  That blog does not accurately capture what the evidence confirms.  Look no further than Neil requesting a week off in January and then painting it as three weeks in his blog post.

Also, Neil leaves out that he was to do fundraising, making it seem like RfR suddenly wanted something out of him that had never been mentioned. He keeps saying he has no idea what Eliott’s relationship to RfR is. He says his contract was put together on September 4, 2015, when it wasn’t. He says RfR couldn’t make up their minds about what they were going to do with him when they didn’t even know a contract existed until mid-October (and one that didn’t reflect his fundraiser). He said he maintained regular communication with his supervisors when he absolutely did not.

The list goes on and on.

(1:58:48) Neil implies through his analogy that he was 2/3-3/4 of the way done with his work, then the arbitration message came in.  That message actually came with a week to go in a six-month long contract (see the section “January, 2016”).  This is simply not an accurate depiction by Neil.

Closing

Some have asked, “Who is JT to be the arbitrator on these things?  Who is he to investigate?”

Well, I’m not an arbitrator.  I’m a member of the public who wants to know the truth and who is fortunate enough to have ins with all involved parties.  Legal decisions are not made based on my blog work, hence why the contract evidence I turned up got sent to the police.  Plenty of members of the public have arrived at conclusions about this situation, nobody imagines they’re making pretensions to being arbitrators.

As for who I am to investigate, I’m a person.  I mean, that’s what so many people did after Neil’s post, right?  They looked at what information they had in front of them and drew conclusions.  I want to do the same, but I want to make sure my conclusions are reliable, and that means looking for evidence.  I essentially did what most everyone else was doing except, as I’ll perhaps arrogantly assert, I believe I’ve put in more work, been more diligent, been more skeptical, been more even-handed, and have mountains more evidence at my disposal.  I think my conclusions are the most reliable in the public sphere right now.

And that’s important because the moment this went public (which was not my doing) damage started being done — to RfR, to Neil, to public atheism.  The truth, at that point, becomes a shield, protecting people and organizations accused of wrong-doing where they aren’t guilty.  Don’t we want that?  Don’t we want the innocent to avoid punishment?  Hell, don’t we care about the truth?

So about all this evidence, without looking at Neil’s posts, try to think of what evidence he provided.  We know what claims he made, but what evidence did he provide?  We know he has evidence in the form of a recording of the phone call where he says he was strong-armed (if not blackmailed), but for all Neil’s calls for transparency he’s purposefully kept the proof of his public accusations out of the public eye (er, ear).  What Neil has repeatedly done is accuse anybody who is investigating or who has been privy to a piece of evidence (even if Neil specifically sent that person the piece of evidence, like David Smalley) and issued a negative opinion of being biased — too biased to be trusted.  It’s all appeals to motivation.

Well, maybe we are.  Hell, at the beginning of this month I very much liked Neil.  I went to bat for him when Eliott first called me.  I was certainly slanted in Neil’s favor then, though not so slanted that evidence wouldn’t change my mind.  But, as I’ve said publicly, I also like RfR, their board members, Darrel Ray, Eliott, and Gayle.

But we all have such biases to an extent.  Neil is certainly biased in favor of Neil, but nobody shouted “Bias!” when Neil posted his Nice Reputation post which contained virtually no evidence.  If science has taught us anything it’s that there are ways to mitigate the effects of our biases on our decision making to an appreciable extent.  This includes pursuing facts and consciously making the same demands of our friends that we make of our enemies.

So, if you think my bias has somehow corrupted my interest in the truth here, fine.  Point to a part of this post where my bias has caused me to draw a faulty conclusion.  Without that, I could be the most biased person on the entire planet and it wouldn’t matter.  The truth is determined by the facts.

What’s more, for all the people who fully believed every bit of Neil’s posts, without any substantiating evidence, who then rushed to assure me that my bias would make me immune to any evidence I turned up, what have you done?  Hrm?  Can you imagine the work I put in to put all this together and to make sure I had evidence for each and every one of my claims?  What did you do to make sure your conclusions were sound?

If the answer is “not much”, I’d suggest remembering that the next time someone makes a claim in your presence.

The situation we’re in is that anybody who has had their eyes on the evidence, and that includes myself and David Smalley, both people who supported Neil’s fundraiser for this position back in August, 2015, are suddenly in on the conspiracy to get Neil Carter.  No explanation for why this conspiracy exists has ever been given, it just seems to be a nasty side effect of exposure to the evidence.  This is something people making pretensions to being skeptics should be ashamed of.

Nobody is out to get Neil, and coming to unflattering conclusions doesn’t mean people have failed to overcome any biases they may or may not have had.  Sometimes the truth just sucks, and we need to have the fortitude to accept that.

And that’s where I am with my conclusions.  My conclusions after perusing all the evidence at my disposal (and making much of it public) is that Neil misled the board of RfR with his fundraiser, he backdated his contract (which is a potentially criminal issue), and largely failed to deliver to both RfR and to their donors work that came within a galaxy of $17,000 in worth.  He was given specifics via his companion document in December, 2015 and failed to meet pretty much all of them.  I also conclude that Neil, likely in an effort to save himself (Neil had to know much of what I was going to find), misled the public.

RfR has not been perfect, but they’ve at least been forthright and done their best.  That’s about all you can hope for in people and organizations.  Overall I think, with few exceptions, they handled the six months of Neil’s employment about as well as they could.

Despite what Neil has said of me publicly in anticipation of this article, discovering what took place since I helped with his fundraiser ten months ago has brought me no joy.  I feel like I’ve lost a friend, I feel like I’ve lost some ability to trust myself, just as I did when finding out Sarah Morehead had lied to me.  I vouched for Neil (just like I had vouched for Sarah), and then I uncovered all of this.  I feel like I’ve lost a bit of faith in humanity, that somebody I thought so highly of is capable of this.  Nobody likes learning these things, and I definitely don’t relish the drama surrounding them.

This sucks.  But it’s the truth, and sometimes the truth just sucks.  If we valued comforting lies over uncomfortable truths, I reckon most of us would still be religious.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.