I’m delighted to announce that I’m running for Hainesport Township Committee again. This November, my running mate will be Edie Darnold, a 16-year Hainesport resident and youthful grandmother who has experience working in industry and municipal government. It’s going to be a great campaign, and you can read our bios here.
Thoughts on Running for Hainesport Again
When I reread my announcement from last April, I am actually thrilled at how much Natalie and I managed to accomplish, even though we didn’t win the seats. We kept the Health Benefits issue ($30,000 packages taken by our part time elected officials) in the spotlight to the extent that the Committee had to give up this taxpayer-funded perk to be competitive in this year’s election. We exposed their agenda, which was to force the resignation of Bill Boettcher, and to replace Township Administrator Leo Selb. Furthermore, Natalie came within 50 votes of beating Frank Masciocchi.
I also hope that I have demonstrated my commitment to the people of Hainesport. I never gave up. Not when I was the victim of a smear campaign conducted through a Burlington County Super PAC. Nor when Mayor Tony Porto filed baseless criminal charges against me in an attempt to stop me from running for Hainesport Committee again. I kept going to the meetings and reporting on them for YOU, so you could understand what was going on in our town.
Unlike the Republican candidates, Edie and I aren’t beholden to some highly political Burlington County machine. Our campaign won’t be paid for by corporate donors who think they can control committee votes. In contrast, we are only about Hainesport, and are accountable solely to the people of Hainesport.
I’m looking forward to getting out and meeting even more people than I did last year during the campaign season. Please let me try to earn your vote.
Over the course of my campaign and its aftermath, particularly in the light of what my Republican opponents did (and continue to do) to me, many people have asked me why I decided to run for office. I typically answer that I am a crusader for truth, transparency, and justice, which begs the question of what turned me into that crusader. The answer to this question is, I became a crusader because of what West Chester did to Kim Bridgford.
After Kim became director of the West Chester Poetry Center and Conference in 2010, she asked me to take over the daily running of the Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project. This put us into frequent correspondence, and we became friends. Hence I was among the first to learn when, on September 15th 2014, she was removed from her position, asked to collect her things and leave the Poetry Center (which she was thereafter barred from entering) and reassigned to full time teaching.
I became one of Kim’s most vocal defenders as the West Chester administration and its advocates conspired to give the impression that her reassignment was her fault for being a poor fundraiser (she wasn’t), or perhaps for moving the Poetry Conference too far from its original mission (She was employed to increase diversity and broaden the conference’s appeal.)
During my defense of Kim, my arguments were dismissed as lies, and I was not only regularly told to be quiet, but also frequently belittled and insulted online, mostly by men. It was great practice for facing down the three male incumbent Republican members of Hainesport Township Committee!
The real reason for Kim’s reassignment was that she had discovered financial irregularities under her predecessor as Director, Mike Peich, and when she brought those to the attention of the administrators, they chose to remove her and stage a cover up instead of investigating. Every time I suggested this, however, I was castigated for sullying the reputation of Mike Peich without being able to verify my claims. Unfortunately, Kim was at that time unable to speak publicly about the issues.
Kim and I went on (along with original Executive Board Members Natalie Gerber, Cherise Pollard, and Kat Gilbert) to create and run Poetry by the Sea: A Global Conference, now in its third successful year. The West Chester Poetry Conference came back under the Directorship of Sam Gwynn after taking a year’s hiatus in 2015, and an uneasy truce has prevailed at West Chester.
But recently West Chester added insult to injury by engaging Baker Tilly, a firm of accountants, to conduct a financial assessment of the Poetry Center (which Kim’s supporters had demanded), but only covering the years of Kim’s tenure as Director. This financial review, while finding no fault, contains damaging and untrue allegations which Kim has now been forced to refute legally and publicly. The letter from Kim’s lawyer states this:
For 16 years, Prof. Peich directed the center with no accountability, no reporting, and no institutional oversight whatsoever. During that time he drained the six-figure Ahmanson Fund, without notifying any authority, and without being called upon to report his activities.
