Wednesday, June 25, 2014

De-Scandalized

As you may or may not have noticed, I've been mercifully distracted by more important things in life than this nonsense as of late. Also, developments have slowed to a trickle, what with pending court proceedings backed up endlessly. At this point, the soonest Yvonne A.K. Johnson's appeal of the anti-SLAPP ruling could be heard is in September, but even that is not a sure thing. There's just three to five oral argument dates each month, so it's a matter of waiting to get on the docket. Her suit against Spokane Civic Theatre appears to have been continued into January of 2015. So, you know...there probably won't be any major developments for a while.

It's kind of nice to not be focused on it so much, but it also postpones indefinitely the point at which I'll be able to be fully disentangled from Yvonne A.K. Johnson for good. And so I still have days when I get a little sidetracked by the unresolved frustration of it all. Today, I found myself engaged in something of a thought experiment regarding the fundamental nature of how my termination played out from the beginning.

It's obviously really difficult to divorce thinking about all this from the salacious aspect of the story. It's damn near impossible, really. (I apologize if you're not "in the know." You'll have to do your own research because I don't feel like recapitulating it here.) It went like this: Event A (scandalous stuff) occurred, setting wheels in motion that led to Event B (my termination). Right? Well...not really. I mean, everyone who was close enough to Spokane Civic Theatre to really know the whole story knows that Event B was probably a foregone conclusion and that Event A merely provided a miraculously convenient (from her perspective) excuse. In other words, Yvonne A.K. Johnson probably would have fired me sooner or later because she's more-or-less incapable of working with anyone that isn't a cowering pool of sycophantic jelly. Which I am not. 

(I want to assure you here that I have exhaustively explored, at the behest of many, many people, the theory that Event A was somehow orchestrated by one or more individuals involved in Event B. I understand the desire to find order in the chaos and that's certainly how the John Grisham version would turn out, but I just have not found anything even remotely conclusive to keep that theory alive.)

So just step back for a moment and reimagine the whole thing as if Event A had never happened. Imagine that, after moving across the country to take what I thought was a three-year contract, Yvonne A.K. Johnson just called me into her office one day and said "You know, this isn't working out and since this is an at-will state I think we'll just go our separate ways. Have a nice day." (Now we all know she wouldn't have been that decent about it. She would have accused me of something terrible or questioned my mental state—both things she did to other people—but still, let's just pretend that's how it went down.) What would have been the reaction to that?

My first thought is that it would have been severely muted—that the scandal actually riled people up on its own terms. But when I really think about it, I see that the reimagined scenario would have been even more offensive. I mean, you can't just drag a family across the country for a "trial period" to see if you like someone or not...at least not under the guise of a three-year agreement. That's just not something you do. If that's your intent, you hire locally or you make it extremely clear that continued employment is very much an open question based on a highly unpredictable rubric consisting of one person's mercurial impulses.

I guess what I'm saying is that I think that is exactly what happened. This isn't a new thought exactly, but I've always kind of leaned on the scandal story because a) it's nearly impossible to escape its grasp and b) it seemed like the stronger argument. I don't mean to say that I made a cynical, PR decision to lean on it, but rather that of the arguments available to me as a result of Yvonne A.K. Johnson's and Spokane Civic Theatre's actions, that seemed the only plausible one to make. And it is probably the case that I did not have a choice in the matter. The scandal was not going to go away—especially not after the "protect the children" speeches. Still, I was riveted today by contemplation of the un-sensationalized version of the story and its implications. 

To be sure, the scandal will haunt me for the rest of my days. I was recently recommended for a pretty major job opportunity and made it through to a second interview. It's not a job I applied for or had any real qualifications for, but apparently I am (if I may be immodest for a moment) impressive enough to have been recommended and then considered seriously. That interview was cancelled the day before it was scheduled due to "a decision to hire from within." Now maybe that's really what happened. Or maybe my "Google Problem" is what happened. And that is the kind of uncertainty I'll live with for the rest of my life as a result of what Yvonne A.K. Johnson and Spokane Civic Theatre did to me.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programming...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves

Well, it looks like the hearing date for Yvonne A.K. Johnson's appeal of the anti-SLAPP ruling against her will not happen until September at the very earliest. The Court of Appeals, Division III, has posted the cases it will hear on its June docket—after which the court takes a summer recess—and we're not on it. In fact, we're quite a ways down the list of cases waiting to be heard, which means it could be even later than September. And there's no telling how long after the hearing a ruling will be issued. Hopefully not much longer than a month, but one never knows.

And so it goes. And goes. And goes. And goes...

Here's what's worse: In addition to having to continue to fight Yvonne A.K. Johnson's suit that Spokane Civic Theatre launched with initial funding, we continue to deal with very practical consequences. Just this week, I submitted an application for a really great civil service job for which I am extremely well qualified. The initial application included the question: "Have you ever been discharged (fired) or resigned (quit) in lieu of discharge?" Under oath of application, I had no choice but to reply that I had. I have no idea whether this will preclude me from getting the job, but it certainly won't help, will it? If Civic had taken the extraordinarily easy and reasonable step of expunging my termination record, I could have answered that question differently.

