Saturday, July 13, 2013

YVONNE A.K. JOHNSON HAS BEEN OUSTED

WELCOME! 

In anticipation of new guests directed here by articles in various publications, I thought I should try to make it a little easier for you to catch up on things without making you wade through three year's worth of my incessant rambling. To that end, I have compiled links to some of the key moments in this three-year struggle in a single digest, The Collected Works of Civic Doody.

I would also like to take just a moment to address a couple items in the Inlander article of July 17, 2013. First, a couple things that weren't covered for lack of space:

  • I think it is crucial for an outside observer to know that since my termination from Civic, all of the other major theaters in the region (Interplayers, Lake City Playhouse, and Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre) have hired me knowing everything that occurred in October, 2010 and knowing full well that I was waging an ongoing campaign against my former employer. I think that speaks volumes about just how isolated Johnson and Civic were in their assessment of me and the choices they made regarding my employment.
  • If you're wondering how Johnson ended up on the hook for $10,000 after SHE sued ME, scroll down and read "The Wages of Bullying..." It's really a pretty fascinating story and one that demonstrates just what a bully she is.
  • You may also want to read up on the 2007 board clash that is briefly touched upon in the article. I did an exhaustive investigation into what happened called "A Question of Legitimacy."
  • While I think Daniel Walters was very fair and thorough in his coverage of this story, a new reader might well get the sense that Johnson has as many supporters as enemies. It is very difficult to quantify just how broad and deep is the animosity from those who have the most history with the theater and there was certainly no way to do it in time to make this week's deadline, so all I can do is assure you that this is a very lopsided debate and encourage you to find out for yourself. 

Do yourself a favor and stay tuned to this page. Developments are ongoing and I can promise that this is only the beginning of the end. Some major revelations are waiting in the wings until they can be disclosed responsibly. You can also like Civic Doody on Facebook for regular updates as they occur. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is 11:00am on July 12, 2013 and I can now report that Yvonne A.K. Johnson has been ousted by the Spokane Civic Theatre Board of Directors. 

A long and painful era has come to an end. It took too long, too many people were hurt, and irreparable damage was done...but it is over now.

[Now's the part where I ramble on a bit too long before I get to the good stuff. You should be used to this by now. Hang in there...]

You will probably assume I am thrilled beyond all comprehension...and in some respects you will be correct. This post was originally drafted for last Tuesday night, when we held a celebration at our home with some dear friends who have yearned for this day for a long time. (We planned it, under covert pretenses, to coincide with the board meeting at which she was supposed to be voted out.) I am thrilled for them and for all of you who have felt alienated from your theatre for too many years.

Obviously, I am also very, very happy to see the board of directors restored to something resembling healthy functionality and able to take bold action to end the terrible reign of Ms. Johnson. I will have more to say about where we go from here in terms of my grievance with the theatre itself. For now, I offer my most sincere congratulations to the board of directors on this momentous decision.

But if you think I derive any particular pleasure from the fall of the bully who devastated my family (and so many other people) - or that this makes us whole in any way - then you haven't been listening. If revenge had been my goal, then this would be a glorious day. But revenge has never been my goal. Justice has been my goal. Revenge and justice are not the same thing. Whereas revenge is merely the base desire to visit suffering upon the individual(s) that hurt you, justice entails a righting of the wrong that occurred. A righting of the wrong has not occurred for us. Just for example, Yvonne A.K. Johnson has banked somewhere in the neighborhood of (at least) $300,000 in total compensation since the day I was unjustly terminated from my $30,000/year job. Justice has not occurred for us. 

Then again, neither has revenge, really. As I've said over and over again, I have never sought to bring down Yvonne A.K. Johnson and I take no credit for this development. Johnson brought her own tragic downfall upon herself through a combination of epic narcissism, extreme stubbornness, and galling greed. A look back over the last three years (the time frame that I can speak with authority about) provides a veritable litany of truly terrible and ultimately self-defeating choices made by an individual with no external controls to reign her in. What's even more amazing is the amount of avoidable trouble Ms. Johnson created for herself.