Prof. Peich’s 16-year wasting spree had been enabled by a passive university and foundation. Dr. Bridgford stepped into a situation not of her own making and did her best to rectify it….The report is unfair to her and protective of those who should be held accountable.
This letter has today been circulated among the faculty of the English department at West Chester University, and finally I am in a position to support what I have been saying all along about the events of September 2014. Truth, transparency and justice are served.
Meanwhile my fight against West Chester exposed many truths I had been ignoring for too long: that many men still attempt to dominate and belittle women, that power corrupts, that those in power will do anything to conceal inconvenient truths, and that it is always the little guy who is exploited. With my social conscience newly awoken, I looked around and I saw examples of this happening very close to home.
And that is why I ran for Hainesport Township Committee.
Hainesport is governed by the Township Committee form of government. This is comprised of five officials elected by the residents to serve three year staggered terms. The elected members will select a chairperson who will be known as the “Mayor of the Township.”
With no mention of Republican or Democrat anywhere on the website, Hainesport residents could be forgiven for believing, as Committeeman Fitzpatrick is fond of saying, that party politics is irrelevant at a local level. However, he is mistaken.
Current Hainesport Township Committee
The three-year staggered terms currently expire as follows:
Mayor Porto (R) & Committeeman Dickinson (R): 12/31/2017
Committeeman Fitzpatrick (R): 12/31/2018
Deputy Mayor Masciocchi (R) & Committeewoman Gilmore (R): 12/31/2019
There are no term limits (although the Democrats would like to introduce a three term limit). Dickinson & Fitzpatrick are currently serving their third terms. Porto is on his third full term having also served a partial term prior to that.
How Do the Committee Govern?
It’s important to note that being an elected official on Hainesport Township Committee is a part time job. Indeed, Fitzpatrick and Porto both have full time jobs in local government elsewhere (Township Administrator, Mansfield, and Tax Administrator, Hunterdon County, respectively.)
Therefore, the day to day administration of Hainesport is carried out by a hardworking and well-respected paid staff (full and part-time), led by the Township Adminstrator. Until January 12th 2017 the Hainesport Township Administrator was Leo Selb. As of April, the role has been taken by Paula Kosko.
The most visible role of the Committee is at the monthly Township Meetings, during which the business of the Township is conducted by means of Resolutions and Ordinances on which the committee vote. The material for the meetings is prepared by the Municipal Clerk. Until December 14th 2016 the Hainesport Municipal Clerk was Leo Selb (He was a joint Administrator/Clerk), but at the township meeting on December 13th he was removed from that position and the role was given part-time to Amy Cosnoski, the full time Clerk in Pemberton. Once Paula Kosko has qualified as Clerk, the roles of Administrator and Clerk will be recombined.
As explained on USlegal.com, “a resolution deals with matters of a special or temporary character and an ordinance prescribes some permanent rule of conduct or government to continue in force until the ordinance is repealed.” For example, at the January meeting, Mayor Tony Porto was appointed by resolution (effective for 1 year) whereas it took an Ordinance in December 2014, (Ordinance 2014-10-11) to increase the cost of a Dog License in Hainesport to $15 for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps the most influential role of the Committee is in the selection of the individuals who either work as paid staff for the township, or are appointed by resolution as the Township Professionals on an annual basis. And this is where Party Politics comes in.
The Hainesport Democrat & Republican Committees
When Hainesport voted in the last township election, they had a choice between 4 candidates: Schneider & Evans (D) and Gilmore & Masciocchi (R). (You could of course vote for 1 R and 1 D, but most people don’t.) Schneider & Evans were supported by the Hainesport Democrat Committee, while Gilmore & Masciocchi were supported by the Hainesport Republican Committee.
In my experience of the Democrat side of things, the chair of the Township party committee is expected to attend the County committee meetings, which would mean that Mayor Porto would be an active member of the Burlington County Republican Committee, whose Chairman is Bill Layton.
What Do the Burlington County Republicans Have to Do With Hainesport?
