Ok, here we go with more drama. There’s a point I’m trying to get to that will be at the end of the post. It’s going to be a slightly long hike to get there, and I apologize for that. But all the information is important.
Sadly, I’m involved in this. Let’s start with how, quoting from Neil’s first post:
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.
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. 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.
That friend was me. I don’t mind people knowing this fact, but I can see how Neil was trying to be courteous and keep my name anonymous (for which I’m grateful).
Full disclosure: I know Eliott Canter. He and his partner, Gayle, have hosted me in their home when I’ve been on road trips. They were at my wedding. I like them both.
Continued disclosure: I know Neil, though not as intimately. However, I suspect if I ever needed to land on a couch in Mississippi he’d put me up just as swiftly. I like Neil.
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.
Eliott then asked me to set up the call, so I messaged Neil. In the process of those messages it was me who said the call would not be recorded. My intent was to convey “you two can say things to each other you wouldn’t say with your respective lawyers around to try and work this out as chums.” I realize now that my communication was not crystal clear.
But then, in Neil’s post, he took this as an intent by Eliott to cover dark deeds. Later, Eliott would call me to ask if he had said he didn’t want the conversation recorded. I said I didn’t recall that he had and checked my messages to Neil. I had said it. So I messaged Neil to clear that up (I’m posting the parts of the conversation I feel to be relevant, will post more if Neil requests it):
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.
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.
Anyway, so because I wound up getting inserted in the middle of all of this, I’m kind of involved now.
The way I responded to this was to resign my volunteer position with Recovering From Religion (I worked on the Hotline Project vetting new volunteers). My intent was to do what I did with Sarah. That investigation, for me, started back in October of last year. It was months of effort, of interviewing people, digging up documents, poring over those documents. I was sure Sarah had been wronged and I was going to get to the bottom of it. And I can’t get to the bottom of this with objectivity if I’m still volunteering for one of the parties involved.
Of course, with Sarah, my position changed over time. It had to. And so when the rumors started flying I already had months of work to contribute. I don’t want to sound like that post was anything but a depressing pain in the ass to write, but for me in terms of having the information it was more just a case of luck that I’d already devoted so much time to it.
I don’t have that here, and I know good investigative reporting takes time. But I do want to know what’s really going on with both parties I respect having such different stories. I have been in contact with Neil and members of RfR. Both parties know where I stand right now. I even told Neil in an email today where I stand:
Hope you’re well. Today I’m mostly working on this. Will send any questions I have. As with the above, I don’t want you to be blind-sided by any thoughts I’m having and definitely want feedback from everybody. Trying to put together as cohesive an idea of what went on with as much proof as possible. And, will be honest, right now my idea is that both sides failed each other to one degree or another and that hardly anybody was on the same page from the beginning. That may change as I continue to dig, but that’s where I am right now.
Can you think of any questions I should ask of RfR and/or any documentation you have that you’d like me to see to confirm your account of things?
In response to a request from me, Recovering From Religion has passed a mountain of documentation to me. RfR posted a few days ago:
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.
That *ahem* “reputable blogger known for his high standard of investigatory excellence” is me (I’m literally blushing…can I get that on a t-shirt?).
I’m still going through all the documentation I received from RfR. They have been true-to-their-word. I’ve conducted interviews with many of them, and any documentation I’ve requested they’ve provided (and then some). They have cooperated entirely. I’m presently working on a timeline from RfR’s perspective, during which time I hope to stay in contact with Neil to get his responses and any documentation from him that proves his case and may alter that timeline. Eventually, if I think it’s pertinent, I’ll publish the results of my investigation.
I’ll be frank: I’m hoping to find that both halves share some of the blame, that it’s minor, and all these people I very much like can maybe start to heal. But I’m trying to put that in the back of my head, like I did with Sarah, so that if I find something unflattering I can maintain first and foremost my allegiance to the truth. Friendship, from me at least, earns a person a fair trial and forgiveness if they admit they fucked up rather than trying to lie their way out of it. It doesn’t earn you twisting of the facts, no matter how much I may like you.
But Neil made a good point in his posts, and this is where we finally get to the whole reason I wrote this post. In the first quote from Neil’s blog I included toward the top of this post, he laments not having more information about why Sarah Morehead was released from RfR. In both his recent posts he’s made a call for transparency. I share that desire (assembling all the information for the Sarah Morehead post was a ridiculous amount of work that would’ve been much easier, perhaps even unnecessary, if those NDAs did not exist). I have gotten countless emails after my post about Sarah asking why the information only dealt with Apostacon (the one organization she used to run with which she does not have an NDA in place) and not with Recovering From Religion and the Reason Rally.
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 as for the public, well, Sarah was a beloved figure for many of us, myself included. They want to know what happened — why she no longer heads the three organizations she used to. Believe me, they’re in my inbox to this very day telling me this. If these NDAs get flushed it will allow that conversation to be had by the parties involved, not from bloggers like me doing our best to find out where the lies are coming from.
Sadly, I’ve not heard from Sarah since I made that post. She said she had 170 emails that would help to confirm her position. I asked for them, said I would update the post upon receiving them. I’ve not heard from her. I will email her a link to this post, but I confess that after having read so many of her emails to tons of people over the last several months to put together my last story, I don’t reserve much hope of getting a response. So I have no way of conveying to her that this offer is on the table and receiving confirmation that she received it.
Hopefully this will wind up in front of her eyes. We all want to know what happened. We could hear it directly from Sarah’s mouth. It’s now up to Sarah to determine if we get to or not.
I will keep everybody updated when/if I learn anything new.