A sad bump in the road in my investigation into the Neil Carter and RfR spat.

A sad bump in the road in my investigation into the Neil Carter and RfR spat. May 18, 2016

Hey guys.  I had an email exchange with Neil Carter this morning that, sadly, didn’t go well.  But I feel like it needs to be public knowledge, transparency and all that (if you need background, I’m investigating the public fight between Neil Carter and RfR).  I know this will read as drama, which my readers hopefully know I try to avoid.  I apologize for that.  It’s a tough line to walk between accountability (which is the job of good bloggers to pursue) and unnecessary intermovement drama.  I hope this post will make it clear which one I’m after.

Click to make big.

You’ll have to click that to make it bigger.

Here’s the image he attached to his first email:


I’m honestly not sure what he’s trying to convey here.  I’ve always said I began looking into this matter on my own, asked the RfR board for information, and then they’d given me a document dump and told me to investigate and post what I discover whether it’s flattering or not.  This thread, to my eye, confirms exactly what I said (it’s the very definition of “of my own volition”).

However, what people probably aren’t aware of is what the “Eliott rebuttal” bit is referring to.  In the interest of transparency, here is mine and Neil’s entire facebook conversations dating back to May 5 (if you want to see what the Eliott rebuttal bit was about, scroll down to May 9):


May 5
JT Eberhard

You around?
Um, so…check your email. Also…I see that call with Eliot didn’t go well. unsure emoticon
Got another email to pass along to you. Will start looking into the contents of your post. Sorry that didn’t work well for you in the end. I honestly thought it would. unsure emoticon

May 6
JT Eberhard
FYI: just suspended by volunteer position with RfR. Contacted them about your post. Got back in invite to attend arbitration. unsure emoticon Will let you know if I hear anything else.

Neil Carter
*type* *delete* *type type* *delete delete*
Thanks for keeping me in the loop. I feel pretty confident I am on pretty solid ground, and am pretty content to let the chips fall where they may.

JT Eberhard
Full disclosure: I like you, I like Elliot. I think you’re both good dudes and, like with Sarah, I’m just confused.
I want to look at as many documents as possible and do my thing.
But I’m sorry you’re in a shit place, glad to hear you’re feeling a bit better.
Any documents you think are relevant that you want to send my way, go nuts. I’m asking the same of RfR.

Also: thanks for leaving my name out of the post. I wouldn’t have minded if it was present, but I know your intent was to keep me out of the hullabaloo.
And I appreciate that.
If/when I write about this, I’ll probably divulge that it was me who set that up, if you don’t mind.

Neil Carter
You’re welcome. I’m not willing to assume that you had any way of knowing that what Eliott wanted to do was coercive in nature. My default is always giving friends the benefit of the doubt. And it’s your call about the disclosure. I figure that’s your info to give.
Sometimes the truth is just that good people still do bad things. We’re all mixed bags.
We all have our flaws. But some of us have flaws that do greater damage because of an imbalance of power. I cannot help the presence of the flaws. But I can address the imbalance of power.

JT Eberhard
*nod* Thanks for assuming the best of me. I realize how easy it would be to assume my loyalties lie with other people here.
But, again, full disclosure: like with Sarah, my allegiance is to finding out exactly what’s up with documented proof. For right now I’m making no assumptions and trying to dig for confirmation of the claims in your post.

And that goes above my allegiance (and affection) for both you and Elliot.
That being said, take care of yourself, and if you have any documents you’d like to share with me, I’d take them.
And, again, I’m sorry the call with E didn’t pan out. unsure emoticon

Neil Carter
Thank you. I tried very hard to reason with him, and I even explained to him that each time our disputes have escalated into the public arena, it has been a representative of RFR who has made it happen. He didn’t accept that narrative, even after I explained the timeline to him and gave him dates, even sending him a link to Nate’s post containing the claim that I victimized them. I told them that if they had to take even more aspects of our dispute public I would have to defend myself again. It didn’t do any good.
I’ll do my best to take care of myself. I know what it feels like to have people of means angry with me. I’ve been through that ringer once before, and it isn’t fun. But I feel I wasn’t left with much choice, given that my options were: Join us or die, so to speak.

JT Eberhard
*hug* Well, while I’m doing this, if there is any way I can help, let me know.