They funded the smear campaign against me, Anna Evans, which some experts have estimated cost ~$8000
They provided campaign literature supporting Gilmore & Masciocchi along with the Burlington County GOP candidates
They pushed the Hainesport Committee to get rid of Administrator/Clerk Leo Selb, who was seen as too friendly to Hainesport Democrats and not sufficiently supportive of the Republican agenda
How Else Do Party Politics Influence Hainesport Township Government?
Hainesport township professionals are typically Republican and/or campaign donors
Appointees to e.g. the Joint Use Planning Board are expected to support preferred Republican candidates
Recently the Chair of the JUPB was not reappointed without warning (despite 6 years exemplary service) due to his support of non-preferred candidates.
Democrats and their supporters are seen as ‘troublemakers’ and less deserving of participation in community activities
Mayor Porto recently ‘purged’ his Hainesport Community Page on Facebook of all members known to be associates of mine.
So, party politics is more important than you thought, isn’t it? Please bear this in mind next November when you are deciding whether to vote Porto (R) & Dickinson (R) in for their FOURTH full terms, or whether to vote for the as of yet unannounced Democrat candidates.
This summary of the July Hainesport Township Meeting will restrict itself to controversial topics, namely the Public Hearing and Final Adoption of Ordinance 2016-9-6, and Public Comment. Ordinary township business, including an excellent NJSP report by Trooper Storm Colleton, proceeded as normal.
This ordinance was given its first reading and introduction at the June Township meeting. The townspeople widely objected to it in June’s Public Comment. However it was nevertheless passed to the second stage 3-2.
The Ordinance is disguised as a cost saving measure and a “step in the right direction” towards the elimination of Health Benefits for the current Committee, as it eliminates “Healthcare Benefits for Members of the Governing Body Retiring or Ending Service.” In practice, what it means is that Bill Boettcher, who has served Hainesport faithfully for over 25 years and is in his 80s, will be forced to retire before the end of his term (within the next 20 days) in order to keep his and his wife’s healthcare benefits. It will not save Hainesport any money if he retires within the next 20 days. What it will do, is vacate his position on the committee so the Republican Committee Chairman (Deputy Mayor Porto) can appoint someone more likely to agree with the three incumbents.
As this was the Public Hearing, township residents were entitled to comment. Comments were plentiful and vigorously negative. Many wanted to understand the Committee’s motivation for introducing this Ordinance, given the likely result of Boettcher’s resignation/ no money saved. Others asked who had introduced the Ordinance. The Committee gave no answers. As usual, many residents questioned the Healthcare Benefits of all Committee Members and said they would be happy if everyone lost benefits at the same time. A Hainesport lawyer also questioned the legality of the Ordinance with respect to the State. It was observed that a super-majority of 4-1 is needed to fire township personnel.
Once the Public Hearing had ended, Committeeman Bruce MacLachlan also spoke for his permitted 10 minutes. He tried to introduce a motion to amend the agenda to present his own Ordinance (which removes Healthcare Benefits for all Committee Members) but was voted down 3-2. Ordinance 1016-9-6 was proposed, seconded, and passed 3-2.
If you agree with me, and the vast majority of township people present at the meeting, that this Ordinance is suspect, cruel to Bill Boettcher, and likely represents a hidden agenda on the part of the three incumbents, I encourage you to contact the township.
During public comment many residents made additional observations relevant to Ordinance 2016-9-6, especially the lawyer who was not permitted by Ted Costa to fully explore her questioning of the legality of the Ordinance during its Public Hearing. The issue of the Employment Lawyer consulted privately by just two of the Committeemen at an unauthorized cost which has now reached $6000+ also came up again. Bill Boettcher was repeatedly praised for his service to Hainesport.
I then spoke about my Citizen’s Complaint against Deputy Mayor Porto for the sexist & misogynistic Kermit the Frog meme that he posted briefly on Hainesport Happenings, and then deleted but posted instead on both his own and Committeeman Fitzpatrick’s page. I read some key sections from the complaint. I should add that those present who wanted to were given poster-size copies of the meme to hold up in silent protest whenever Deputy Mayor Porto spoke. The NJSP were made aware of this protest and approved it. I was told that my complaint is still under review by the township’s labor attorney.