Let's examine just a few simple examples of what I'm talking about. These are taken from my own experience, but similar tales are legion throughout the community:



  • Every single time that Yvonne A.K. Johnson was faced with an opportunity to take the high-road, she took the low road, as when she would not allow me to play the piano for David Gigler's funeral at the request of Troy Nickerson (and then only allowed me to attend on the condition that security be hired). From a cold and calculating public relations standpoint, what a public relations opportunity this was for her to look benevolent and above petty nonsense.
  • Every single time Yvonne A.K. Johnson could have avoided a conflict, she created one, as when she threw a temper tantrum upon learning of my donation of vocal coachings to a fundraiser that was held at Civic for a young man with an inoperable brain tumor. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to simply let it pass unremarked, but she just could not do it. She pulled the donation and angrily chastised the long-time volunteer who had accepted it.
  • Every single time Yvonne A.K. Johnson could have listened to the voices of the community she was hired to lead, she turned a deaf ear, as when she flatly rejected all pleas and a public petition to reconsider the rash decision to terminate me (and a bunch of others before and after). She has continued to ignore that community for years now, refusing to acknowledge the sheer volume of animosity that has developed toward her, resulting in a mass exodus of long-time Civic volunteers from the theater.
  • Every single time Yvonne A.K. Johnson could have accepted a reasonable proposal that would have been in the best interest of Spokane Civic Theatre and everyone involved, she chose the path of extreme intractability, as when she (through Civic's attorneys) rejected my offer to donate <www.spokanecivictheatre.org> and <www.spokanecivictheater.org> to the theatre; as when she rejected my offer to submit to binding mediation; as when she walked away from the table after I made a gesture of good faith when approached by an intermediary on her behalf.

Most bewildering are Ms. Johnson's failed attempts to silence Civic Doody through legal intimidation, as they have only brought unwanted negative attention to the theater. I've described those attempts in detail recently, so I won't repeat it all here, but I think one key point is worth discussing briefly...

It has become blatantly obvious that both attempts were begat by the very simple reality that Civic and Yvonne A.K. Johnson have been wrong about this from the beginning and that they have been throwing good money after bad in an effort to make it go away without ever having to acknowledge or atone for the wrongness of their actions. Ironically, a wise business person would have taken care of this a long time ago even if they had not been technically or morally in the wrong (which they very much were in this case). 
Let's imagine that scenario for a moment: Let's say, for the sake of argument, that I had actually done something to earn my termination. I still would not have been able generate broad community support for my cause unless an overwhelmingly negative perception of Johnson and the theater already existed. If my bad experience had been an isolated incident, if dozens of people had not experienced the extreme unpleasantness of Yvonne A.K. Johnson over the years, if the theatre had not become a toxic environment, you would not be reading this blog right now.

A wise business person would have realized that the effectiveness of Civic Doody was a symptom of a larger problem, regardless of the merits of my particular grievance. A wise business person would have sought to ameliorate the symptom and then cure the disease. Yvonne A.K. Johnson and Spokane Civic Theatre did neither. They attacked the symptom and ignored the disease until the situation was critical.


So what turned things around?

For starters, it must be said again that the board of directors has undergone a fundamental transformation. New members seem to have made the difference, effectuating change even among long-time members. It became increasingly clear to these members that Yvonne A.K. Johnson was "absolutely untethered," as one source put it. These new members provided some much-needed perspective and were clearly persuasive in bringing other members on-board. It now appears that whatever dysfunction remained over the last few months was really just another symptom of the underlying problem and that the new and improved board has taken great leaps toward healing. Make no mistake, they have a long way to go, but they seem to know that.

What else? 


Her recent humiliation in court was devastating. When the 2011 attempt to bully me into silence failed, Ms. Johnson decided to take matters into her own hands. According to my sources, not only did members of the board, manifesting revived sensibility and grit as a governing body, decline her requests to join the suit as co-parties, several expressed in no uncertain terms that they thought it was a bad idea and that Ms. Johnson should not proceed. She did.

You can imagine the board's surprise when Ms. Johnson's attorney contacted them with a request for $25,000 to cover all of the costs asssociated with Yvonne A.K. Johnson's failed suit. Actually, failed isn't the right word. She didn't just lose...she was slapped on the wrist with a $10,000 penalty for bringing such an egregiously unsubstantiated suit. Either way, this request was more or less laughed out of the proverbial room. 


[Actually, I am told that the Ogdens - Bob, who sits on the endowment board, and Margot, who is a non-voting member of the regular board - actually suggested that each board member should chip in $1000 to cover those costs. When that suggestion was bluntly rejected, they suggested that it be paid out of the endowment fund. Now this kind of corrupt crony bullshit is what has gotten Civic so far off-track and the Ogdens should leave the board immediately. To think that they didn't want to make a reasonable settlement offer to me at any time over the last three years (or, hell, give some raises to the staff) while they do want to piss away $25k to cover Yvonne A.K. Johnson's legal bullying is abhorrent. I wonder if they'll want to chip in to cover Ms. Johnson's legal fees when she sues Civic? In any case, the board also rejected that asinine suggestion.]

So that certainly cannot have helped her cause.