Neil Carter

Thank you. My circle will stay small for a while, for reasons that will probably be apparent. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, and I’ve had some hard decisions to make. I told Sarah I would have to be removing her from any leadership roles associated with the Fig Leaf blog (I’m the owner/manager of that anyway), and she took that hard. But at the same time, I care for her so I’m not removing her from the private discussion groups nor will I turn away anything pseudonymous she wants to contribute. It’s just a blog about working out your sexuality sans religion, and she needs that space, too. She just won’t be able to hold the reins of anything anymore. I hate being the heavy. But like I said, we’re all mixed bags. I can’t undo anything she did that was her fault. But I can still be there as best as circumstances allow.

JT Eberhard
I can appreciate that. Yeah, it’s so freaking hard. I had a lot of guilt, feeling like I was betraying Sarah. Some of that evaporated when she deleted the dropbox folder, but admit to still having some.

I keep having to remind myself that what her goodness to me got her was a lot of my effort trying to exonerate her and then a fair trial. But it’s a struggle.

So…yeah, I get how it’s hard. Probably more so for you.

May 9
JT Eberhard
Hey, let me know if you’re around.

Neil Carter
About to do some writing, shower, etc. But I’ve got a second. What’s up?

JT Eberhard
Two things on my end:

1. Elliot messaged me the other day and asked if I’d post a rebuttal to you.
I’m probably going to let him because he’s a friend and should have a platform for such things. However, I told him the condition was that I’d pre-empt it that I resigned from RfR and am trying to stay neutral and that I think you’re a good guy.
But I also told him I’d tell you.

So…wanted to get your feedback on that.

2. In that conversation he asked if I remembered him saying that the phone call was not to be recorded. I said no, but had assumed he’d told you that over the phone. I checked my messages to you and saw that I told you that.

So…what I was trying to convey (poorly, in retrospect), was that the two of you could say things (like make concessions to each other) that you couldn’t ordinarily make in writing or with lawyers present.

However…I now see how that came off.

But you should probably know that E didn’t ask me to say that and what my actual intent was there.
And if I let E post his bit, I’ll probably post that original convo with you in screenshots and express that.
(Also, really sorry about that, I don’t blame you at all for taking that the way you did. That is 100% my fault. frown emoticon )
Anyway, there ya go.
(And if I let E post, I will say it’s 100% my fault)
I’m kinda caught between everybody here and trying to stay neutral since I like everybody involved. unsure emoticon

Are you ok with me letting E post on my blog?
My thinking is that I’d have done the same for you.

Neil Carter
In the grand scheme of things, I feel like the bit about not recording the call, while super sketchy sounding if it hadn’t merely been a miscommunication, wasn’t really an essential piece of what went wrong, anyway. Any decision to record or not record was mine with or without you saying anything about that. I’ve had reasons to not trust how this has been handled since as far back as early October.
The responsibility for what has gone wrong here is on other people, not you, although to some degree the more you become a mouthpiece for them, the more it does open up the possibility for it to appear that you are condoning the way they have been treating me. Eliott’s offer to me last Thursday night was coercive, plain and simple. And in exchange he was asking for me to surrender a portion of what I do for a living in order to restore the reputation of RFR. There are so many things wrong with that scenario, not least of which is the impropriety of him functioning the way he is functioning without any legitimate role for the organization (this isn’t the job of a “consultant”). The very fact that he functioned in this role before Gayle was chosen to replace Sarah screams conflict of interest. I had originally resolved to keep that to myself out of an attempt to let them build the org into something stronger than it was before. Now I only see mistake after mistake, in a comedy of errors that may one day be a textbook example of how NOT to handle a public relations crisis.

If I’m being completely candid with you, JT, I believe they are treating you a bit like a pawn in this situation. Would you be willing to tell me if Eliott and/or Gayle were instrumental in providing you with the information you supplied in your post about Sarah? Because that, to me, is a part of the bigger picture here. Again, not central to my situation, but a part of the larger context. And are you going to write this post, or is Eliott? Are you sure you want to attach your name and your blog to this response?
They have every right to defend their integrity as an organization, but they have yet to acknowledge that each time I have said anything public about our situation, it has been in defense of myself after one of their representatives has said something about it first. None of this is the way this is supposed to be handled. In arbitration, our disputes can be settled fairly and with real legal accountability. Blogs and Facebook are a sketchy way to be fighting this battle, and I resent being put in that position, using my blog as a place to have to talk about a dispute that doesn’t belong in places as unaccountable as social media.
Bottom line for me is this: I see two categories of problems here:

1) We have a contractual dispute, the proper arena for which to resolve that is yet to come, in arbitration. I am confident what I have to show for my work will suffice to answer their claims. In the grand scheme of things, this is the lesser problem between us.
2) Contract dispute aside, we have an organization that has made a number of operational decisions which opens them up to serious charges of conflict of interest, excessive secrecy, potentially extortion (although I have not made a decision about what to do with that yet), and a really bad habit of making clearly untrue public statements that are not difficult to show are wrong.
To be completely honest, if your response to this massive tangled mess is to focus on the first of those two things without digging into the second cluster of issues, I’m going to be a bit disappointed. Especially since so much of what I have to share in defense of my work for them consists of emails, phone logs, and screenshots of Google hangouts and such with group facilitators that I cannot put up on a blog because of the confidentiality of those people. I can share them in arbitration setting, but not publicly, for reasons that should be obvious.

JT Eberhard
Oh, you were typing a book. Got it. Ok, thanks for the bit on the recording. Reading the rest…

Neil Carter

JT Eberhard
Phew, ok.
1. Yeah, I get that I’m coming off as involved when I’m really not. From the moment I started talking to both of you and passing notes like a freaking elementary class, and then when I used the words “not recorded”, I was kind of involved.

Neil Carter
It did feel a bit like study hall.

JT Eberhard
I’m not too worried about it. My MO has always been to be completely honest and try to be as slow to judgment as possible. I find if I stay focused on that, and on trying to be as fair as possible, then I come out ok.
But thank you for the concern. I do appreciate it.
And yeah, I do worry that I’ll come off as favoring one side or the other (especially with you).
But….not much to be done there. unsure emoticon

Neil Carter
It’s a concern, if I’m being honest.

JT Eberhard
Hey, I appreciate it.
Like you, I just gotta keep doing what I think is right.
Ok, next…
Ok, Elliot feeding me information about Sarah.

Honestly, zero. He told me who I should talk to and where I might be able to look to get some of my questions answered, but he’s stuck by his NDAs.
He did put me in touch with people I could talk to though, and that information proved reliable.

Neil Carter
So he did help.

JT Eberhard
I guess in that sense, but he never answered a question about any of the scenarios over months.
And believe me, I tried.
Ok, next…
Ok, the potential post.
Elliot would write it and just wanted a platform so it had a comparable number of eyes on it with yours.
I told him I’d sleep on it.

Next day I told him yes, but I’d want to talk it over with you first. I also said I’d want to pre-empt the post with my own words saying I like all parties involved, that I’ve resigned from RfR so I can look into everything since now I’m apparently involved (a fact I’m not happy about, honestly), and that my current conclusion is that there’s a lot of bad blood muddying the waters between people I respect and like all around.

Like I said, had you come to me with the same request, I’d have done the exact same thing. So I figured this was fair.
If you’d like, I an include your bit about them potentially using me as a pawn in my preempt.

Ok, next…contractual dispute.
However, here’s where we are. It’s in social media. While this isn’t optimal, it’s where we’re at.
As for stuff that can’t be posted, screen caps, etc….

I know the feeling. All these NDAs and secrecy…I hate it. And I am digging.
However, you got to post a long piece about E. It’s hardly fair if he doesn’t get to respond. I can give him a platform to keep things fair in my eyes while *also* digging (and I am, though to be fair, I haven’t come up with much yet. But it’s only been a weekend).

And, like I said, I’ll keep you abreast of anything I turn up (unless it’s proof you murdered someone or something).

Neil Carter
You and I probably have very different postures toward our own writing platforms. Maybe my approach is a bit more proprietary, but I take what is said in my spaces fairly personally. I take responsibility for what happens in those spaces, even to some degree in the comments section. So personally I would’t post a guest post from someone else without assuming some level of responsibility for what they say there. I’m not personally comfortable attaching my own name and identity to the words of someone else unless what they have to say mirrors my own priorities and mannerisms to some degree. But that’s probably just me. You seem to have more of a detached relationship, which is your call.