After I spoke many people who came up to make other comments also expressed their disgust at the meme and dissatisfaction with Deputy Mayor Porto. When pressed by Mark Murdy (who confirmed that he, his wife Deanna, and their son had all seen the original post on Hainesport Happenings) Deputy Mayor Porto said that he regretted posting the meme, although he denied that it was directed at anyone personally or that he had put it on Hainesport Happenings. Murdy encouraged him to apologize to me after he, Murdy, was finished speaking. This did not happen.
The new turn arrow at the junction of Hainesport Mt. Laurel and 38 was praised, and Rebecca Porto commended her husband for taking 3 hours out of her birthday celebrations on July 4th to save a township dog.
Towards the end of Public Comment people who came up often shared their disappointment that both Committeeman Fitzpatrick and Deputy Mayor Porto had displayed arrogance and contempt in dealing with township people during the session. Porto was described as “smirking” more than once. Several residents said they were ashamed of Porto and/or Fitzpatrick.
Bruce MacLachlan chose to make a speech during Comments from the Committee. He explained that he had hated coming to the meetings for the last few years and had only continued because of the benefits. He criticized Mayor Dickinson, Deputy Mayor Porto and Committeeman Fitzpatrick for being self-serving. He added that now, not even the benefits made it worthwhile, and walked out. It was unclear whether this constitutes resignation.
Bill Boettcher thanked Hainesport for being allowed to serve the town and was given a standing ovation.
Mike Fitzpatrick chose to make a speech also. In a remarkable display of what my teenage daughters call “sub-tweeting,” he implied without naming me that I was a rumor-monger and a hate-spreader, citing the admitted misconception I voiced yesterday that the Committee had been asked to move the meeting to a venue with a greater capacity, along with my theory that the 4-1 super-majority was required to fire township administrator Leo Selb, possibly replacing him with Fitzpatrick. He also reminded us all that everyone knew about his Healthcare Benefits when we voted him in last November. He did not mention that he told people I know that once he was re-elected, he would fix this.
So, there you have it. Feel free to comment here or on Facebook.
After the Hainesport Township election altercation, I gave my version, Scott Cooper gave his (see bottom left), and Deputy Mayor Tony Porto gave his (see top left), calling me a complete liar.
I like being called a liar even less than I enjoy being smeared with vulgar, sexist Kermit the Frog memes.
But what our esteemed township committee had forgotten is that the township building lobby has security cameras. And that the footage is subject to the Open Public Records Act. So we were able to submit an OPRA request and get hold of the footage.
Which speaks for itself. So again, I won’t editorialize much. I don’t need to. Except perhaps to say that Tony Porto doesn’t appear on the footage at all, does he?
A media guru I admire told me not that long ago, “Make sure all your great content is on your blog, rather than on Facebook or on some random networking site, because that way you own it and it’s always there for you.” How right he was!
That’s why, when I was contacted recently by a Philadelphia Inquirer journalist writing a story about the resurrection of the West Chester Poetry Conference, even though I was at the fields watching my younger daughter’s JV field hockey game, I was able to make some salient points and then say, “Go search my blog on West Chester. That should give you everything you need.”
I invite readers of this blog to do that exact same thing. You will find some positive posts, from Kim’s era, and then the outraged, horrified reaction to her reassignment, and then the more measured stuff I’ve been posting since Kim and I created Poetry by the Sea.
Obviously I did not conceal my alignment with Poetry by the Sea from the journalist, but she did choose not to mention it in her article, which got some tongues wagging. Hey guys, not my call!
I’ve also been getting some grief over on Eratosphere with people who are naturally big fans of Sam Gwynn and want the West Chester Conference back. I’m fine with that, too. I actually wish they would engage more. I want to discuss the issues involved whereas they just want me to shut up and stop making them feel bad about wanting to attend the WCU conference, notwithstanding how badly the administration treated Kim.
Not this girl.
Animals Are Passing From Our Lives by Philip Levine
It’s wonderful how I jog
on four honed-down ivory toes
my massive buttocks slipping
like oiled parts with each light step.