As much as I want to support my friends who have reclaimed their theatre and are about to open Gypsy...as much as I want to wish them broken legs and such...I think it should be clear why I cannot. Spokane Civic Theatre continues to hinder my ability to reclaim my own life. It's not that I harbor ill will necessarily. I don't at all. I'm glad for them. It's just that I can't really support them because doing so would be supporting an institution that continues to do harm to my family.

Now, in the interest of not ending on a dour note, I'd like to CHER something with you that is apropos of nothing but the title of this post:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

CiviCatch-22

PLEASE NOTE: This is obviously NOT the official site of Spokane Civic Theatre. That can be found at www.spokanecivictheatre.com. This site is here for the purposes of commentary and criticism. There is nothing for sale on this site, nor is the site itself for sale. If you would like to purchase tickets for The Tempest, The Moustrap, SUDS, The Three Musketeers, Becky's New Car, Gypsy, or any other event at Spokane Civic Theatre, please visit THIS LINK to Spokane Civic Theatre's ticketing page.

If you're new to Civic Doody, you can catch up on things HERE.

This is just a friendly little reminder that exactly three and a half years have passed since I received my separation letter from Yvonne A.K. Johnson and Spokane Civic Theatre. That's 42 months...or 182 weeks...or 1278 days.

Yvonne A.K. Johnson has been gone for over nine months and yet, despite repeated assurances, Civic has yet to make even the smallest gesture toward resolving its endless dispute with yours truly. I have on many occasions suggested that they could demonstrate good faith just by taking the tiny, 100% FREE step(s) of officially expunging my termination record and/or issuing a formal apology. No such action has ever been taken. That wouldn't be so surprising except that they have asked me to cooperate with their attorneys in defending against Johnson's suit. It's kind of hard to wrap my head around the chutzpah required to ask that of me, especially given the fact that I continue to fight the legal battle that Civic's board helped Johnson launch with financial support—and yet, for reasons that are increasingly difficult to justify to myself, I fully agreed to do so.

I was buttered up in a phone call from Larry Woolley, who claimed to have "accidentally dialed" me. "But since I've got you on the phone," he went on to make vague promises about making things right. Oh, and also, could I please cooperate with their attorneys, since, you know, the enemy of my enemy is my friend? (I had actually agreed to cooperate even before Larry's call, but he didn't know that apparently.) Another interesting thing happened in that call from Larry. Days earlier, I had reached out to Civic's new artistic director, Keith Dixon. I mostly just wanted to say that I had heard wonderful things about him and that I wished him the best. I also said this:
I occasionally find it healthy to engage in some delusional thinking, if only to get it off my chest and move on. What follows is a bit of that... 
So I've largely shifted life gears. I’m working for a...non-profit (writing grants, fundraising...etc.) while working on [a Master's degree]. That said, I’m still sorting out what I want to be when I grow up—and I’d be lying if I said that the ultimate goal wouldn’t be something that combines the old life with the new. Fully realizing that such a scenario would be fraught (if not outright prohibited in writing), I just wanted to say that under the right circumstances (i.e. the installation of the right person as AD), I would consider returning to Civic. I came here to do good work with good people and that remains my chief professional goal, whatever field I end up in. I was the right person for the job three and a half years ago and my skill set has only broadened since the series of unfortunate events that ended my short tenure.
I did not expect to get a response — and, indeed, I did not get one from Keith. Rather, I got one from Larry Woolley, who revealed that Keith had shared the content of my message with him. Larry said that he told Keith that he "thought it was too soon to have that discussion." The only conclusion I could draw from Larry's characterization of that conversation was that Keith had actually considered my offer seriously and raised the possibility with Larry. This was both deeply satisfying and seriously frustrating. Forget that the proposition presents a ridiculously commonsense, positive path for resolving things and moving forward. I'm not even 100% sure it would have worked for me. (I said I would consider it.) But too soon? Too soon??? What kind of warped glacial calendar are we operating on here? Still, this all struck me as a positive development overall.

Shortly thereafter, I caught wind that Larry was "freaking out" over some of the documents that I had handed over to Johnson's attorney in connection with the Civic lawsuit — in response to a subpoena, mind you. Once again, I was stupefied by the gall required to be pissed at me. It also left me feeling hopeless once again after allowing myself to feel marginally (naively?) hopeful about Larry's call.

And this is the Catch-22 I am caught in. Civic would like me to sit quietly, jump when they say jump, and not piss them off in any way...all on the vague promise that maybe, possibly, someday they'll do right by me and my family. I am writing this post knowing that it will piss them off and possibly make a resolution less likely—but that possibility is premised on the idea that they actually intend to seek a resolution. If they are actually just placating me with no good faith intentions whatsoever, it could be argued that taking the pressure off and not writing this post makes a resolution less likely. It might just be aiding and abetting them in an effort to coast by on the goodwill afforded them by the removal of Yvonne A.K. Johnson and the installation of a new artistic director this summer.

