In the days since my “outburst” (which, out of context it does appear as such though all of this has been ongoing for some time), I have seen a lot of misconceptions on several points. Today I would like to clear up some of those points.
“He quit and therefore he has no right to anything.” While it is true that I left “willingly”, you have to understand the circumstances as to why.
Prior to my departure, a few of us huddled up and got into the “Let’s get this in order” mode. We held meetings, we assigned new roles to new people and we began to dive in to really get things put together for year 5 and beyond. I assigned Susie to a more active, year round, role and she was to be my #2 in all things HavenCon. She had shown she was organized, detailed oriented, and above all had the follow through to get stuff done.
We worked tirelessly and were making good progress until the topic of hiring her accountant brother came up. I had asked her to approach him for advice on our taxes, etc (meanwhile, we were STILL waiting on our determination letter from the IRS which was holding a lot of things up) while I began talking to another individual to come on as a member of the board as our treasurer. This individual had worked for the IRS and currently works for the state and so they really knew their stuff. And, again, they were very willing to come on board and help us. Previously the person who was supposed to be helping with finances and tax stuff had done 0 things which caused those things to fall back on me. I’m not a tax expert, but I asked for advice and read hours and hours of information to try and get a good grasp on it. But, like many other things, I did my best to get it done but still needed help. Having 1000 tasks to complete throughout the year and no follow through from others on offered assistance, things can happen.
When Susie approached us about hiring her brother, I had already brought up the fact that I wanted to bring on the new treasurer (it’s documented in the board meeting notes) and therefore should not have come as a surprise. I also let it be known that if were going to pay someone I wanted to:
A. Know who they are (meet and talk with them myself).
B. Hire someone from the community we represent (we should be empowering/employing members of marginalized groups…period.)
C. Make sure there was not a conflict of interest per the COI document we had just been working on (nepotism was a possibility with her being an executive as well as almost becoming the secretary of the foundation and that being her brother. She turned down the secretary role during the board meeting).
This is when she got upset and we all decided that it would be a good idea to take a break for that night.
Fast forward a day or two.
Susie returns to the foundation chat and dumps this on me:
(Paraphrased because I don’t have the logs, they do and said they would release them, but have not.)
“Shane, you keep moving the goal posts, it is frustrating. Everyone is frustrated, you have to change things NOW or I will leave and that will look bad because 2 other females have already quit.”
That’s like, not even half of what was said, but these are the main points.
Let’s break it down:
“You keep moving the goal post”: No, I don’t. The goal of supporting our community and putting on a good show is always the same. The (oh god am I using sports metaphors right?) plays we use to get to the goal posts will ALWAYS change. That’s the nature of the business. It can be frustrating, I get frustrated regularly, welcome to running a convention.
“You have to change things NOW”: What in the holy hell do you think I was doing?? WE were creating well defined roles and responsibilities to help manage expectations of our staff. WE were working on foundation stuff. We started weekly hangouts to cover things. WE were changing things. So, am I hallucinating all of this? Or was I actually ACTIVELY working on making changes? What it seems to me is, you wanted ALL of the control while I wanted to divvy up the responsibilities among people that had the experience, were interested in helping and would follow through. But because YOU didn’t get everything you asked for all at once, you wanted to throw a fit, make me look, sound and feel bad in the hopes of what? The only logical end I can come up with is the result that occurred.
“I will leave and that will look bad because 2 other females have already quit.”: This is the part that just blows my mind. This veiled threat of calling me out for sexism. As I said the night you posted everything (even though, as I had warned I had had a few drinks and probably shouldn’t say anything at that moment) and reiterated the next day. HOW DARE YOU. I was raised by 2 very strong women, my mother and my grandmother, who taught me to respect everyone equally and that gender alone doesn’t signify strength. Sure you later went back and said “just pointing it out for optics”…but to me this was low. This is something that, if you wanted to, would destroy a person on many levels. To even suggest it is the worst kind of tactic I can think of.
Let’s also look at the circumstances as to why the other 2 left or weren’t directly involved:
One left because they wanted to be paid for their work, and none of us got paid for our work. They knew that, they asked, I said it would be nice and maybe it’s something to discuss in the future once we’re stable, but at this time we can’t offer compensation and so they quit.
The other had complaints against them from attendees and I was not going to put them in a position to allow that to happen again. They were “verbally aggressive with me” is not something that you like to hear. They can still work on things behind the scenes (which I think is more than most con runners would allow) but they should not be in a position of high stress that forces them to interact with the attendees.
With the tone and delivery of this message, it was like I had just walked into a bears den during the spring thaw. My fight or flight mechanism kicked in immediately. But, as I have stated before, because of everything else going on in my life I didn’t have the fight in me. I literally said “I do not have the mental fortitude to deal with this”. Nobody else in the chat was coming to my aid, nobody wanted to point out the good that was happening. They sided with Susie and I felt alone. And so, I chose flight. There were some “no, don’t do that…I’d be sad if you went” but it’s what happened next that really drove home that they weren’t interested in me staying. They..got..to..work. They did more work in the 15 minutes of me saying I would leave than I have seen over the course of months if not years (some exceptions apply, mostly around drama). But there were spreadsheets and drafts of announcements and everything else to see me off quickly. These actions just added to the thoughts of “They really don’t care if I’m here or not…they..they wanted this”.