I’m to market. I can smell
the sour, grooved block, I can smell
the blade that opens the hole
and the pudgy white fingers
that shake out the intestines
like a hankie. In my dreams
the snouts drool on the marble,
suffering children, suffering flies,
suffering the consumers
who won’t meet their steady eyes
for fear they could see. The boy
who drives me along believes
that any moment I’ll fall
on my side and drum my toes
like a typewriter or squeal
and shit like a new housewife
or that I’ll turn like a beast
cleverly to hook his teeth
with my teeth. No. Not this pig.
In September 2006 I suffered a Transient Ischemic Attack. I was 38, a non-smoker, otherwise in good health and of normal weight, so my only risk factor was the use of the oral contraceptive pill, Yasmin, which I had been on for four years at that point. Because that didn’t seem like ENOUGH of a risk factor to my doctors at the time, they conducted some tests and determined that in addition, I had a large Patent Foramen Ovale (hole in my heart) and a cystic ovary. This led to a year of medical procedures (including heart surgery) and general health discomfort which you can read about here and here and here.
The Bad Drug Yasmin
Re-reading my blog entries from that period it’s clear that at some point before May 2007 I had become convinced that the main villain of the piece was the bad drug Yasmin. I was at the forefront of women attempting to publicize their experiences and insist that the side effects of Yasmin included higher risk of a stroke-type event. Not surprisingly I was eventually contacted by lawyers who wanted to include me in a class action lawsuit against Bayer, the pharmaceutical giant responsible for Yasmin and its sister drug, Yaz.
They are now supposedly willing to settle some money (again without admitting liability) on some women who suffered ATEs (Arterial Thromboembolism). (Hint: a TIA is usually the result of ATE, not VTE.) So it’s perhaps not surprising that after 9 years last week my lawyers got in touch wanting me to sign some papers and such.
Effect of My PFO
Here’s the thing though, (and I apologize if this is too much medical science) the presence of a PFO permits a VTE to become an ATE. In other words the hole in my heart may well have permitted a blood clot which would naturally have been in the venous system to pass across to the chamber of the heart that pumped it up in an artery to my brain, causing the TIA. Yes, the lawyers know this. I have given them all the paperwork.
I don’t really care about the money. I just want justice and publicity, so that women don’t continue to take the bad drug Yasmin, which, incredibly, is still on the market.
On Saturday night I was tidying the kitchen and happened to open a non-urgent looking letter from my insurance company, Aetna, that had been lying on my island table for a couple of weeks. The letter contained a notice of termination of the small business insurance health plan that my family has through the company I help my husband to run, Global Bridge LLC. Our coverage ends on March 1st. Aetna expressed their regret and blamed the Affordable Care Act for forcing their hand. While there is some truth in this, it is equally obvious that Aetna really doesn’t care about the people who buy its health insurance. Here’s why:
1. They Could Have Told Us Sooner
The letter was dated December 11th, so that’s when the decision was made. However, the envelope was postmarked January 2nd. By law, insurance companies are supposed to give 60 days notice of termination. We could quibble, and say that even if I had opened the letter when I got it, on say January 4th, that’s only 57 days. Be that as it may, why wouldn’t they tell us as soon as they knew? In order to defer postage costs until 2015, because they don’t care.
2. They Could Have Made It Clearer What They Were Telling Us
The letter came in an envelope marked “Important Renewal Documents Enclosed.” I know the renewal is March 1st, which is why I didn’t open it on receipt. If the letter had come in an envelope marked “Notice of Termination,” do you think I would have opened it sooner? You bet! Why wouldn’t they print up such envelopes for this important bulk mailing? Because it costs money, and they don’t care.
3. They Could Have Explained Why In More Detail
The letter says “because you are a sole proprietor husband and wife group and do not meet the federal definition of a group.” Say what? It was left to me to do the research: small businesses run by husband and wife teams no longer qualify for business group rate insurance plans under the ACA. (This is the part that is Obama’s fault. Husband & wife run businesses are not part of the 1%, but ordinary people trying to make a go of something in a difficult economy. The ACA makes health insurance less affordable for people like us.) Why wouldn’t Aetna explain this more fully? Because it would make the letter longer, and they don’t care.