I have never been given any concrete reason to believe that they have good intentions (aside from the words of one board member I know and trust—which may or may not be representative of what the entire board can/will do). I really did/do want to cooperate. I think it's in everyone's best interest to put Yvonne A.K. Johnson as far in the past as possible. It's just that it sure would be nice to see Civic take one step in my direction instead of always asking me to make unilateral gestures on the promise that at some indefinite later time on some unspecified future date they might do the right thing. 

And so, while a lot has changed and the show goes on at Civic, not a single, solitary thing has changed with regard to what Spokane Civic Theatre did to my family.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Gone Fishin'

Subpoenas are a-flyin'! Yvonne A.K. Johnson has filed her witness list with the court in the case of Johnson v. Civic, beginning what appears to be a ridiculous fishing expedition in search of something, anything to hang her pathetic excuse for a lawsuit against Spokane Civic Theatre on. Unfortunately, that's going to be a great big pain in the butt for some people.

So let me back up. I actually was served with my subpoena way back in November. As you will see if you click that link, it basically wanted every document in my possession related to Spokane Civic Theatre dating back to before I had ever even heard of the place. Fortunately for me, because Yvonne A.K. Johnson appealed the SLAPP ruling, my representation is still being paid for by my insurance company. We objected on that grounds that their request was:
...overbroad, unduly burdensome, vague and ambiguous, seeking information that is neither relevant to the matter in controversy, nor likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence at trial, seeking information protected by the work-product doctrine and attorney-client privilege, and seeking to impose upon [me] obligations beyond those required by CR 45. Johnson's subpoena is an obvious attempt to conduct discovery in Johnson v. Ryan, Spokane County Superior Court Cause No. 13-2-01362-7, wherein Johnson's suit was dismissed pursuant to Washinton's anti-SLAPP statute, currently on appeal." 
Unsurprisingly, Johnson filed a Motion to Compel Compliance with the subpoena. A hearing date of January 31 was set. (It is worth noting that they did this while we were in the middle of writing our response brief for the Court of Appeals, which was due on February 3rd.) We filed our Opposition to Plaintiff Yvonne A.K. Johnson's Motion Motion to Compel, but we simultaneously said (I'm paraphrasing here) "Hey...you know what? We're happy to turn over materials that could conceivably be considered related to your suit." That boiled down to "(1) correspondence with the board, as it could, conceivably, document the board's knowledge, information, or actions; and (2) correspondence with others regarding knowledge of and information related to Johnson's termination, which could conceivably document the board's knowledge, information or actions in discussing the same." Knowing full well that they would get nothing more than that from the judge, they accepted our offer (retaining their right to refile at a later date) and the hearing was cancelled.

Now it's time for other parties to deal with this garbage. To date, I am aware that Patrick Treadway, Abbey Crawford, Chris Wooley, Wendy Klaue and Troy Nickerson have all received subpoenas requesting
...any and all correspondence, documents, diaries, letters, electronic communications, including, but not limited to, text messages; social media posting, messages, and chats; instant messages; and electronic mail correspondence, draft and final, personal and/or professional, within your personal control and possession; relating to (a) James Ryan; (b) Yvonne Johnson; (c) Spokane Civic Theatre; (d) Spokane Civic Theatre's Board of Directors; (e) Larry Wooley; (f) Robert Mielbrecht; (g) the website and/or Facebook for "civic doody;" (h) Joanne Keyes; and/or (h) the termination of the Spokane Civic Theatre's Executive Artistic Director from January 1, 2010 to the present. (emphasis added)
This is just bald-faced nonsense and they know it — or they would have taken their motion to compel evidence from me all the way to the judge. There is simply no justification for seeking this sort of information from parties that were mere bystanders, as I was, to the termination of Yvonne A.K. Johnson from Civic. This is nothing more than a nuisance that will needlessly waste the time and energy of people who have far better things to do, even if Ms. Johnson does not.

In other news...

  • It looks like the hearing on the Johnson v. Ryan appeal won't take place until June at the earliest. If I prevail on the appeal, there's always the possibility that Johnson will appeal to the Supreme Court of the State of Washington. If Johnson wins, that takes us back to square one, back in the Superior Court. 
  • I have received confirmation that the Spokane Civic Board of Directors did, in fact, pay Johnson's original attorney some amount of money to launch her suit against me in the first place. I've heard the excuse that this was a deliberate ploy to ensure that her attorney could not then turn around and participate in a lawsuit against the theater. (Having paid her attorney directly would have created a conflict of interest.) I'm not sure how compelling I find that excuse, nor am I sure how much solace its truth would give me as I continue to defend myself against this nonsense.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Johnson v. Ryan - Court of Appeals Briefs

Now that they've been published by the Court of Appeals, I can share these with you. Johnson's Reply Brief is not up yet, but I will add it to the bottom of this post when it is. I can't add much commentary to these at the moment, but the time for that will come soon enough. In the meantime, stay tuned for news about the subpoenas that have been flying all over town in the case of Johnson v. Spokane Civic Theatre.

Johnson v. Ryan - Appelant's Amended Opening Brief