Okay, there's much more to say, but now is probably as good a time as any to shut up and let this all sink in. Stay tuned in coming days for more details of how and why this all went down.

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12 comments:

  1. How exciting it will be to audition for shows at Civic again knowing that roles are no longer being pre-cast.

    In regards to your Saga sir, well I think it is safe to say that the pen (or blog as it were) is mightier than the sword. Congratulations on this success in your journey.

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  2. What a stunning development! So rare to see this kind of outcome, where the bully does indeed reap what they have sown. Your unbelievable persistence in the face of everything that has occurred is something I can't even really get my head around. It is understandable that the ousting of YAKJ brings with it a plethora of emotions and reactions, and a strange mix of them at that. One can imagine feeling elated and saddened at the same time, especially considering the many opportunities given to avoid this most extreme outcome. Hoping you and your family can continue on your path to healing, and make the most of whatever comes next. For now, enjoy the "victory!"

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    1. You hit the nail on the head, RollyJolly, in describing the mix of feelings that have surrounded this outcome. Thanks for your thoughtful words.

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  3. MORE DETAILS, please. And make them salacious.

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  4. I am ecstatic that my self-imposed exile of 7+ years from Civic (after over 20 years as a director, actor, donor, Board member, ticket buyer, volunter and friend) can now come to an end. Hallelujah!

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  5. In regards to this, would you consider sharing your story with the media? My main concern is that the board is (at least at this moment) remaining silent. Thanks to some shoddy (and quite biased) reporting done by KXLY, (a station that has seen their on air talent recently cast in shows at Civic) the public at large is hearing a very one sided story.

    I understand that ultimately it is the responsibility of the board to attend to the media, I was just curious as to see whether you would feel it appropriate to share your story with a larger audience.

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    1. I think my side will be fairly represented in print in coming days. I do not feel drawn to the camera at all and would just as soon stay away from 15-second sound bytes. I'll leave those to Ms. Johnson. Thanks for your concern!

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  6. Joy in mudville at last! I grew up in Spokane, volunteered at Civic, did plays, directed, was on the board, etc. Spokane Civic Theatre stopped being a Civic Theatre soon after her arrival. She ousted good people, put her own narsistic freinds in places, and ran ramshod over that once great organization. It will now be a "Civic" theatre again, instead of the "Johnson Theatre". I feel so much better now know that there is a chance that the theatre will once again be in the hands of the people. Lets hope so anyway.

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  7. Put this blog in a book format and you will have a lot of sales in the 'true crime'and 'self-help law' (as if that is usually wise) departments. This blog makes for such an excellent read. I have 'wasted' over 5 hours today just reading most of the blog from sometime near the beginning (I think).

    You could probably sell it at that particular drinking establishment for $15 and make over a hundred sales. Plus I know you could probably get a lot of other sales from people not even in Spokane.

    Nicely written and very..... edge of the seat reading. I have followed most of this for the last year or so but to read it all in one sitting.... exciting and depressing.

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    1. I do think a complete record of this is something that I will eventually get around to when all is said and done. There's a ton of fascinating and bizarro stuff happening on the other end all this (the malicious blackmailer in Oregon) that I have not been able to write much about. When it's all added up, it makes for seriously weird and compelling stuff. Maybe a Kickstarter campaign is in order. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  8. It has been very interesting all of the information on Civic Doody and Facebook (thanks for linking it to me). It seems like that most people who like what is being said by Miss Johnson have not been around the theatre that long, friends from out of town or family. Yes, there is theatre community support too.

    When people say how can the board treat her like that, how about the way she has treated other people she has dismissed? Why doesn't anyone see that? Yes, she has done a great job financially and building improvements. But what I've seen and heard her people skills aren't great (only if you have something to give her)ask former employees and volunteers. That is very important for a Community Theatre.

    From my understanding when Mr. Ryan lost his appeal, that should have been the end. But Miss Johnson wanted to sue him (with board members recommending her not to) so she looses and want the Civic Theatre or the Civic Theatre Endowment to pay her fees of $25,000! That money should be going to the theatre.

    As for her glowing performance review, who reviewed her? The past board president Mike Muzatko(her friend and maybe the only one involved with it or did she write it?).

    As for finding out what the board's reasoning is, we will probably never find out,it should be confidential. As it has been said many times in the last few years "Washington is an At Will State", that applies to everyone.

    All I want to say is everyone, I know it is hard not to take side, and yes there are two sides. Please support the Spokane Civic Theatre and other local theatres and let attorney's battle this out. I would like to being able to go back and be part of Spokane Civic Theatre family.

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