4. They Could Have Given Us Options in the Letter
The letter says “we welcome you to explore our Individual product options at aetna.com” and “you have the option to buy coverage through your state’s Health Insurance Exchange.” Wouldn’t it have been great if, instead, it had said “We recommend you replace your Small Group Coverage with our plan XXX, which will cost you $Y per month and have a $Z deductible. Please see attached document for full details.” Why wouldn’t they do this? Because they would have to do some work, and they don’t care.
5. They Could Have Been Nice on the Phone
When we called to see if we could extend our coverage by one month in order to give us more time to explore our options, they basically said that they had fulfilled their legal obligations and we were on our own. Becky is going on her Senior Class Trip the first week of March and I have already provided the organizers with the insurance details, which are clearly wrong. I’m now under pressure to wade through the Health Insurance Exchange and find a plan that won’t cost the earth and allows us to keep our current providers by Feb 28. Why wouldn’t they extend us at least this courtesy? Because they really don’t care.
It’s over a month since the unexpected and blatantly unfair dismissal of Kim Bridgford as the Director of the West Chester Poetry Center, and the consequent West Chester Poetry Conference cancellation for 2015 so it seems appropriate to take stock. What have we learned since then? What has changed? How have WCU handled the fallout?
The first thing that strikes me is how little we have genuinely learned about the reasons for Kim’s dismissal and subsequent actions by WCU, despite many individuals connected with the conference demanding answers from the administration.
We were initially told the reason Kim was given had to do with her not working with the Foundation on Fundraising, which seems ludicrous to anyone who has seen Kim in full fundraising mode. Since then we have heard tell that Dean Lori informed the Poetry Center Advisory Board that the conference had lost sight of its original mission and been taken over by “fringe elements.” As this means at best free verse poets, and at worst women and minorities, it is potentially both sexist and racist, plus would involve firing Kim for the very thing she was instructed to do and did brilliantly, namely to broaden the Conference’s appeal.
Similarly, we know little more about any financial irregularities within the Poetry Center, although I think those of us who care to have learned more than we intended about the financial structures of WCU. Basically, both WCU and the WCU Foundation can demonstrate a clean audit, but the Poetry Center, which exists as a ‘black box’ within WCU, and is funded by donations via the Foundation, has never been audited. Dean Lori said in an email to me that “Mark Mixner is working with an external consultant to conduct a financial review of the Center’s work,” and we all got the heavily spun letter that said “the University will be commissioning an independent review of the Poetry Center’s finances.” A review is NOT an audit, and please do note the future tense of “will be.”
Because here’s the thing, folks: one obvious change is that the Poetry Center doesn’t really exist any more. Poetry House at 823 High St has been closed and locked since September 15th, which is why Dean Lori struggled so badly with the cancellation of the Women’s Leadership Retreat. Earlier today I learned that the various functions of the Poetry Center are already being parceled up and handed out to various Creative Writing Faculty members at WCU.
How can you conduct an independent review of a body that no longer exists? Is that, in fact, the fundamental point and purpose of all this?
I don’t want to get into finger pointing and naming/shaming, but it does seem to me that the most obvious chain of events here is the call for the Poetry Center audit, made on August 26th, Kim’s dismissal on September 15th, and the disembowelment of the Poetry Center than has happened since. It has even been suggested that there might be something dubious in the matching of the original NEH grant, and that this is what WCU administration are so desperate to hide, although now we are straying into theorizing.
Whatever it is, there is no doubt in my mind that WCU administration in general, and Dean Lori Vermeulen in particular, have handled everything about this situation appallingly badly, from the egregious dismissal of Kim to the idea that a world-renowned conference can be put on hiatus for a year with no ill effect. (What seems likely to happen there, by the way, is that there will be several splinter conferences in 2015–one at the “Writing the Rockies” conference in Colorado, and one or more in the North East. The task of fusing these splinters will then be even harder in 2016 should WCU admin be telling the truth about their desire to bring the conference home again.)