All that being said, my experience in this situation is inclining me to feel that the more Eliott talks, the easier my situation becomes smile emoticon

JT Eberhard
Oh, speaking of that stuff. They withdrew my invitation to attend arbitration. Would you mind me sitting in on it? I really would like to.

Neil Carter
I don’t know what the policy is on witnesses, etc. It would take a trip to Mississippi.

JT Eberhard
*nod* Ok.
Meh, I think the trip to MS might be worth it here for accurate reporting.
Besides, I have a friend at ole miss I haven’t seen in forever.

Neil Carter
I’ll probably ask my contract lawyer what the protocol is on that but I don’t have a personal reason to tell you no.

JT Eberhard
If you would, I’d appreciate it. Then I can go to RfR and tell them you don’t have an issue and try to nudge.
Ok, thanks for the feedback. And thank you for understanding the difficulty of my position here.
I really hope there’s still some way that this can work out for everybody, but I realize that’s probably not realistic at this point.
But, like with Sarah, if I find something damning on either side (with documented proof), I’ll play it fairly, friendships be damned.


Neil Carter
I don’t mind telling you, btw, in the process of your digging, that I’m going to go into the arbitration process willing to admit that communication between myself and the org progressively broke down toward the end of the contract term. I didn’t stop doing the work, and I have my own documentation to back that up. But the part about our communication deteriorating is accurate, at least in part. They could be a bit more honest about how easy it would have been to reach out to me if they couldn’t understand why we were communicating less. But it’s still correct that I began to trust them less and less as time went on, and began to communicate with them less and less as we approached the end of my work with them.
At this point, I do not trust them in any way shape or form, no. So I don’t see any constructive path forward.

JT Eberhard
*nod* Thanks for the honesty there. Is there anything else you can send me about that or any other facts you think may be relevant?

Neil Carter
It’s going to take me time. The way this is supposed to work is that dates for meetings with lawyers are set, and a process is put in place that allows time to do all the digging needed to produce the documentation.

I’ll think about it. But this has already swallowed up all my free time and I am trying to find work right now. This isn’t helping. I may have to wait and let Eliott do what he wants to do, and then respond as I see fit.

Neil Carter
My inbox has been insane.

JT Eberhard
I’m sure. No rush. Putting stories like this together (and doing it right) takes time. I just lucked (weird choice of words) out with Sarah because I’d already been working on that for months when the shit hit the fan publicly.
But I have no intention of rushing here. You take your time, take care of you, and if you come across a document or such I could use, hit me up.
Good luck finding work. unsure emoticon

Neil Carter
k. thanks for the heads up

JT Eberhard
*nod* I don’t want you to be blind-sided by anything. That ain’t right.
And if I want all sides to keep trusting me, I have to stay transparent.
SO IT’S ALL FOR ME! tongue emoticon

Neil Carter
I appreciate the attempt, and maybe I’m not as good at compartmentalizing here, but what I’ve been trying to say is that I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to keep trusting you the further this goes along. I feel like enough has already been shared that you should feel inclined NOT to provide a mouthpiece for Eliott right now. I think I probably was being my usual diplomatic self somewhere in there. And I’m trying really hard to not sound like I’m telling what to do or what not to do with your own blog. That’s not my business. But in the interest of honesty, I really am trying to evaluate my friends with platforms right now, to figure out whose judgment I trust, and whose judgment I don’t trust. That’s what I was trying to say when I said my circle is getting pretty small.

JT Eberhard
*nod* I understand. And, if that’s what winds up happening, so be it. I wouldn’t blame you. Your position here sucks and you have to do what you must.
Here’s hoping everything comes out the other side roses.

Neil Carter
How soon do you plan on posting Eliott’s response?

JT Eberhard
*shrug* Probably a day after he sends it to me and I can read over it.
Want me to give you a heads up?
I will also link to your post in my preempt.

Neil Carter
I’m sure I’ll hear of it as soon as it’s up. But sure. I wouldn’t mind a heads up.

JT Eberhard
kk, I’ll let you know as soon as I have it.
Really do love you, Neil. Good luck finding work. Sorry for this whole mess.

Neil Carter
What’s happening here isn’t right, man. But thanks for the kind words.