During this process I started to back up my email account and delete it, I had years of work that was mine and it was not something I wanted others to have. That and there were some personal things attached to the account that I would prefer others not to see (my Android was attached, so a lot of things were accessible..that’s all I’ll say). And that is where I had hoped it would remain..deleted and I could maybe work with them to get them information, at my discretion, that they may need sometime in the future once things calmed down. But they chose to reactivate it and go through everything. That’s not really the issue, the issue is Michael (the current ED) LIED about who was doing it and what was being sorted through.
Immediately after I left I lost it. I felt disconnected, abandoned, alone…I just watched everything I worked hard for vanish in a blink of an eye. The money I invested to start the convention, gone. I sold everything I own, cashed in every bit I had to create this show. And now, people who didn’t give 2 shits about me or the meaning behind it all were now in charge. I fell into the deepest depression that I’ve ever felt in years (the last time was after a very abusive relationship ended). I tried cracking jokes, I tried putting on my tough face. But inside I was dying. And I started to self actualize that in the real world.
There was also a sense of guilt that came shortly after. A sense of guilt of what I wrote in my “resignation” letter. It was false, it wasn’t what I was feeling it didn’t speak to the truth (some things are true, I did need to focus on my health). But really I had hoped that with proper organization I could remain on with HavenCon to see it become what it should be, what I always wanted it to be. To help it grow and reach more people that needed a Haven.
I wrote a Facebook post not long after explaining to my friends and family what had happened. The support I received helped me little by little to get out of my darkness…and, ok, the furries helped too by providing an escape (which is why I love the fandom).
After a bit I found my fight again. Some folks expressed that they didn’t want to support the show with the way things had happened and thought I should try and reclaim it. But to be honest, I don’t want the event back. I don’t want the foundation back. But I did decide that, what I do want is the name. The name I created and grew over the past 5 years. I don’t want people who did minimal work with maximum gain to use the name I created, nurtured and..just..felt at my very core. I don’t want people who can, even vaguely, imply sexism against a person who opened up their world to someone who isn’t even a member of the community to have control of a space where this should not be acceptable.
And so, I chose to trademark the name HavenCon and all associated assets with it (images, domain, etc) and approach the current leadership in an attempt to resolve this amicably.
I sent an email on June 25th that I would “give them” the foundation (web domain, etc) in exchange for returning HavenCon and the assets to me. I asked them to respond with a decision within 3 days, and the response sounded more like a brush off (“We sent this to our lawyer, you’ll hear back next week”). It was not an attempt to open dialog as I had expressed my intent to do. They instead immediately went on the defense.
And so I chose to take action. I own the domain havencontx (this one) and decided that I would no longer allow them to use it. Which included email. I shut everything down (suspended the accounts, nothing was deleted) and began the process of reclaiming the other accounts I created back before any of them came on board. THEY don’t have 4 years of emails (most of them haven’t even had an email for an entire year yet), I do.
It was not my intent to use these accounts, at all, but then I saw their “strategy” on how to deal with me.
That strategy is nothing more than a smear campaign.
“You left them with a ton of debt!”
They are claiming (no dollar amounts) excessive back taxes and other bills left unpaid. Both are true! We had bills and all of that fun stuff. But again, I think perspective is important. Taxes were being handled and extensions were being filed once the Treasurer was hired and we received our determination letter for the IRS so we could apply for exemption with the state of Texas. Those taxes amount to (last I checked) roughly $1300.
The other owed amounts are:
Music License – this is something that needed to be discussed with AV as there were questions regarding even needing it.
Kindful – This was our new donor management system that I paid for a few months ago, which BTW, never got used as I was waiting on the current ED (Michael) to set up quick books with it so we could put it to good use. I also thought this would be auto billed to my personal bank account (I offered to pay the first month to get us started).
I’m not sure of any others off the top of my head, but all told the total amount outstanding doesn’t (or barely) breaks $3,000. Whereas they want to make it sound like it’s 10s of 1000s of dollars. Even still, this was money I was actively working on raising before my departure.
They also fail to acknowledge that there wouldn’t be a year 5 if I hadn’t paid the remaining balance owed to the current hotel. The “benefactor” that was doing donation matching was me. I put in $800 of my own money to help pay that off.
“So what are you going to do now?”
Currently I am waiting on the (long) process of the trademark clearing and then I will issue cease and desist letters. I had hoped they would respect my wishes (as they recently said they were going to do) but instead they have doubled down and created more accounts using the havencon name vs creating accounts with a new name. I know it all takes time (BELIEVE ME I KNOW lol). But for me actions have always been louder than words.
Anywho..that’s a big chunk to take in, and I know there is more, but it’s time for me to venture out to the real world again (boooo).
If you have questions, please post them in the comments, I will always respond openly and honestly.
Have a great weekend everyone!