But what can be done? Well, if you haven’t done so, please sign the petition linked to above this post. The board meeting at which it will be presented is at the beginning of next week, and the more signatures, the better for Kim. Please note: the petition says nothing controversial and does not theorize–it merely praises Kim’s achievements and expresses bafflement at her dismissal.
Finally, I believe we should begin to question Dean Lori Vermeulen’s fitness for her current role, and depending on the outcome of the board meeting we should consider calling for her resignation. I, for one, have zero confidence in her ability to lead the WCU Poetry Conference out of the minefield into which she is responsible for having placed it.
The 2015 West Chester Poetry Conference has been cancelled. So, most probably, has the Women’s Leadership Summit (WLS) planned for November 21-23, 2014. [Update: as of Tuesday 9/30 a.m. the WLS has definitely been cancelled.] Both are fallout from the summary and absurd dismissal of Kim Bridgford as Director of the West Chester Poetry Center. However, much virtual ink has been expended on the former, and you probably didn’t even know about the latter, so why should you care? I suggest that if you care about Kim’s dismissal at least as much as you mind the Conference “hiatus,” then THIS is the West Chester cancellation that should have you asking questions.
I haven’t received official notification of this cancellation, [Update: I queried Dean Lori on Monday 9/29 and received the official notification the next morning] but as you can see from the invite, it’s definitely sponsored by West Chester Poetry Center, and if you visit the Center’s website, you will be notified that “due to a reorganization of the Poetry Center, all Fall 2014 events have been postponed.”
It’s relatively easy to cancel a conference that is almost 8 months distant, and for which the dates haven’t yet been set. Sure, you’ll have to break a few verbal contracts, and make an embarrassing phone call to former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, and you’ll have to deal with an irate community of poets (who may turn out to be a little more irate and community-spirited than you perhaps anticipated), but no money has changed hands, so no harm done, right?
The WLS is a different game entirely. The invitations went out around mid-August, and featured a pocket bio of keynote speaker Sarah Lewis, an offer of either a single or double room at the Pendle Hill Retreat Center in Wallingford, PA, and promised a full program “begin[ning] with orientation on Friday at 4:30 p.m. and…conclud[ing] after breakfast on Sunday.” I mailed my check on September 2nd, and it was deposited by WCU on September 16th. (Kim, in case you need reminding, was dismissed on September 15th.) I have heard from a number of other attendees whose checks have also been deposited. I assume that there is a contract with Pendle Hill, and another with Sarah Lewis. This Summit wasn’t just planned–it was organized!
So why cancel it?
If a male business executive is caught out in wrong doing (child porn, insider trading etc. etc.) they have to fire him and march him out the building. One assumes that were he the main driver behind a Men’s Leadership Summit, they would also have to cancel said Summit. (Apologies for the sexist nature of this analogy.)
But that’s not what we’re being told is going on here.
Kim has been “reassigned to full time teaching.” The poetry conference is on hiatus “due to a reorganization of the WCU Poetry Center.” The only thing that has been let slip about the reasons given by the administration for Kim’s dismissal is that she may have failed to work closely with the WCU Foundation in fundraising (Pat Valdata, Kim’s Temporary Assistant for the 2014 Conference, on the Eratosphere thread.) That is not an offense that requires you to be marched out the building.
As Wendy Sloan commented on Facebook, “Late Thursday afternoon, 9/11, a young woman from the Poetry Center returned my call to confirm that there would be van pickup from the train station to Pendle Hill. I think she said she was a graduate student. She said goodbye, saying she was looking forward to the Summit, and would see me there!”
There is simply no good reason why the WLS should not have proceeded with Kim at the helm, whether or not she were being “reassigned to full time teaching.” Canceling it will [has] cause[d] serious bureaucratic headaches and potential financial losses, should both Pendle Hill and Sarah Lewis insist WCU make good on their contracts, while WCU has to return us our money.
And that’s why you should care. The cancellation [(or “postponement” if you prefer)] of the WLS indicates that WCU is not being straight with us about the reasons for Kim’s dismissal. WCU wanted that Poetry Center shut down at any cost!
The question you all need to ask, and keep asking, is why?