JT Eberhard
*nod* Somewhere there is proof about shadiness. I’m going to try to find it.
And all I’m trying to do is what’s right.
Maybe I’ll goof, but I’m trying.
And, in this case, I think Elliot should have a platform to rebut. I would think the same of you if the roles were reversed.
Remember, while I like all parties involved, I’m withholding judgment about where the truth lies until I can prove something. I don’t want to favor anybody. Just want to get my eyes on as many documents as I can.
If you can help, cool. If not, also cool.

JT Eberhard
Hey, emailed you a question when you have time.

And that’s the last Facebook contact I have with Neil.  Among other things, this should confirm that Neil knew I was working on looking into all this long before RfR made a post about asking me to investigate (which, I think betrays some confusion on their part — they gave me a document dump, told me they supported me investigating, and told me to post whatever I find honestly even if it was unfavorable to them — see our conversation from May 6).

I post all this because I suspect a blog post is coming from Neil.  As he says in our FB thread, there is a contractual dispute, which is what I’ve been focusing on.  However, I suspect he may try to make me the focus, rather than any documentation I come across in the course of my work on this story.

I want to make it clear that transparency is very important to me.  In that vein, if I’m to provide essential details of what happened here, I need Sarah Morehead’s NDA waived.  As I stated before, RfR is willing to waive hers in exchange, but that decision is hers.  I’ve not heard from Sarah.

Anyway, the whole bit culminated with this email from Neil.  While Neil is on the record expressing his disdain for NDAs, I’m trying to get him on board with trying to get Sarah to waive her, specific, NDA (I have tried to do this on multiple occasions).  Neil responded by with this:

Click to make big.

The list of questions I reference is a list I asked Neil to provide of any questions he believes I should ask the RfR board.  He submitted them, I passed them along, and the board has promised me answers that will be in my final article.  I hope this is further evidence that I am listening to Neil, wanting his participation, and doing my best to figure out exactly what all is going on with this public fight.

However, if Neil won’t talk to me, then it will be hard for me to actively seek his input on the story.  That makes me sad, but I realize he’s in a tough spot and don’t entirely blame him.

Still, the focus of my article will be to produce whatever provable facts I can.  I just worry that some people, including Neil, will try to make me the focus when I shouldn’t be – to try and discredit what I write, regardless of how much evidence it contains, before I’ve so much as typed the first word.  So in an effort to get ahead of any attempts to imply (or assert) that I am operating in the dark and misleading people for nefarious purposes, here’s enough information to put everything in context.  I think I’m being perfectly honest with Neil and communicating everything frankly.  I suspect that’s how it will strike any objective reader.

But let’s imagine for a moment that I’m 100% biased, unable to be objective, etc.  If that’s the case then in my final article I am bound to make assertions that aren’t corroborated by the evidence I provide.  If you don’t think whatever evidence I provide for any conclusions I may reach is good, then make the call then (and tell me why).

But there is no conspiracy to “get” Neil on my end.  Look at our messages on Facebook from just two weeks ago.  I’ve had Neil in my home.  I’ve helped raise money for Neil (specifically, for his position with RfR).  He may try to argue that the RfR board has somehow duped me (providing every relevant document they have seems like a poor way to do that), but I have no motive whatsoever to vilify Neil for shits and giggles (and I hope people bear that in mind if such things are asserted or implied).  Hopefully that doesn’t happen, but just in case, I’ve put it all out there for everybody.

And hopefully me putting Neil’s presumably damning screen cap out for everybody to see will convince him that I’m not part of some terrible plot for some strange, unspoken motive.  However, emotions are riding high during all this, I’m sure paranoia is high all around and, frankly, that’s understandable.

However, as somebody who got involved trying to defend Neil in the very beginning (see this post), and who did raise money for Neil’s position with RfR, I have a vested interest in trying to figure out where the truth lies here.  That’s what this is about (just like with my post about Sarah Morehead), and when I’ve concluded my fact-finding and posted the blog, it will be up to any on-lookers to decide if the evidence I provide does or does not support the conclusions I reach.

I would hope Neil would provide me with evidence that supports his side of things.  Thus far I have his questions to the board, which I have followed up on.

Look guys, I get it: nobody’s happy with this.  I’m not, you’re not.  There are no winners here.  There’s a public feud and everybody getting dragged through the mud.  It sucks.  I think the best we can do, the best *I* can do, is keep doing my best to plow through it and try to figure out what’s true.

Ok, voice lessons for me now.  🙂

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