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) " 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

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Loudermill Hearings

So I'm sitting through a lecture in my Collective Bargaining class this weekend, minding my own business, when my professor starts talking about something called "Loudermill Meetings." This refers to a set of due process requirements established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985 that apply whenever an employee's "'property interest' in a job may be in jeopardy due to a disciplinary action."

Here's how the process was presented in class:

  • Prior to Employer deciding on a disciplinary action:
    • Employer must conduct an investigation
    • Employer must schedule a meeting with employee letting employee have time to have representative present and letting them know range of disciplinary action being considered and the reason for it.
    • Meeting must allow employee opportunity to tell their side of the story in a non-threatening manner, with representative present if desired by employee.
  • Subsequently, Employer should consider all evidence before disciplinary action.

Now, while my professor felt sure that it applied to all employees universally, my reading of the law indicates that this applies just to public employees, though there are references to it being expanded to include any employee in such a situation. Whatever the case may be, the process was clearly established because it is a fair and judicious way to handle delicate situations without rushing to judgment and wreaking havoc.

I know this is a weird time to be revisiting the particulars of my termination, but obviously this just sort of jumped out at me after all these years because...well, because who knew that there was a remarkably well established roadmap for leadership to follow in this kind of situation? I sure as hell didn't...because I'm not in management. It wasn't my job to know, nor would I have been in any position to implement the process. It was Yvonne A.K. Johnson and the board of directors' job to know how to proceed.

I knew the situation was handled piss-poorly, but I didn't know that it was handled in almost exactly the opposite manner as had been prescribed by the Supreme Court of the United States 25 years earlier. Here's how it went down in October, 2010:

  • No investigation was ever conducted.
  • A meeting was scheduled...on a Sunday, with less than six hours' notice. When I indicated my interest in having a representative present with me (totally unaware that my instincts were, apparently, 100% correct) and protested that I didn't see how that could possibly happen by 4:45pm on a Sunday after receiving notice of this meeting at 11:07am (via email), I was basically told "Oh, never mind. You're fired." 
  • I was never given the opportunity to tell my own side of the story once I was aware that disciplinary action was a possibility.
  • There is no indication that any evidence was considered beyond the anonymous, blackmail message, as evidenced by the fact that I was never asked for any of the evidence that would have been crucial in making a fair determination.

Learning of the existence of the Loudermill Rights, even if they wouldn't necessarily have applied to me, was a bit of a shock to my system. I mean, this is basically what I've said all along...that if anyone had stopped and taken half of a hot minute to look at the situation calmly and rationally, we wouldn't be where we [still] are today. Turns out, smart people figured out a long time ago that you can avoid ugly situations if you do just that.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Civic's New Artistic Director

PLEASE NOTE: This is obviously NOT the official site of Spokane Civic Theatre. That can be found at 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.

The Inlander has just confirmed that Yvonne A.K. Johnson has been replaced. And by all accounts, Civic made a terrific choice in hiring Keith Dixon who will be leaving Theatre Baton Rouge after ten seasons to come take the helm in Spokane. A longtime personal acquaintance of Mr. Dixon (a person I trust, incidentally...not a stranger from out of the blue) contacted me this morning to say that Keith is a first-rate person and professional and that Spokane will be lucky to have him. 

I took the opportunity to check out the current composition of Civic's board of directors and found that, indeed, there are are some fresh and exciting new faces, including Ron Rector, who returns after his brief and tempestuous tenure at the beginning the long, dark Era of Yvonne. All of this seems to bode well for the community. 

Lastly, I can tell you that both of the opening briefs in Johnson v. Ryan have been filed in the Court of Appeals, Division III. I will link to them as soon as they are published by the court. Johnson's reply to our brief will be due at the beginning of March, at which point a hearing date will be set, probably for sometime this summer.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Settlement in Salem

Well, the case in Salem, Oregon has been settled. I must first emphasize that the terms of the settlement do not "constitute an admission, directly or indirectly, by any party of the truth of or of their liability of responsibility on account of or with respect to any of the matters or things alleged in an pleading in the lawsuit." Still, it's a settlement and it brings that sad chapter to a close. The bad news is that we didn't even break even in terms of what we paid our attorney to sue the bastard. Even under the generous partial-contingency arrangement our attorney made with us (we paid him just $50/hour and he takes about a quarter of the settlement, rather than a third), we'll still have lost a couple thousand dollars. Sure, it's nice to get a chunk of change back now, but it still hurts a bit.

So why did we settle? Essentially, it boiled down to a question of diminishing returns. We've known ever since we first identified the culprit that he had very shallow pockets from which to extract anything even remotely resembling real justice. We decided that it was worth spending a specific amount of money to hold him accountable, even if we never saw any of that money again—and for what it's worth, we didn't spend even half of that predetermined figure.

When the initial pressure of a suit didn't get the kind of movement we had hoped for, we considered dropping it, having made our point, but we thought it was profoundly important to get the bastard on the record in a deposition. We just thought he needed to face the music in that way. Also, we genuinely wanted to know what he'd say, holding out the faintest hope that under penalty of perjury he might reveal the truth and maybe we'd learn his motives once and for all.

In particular, we wanted to know how he'd respond when asked about the visit he'd received from the FBI, from whom we'd gotten the impression, but no confirmation, that he'd confessed. Sure enough, we hit some pay dirt there. He indicated that he had, indeed, confessed to the FBI agent. This was also confirmed in the documents I received from the FBI in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request. In the deposition, he claimed that he had falsely confessed in order to protect the company from further intrusion by a full FBI investigation. This didn't really pass the smell test, particularly given that, by his own admission, he never told anyone about his heroic efforts on behalf of the company prior to the deposition. Not even to save his job, apparently, which he lost shortly after my visit to Salem in early 2012.

Also, his wife knew nothing about this episode until the subpoena arrived. Her deposition was quite sad. She seemed like a lovely lady, but one in severe denial about the type of man her husband is. Something tells me this made it harder for her to deny.

I don't know how much he spent defending himself, but it's hard to imagine that it was much less than $20,000. Once again, I'm apparently supposed to view all of this as a victory of sorts. I suppose I see the point—and I've definitely reached a sort of peace with the conclusion, if only because there's really no alternative. This allows me to close the book by closing off the road to further action. I'm literally barred from pursuing it any further. That is a relief worth its weight in gold.

One down...