Tuesday, February 08, 2011

MUFON Over Board - Save Our Ship

MUFON Over Board - Save Our Ship
          

     
By James Carrion
Follow The Magic Thread
2-6-11

James Carrion     After listening to MUFON International Director Clifford Clift’s interview on the Jerry Pippin show titled “MUFON Under Siege”, I was floored by Cliff’s statement that MUFON has an ethics committee. Apparently this committee investigated one of the MUFON State Directors that was recently fired from their position. Seriously? MUFON has an ethics committee? After what I have witnessed as blatant unethical behavior on the part of the MUFON Board over the last two years, I am astounded by its hypocrisy!

The MUFON Ethics Committee needs to turn its sights on its own Board of Directors whose actions during the MUFON-BAASS contract renewal periods were not only unethical but an outright derelict of duty by failing to properly represent the interests of MUFON’s members and the general public that MUFON serves as a non-profit organization.

Imagine for a minute that you are hired by a company and in your employment contract you are guaranteed a certain salary. Now imagine that as a condition of your employment, you are asked by your employer to keep detailed records on how you spend that salary. After five months on the job, the employer calls you into their office and states that your salary is going to be cut in half because your monthly spending reports show you are banking half of your salary. Further the employer states that placing half of your salary in savings was not in the “spirit” of your employment contract.

Sound outrageous? Absolutely! Yet, that is exactly what happened to the MUFON-BAASS contract. In a contract renewal letter dated June 25, 2009, Mr. Robert Bigelow stated that BAASS would cut MUFON’s monthly contract payment in half because “the accumulation of large sums of unspent money was not in the spirit of the BAASS-MUFON purchase agreement.”

Incredibly, the majority of the Board of Directors sheepishly went along with Mr. Bigelow’s demands. Their comments justifying their positions were interesting. Tom Deuley, MUFON Board member said that in his experience doing business in China, change of contract terms was common. Clifford Clift agreed with Tom’s assessment claiming similar experience in real estate.

What is wrong with these statements? First, this isn’t China and second MUFON already had a signed and legally binding straightforward purchase agreement. Yet, these Board members believed it was OK to change the contract terms five months after the deal was signed and sealed. When I mentioned this to an attorney friend of mine, her response echoed my assessment. “It doesn’t matter whether it was Robert Bigelow or Joe the Plumber signing the contract, BAASS had a legal contractual obligation to fulfill the terms of the contract or MUFON could have not only terminated the contract but sought damages.”

Before MUFON entered in to a contractual relationship with BAASS, I had a one on one telephone conference call with Mr. Bigelow and I specifically asked him about money left over at the end of each contract month that had not been spent on project expenses for that month. Mr. Bigelow stated in no uncertain terms that the money belonged to MUFON. When June 2009 rolled around, Mr. Bigelow evidently had a change of heart and not only demanded a reduction in the monthly contract amount but then at the second renewal period in October 2009, simply stopped sending project checks altogether. Mr. Bigelow further demanded that MUFON pay for ongoing project expenses from the funds left over in the bank. The end result of all of MUFON’s efforts when the project was terminated in January 2010 was zero dollars in MUFON’s project bank account.

Even before I resigned from MUFON, rumors were spreading around the organization and the Internet that I had embezzled money from MUFON and from BAASS funds. The truth is that I had not taken one dollar from either fund as confirmed by an independent CPA audit of the MUFON and BAASS books. Further, I had donated my $30,000.00 salary that I was authorized to draw from the BAASS project back to MUFON. BAASS suspected wrong doing before this independent audit, probably based upon the spreading rumors and demanded that MUFON Board member Jan Harzan turn over both sets of books to BAASS auditors.

Now, let’s examine this second incredible lapse of ethical judgment on behalf of the MUFON Board. They secretly turned over the financial books of a non-profit organization to a for-profit organization which had no right to audit MUFON’s accounts. Conveniently BAASS subsequently found clerical mistakes that it used to justify reneging on its contractual obligations under the law.

It was also around this time that the MUFON Board of Directors entered into secret negotiations with BAASS for renewing the contract, promising BAASS “complete transparency” while hiding their actions from me while I was still acting International Director.

In 2008, MUFON suffered a financial loss at its annual symposium in San Jose, California and I personally made up for the shortfall with $14,000.00 of my own funds. During the MUFON-BAASS project, the MUFON Board directed me to reimburse myself the $14,000.00 from BAASS project funds! I did not for two reasons. First this would have been a misuse of BAASS funds and secondly I had already paid income taxes on the $14,000.00 MUFON owed me and the only way to hide these payments from BAASS auditors was to show it as salaried income.

Later on after I resigned from MUFON, Clifford Clift in an email to me alluded that failing to reimburse myself from BAASS funds was insubordinate behavior against the MUFON Board. In other words I was disobeying the Board by not using BAASS project funds to cover MUFON’s shortfall. Just months earlier Clifford Clift when responding to BAASS inquiries into the rumored financial improprieties told BAASS that the MUFON Board was sorry for providing poor oversight of how I administered the BAASS project. Clifford conveniently forgot to mention the Board’s directive to me to draw funds from the BAASS account to pay for non-project expenses. The hypocrisy of this Board appears to have no bounds. MUFON finally paid me the money I lent the organization but only after I had my attorney intervene and threaten legal action.

All of these allegations of unethical behavior I make against the MUFON Board I can back up with detailed memos, MUFON Board meeting minutes, letters and emails. I dedicated ten years and thousands of hours to MUFON as an unpaid volunteer and almost four years as a salaried International Director. I worked hard to professionalize its investigative force and to fulfill its mission to the public.The people within the ranks of MUFON are good people who also volunteer their time and own financial resources to meet MUFON's goals. I still believe that the mission statement of MUFON is sound if rigidly adhered to and not compromised for the almighty dollar.

I don't wish MUFON to cease operation or to fade away, but an organization is only as sound as its ethical and moral compass. Once that compass is broken, it is a ship drifting aimlessly. The actions of this current MUFON Board are grossly negligent and unethical and if allowed to continue unchallenged will sink MUFON as an organization. The Board should be held accountable for its past actions. Setting an ethics committee on MUFON members while taking a blind eye to its own unethical behavior is what makes this MUFON Board destructive and toxic to MUFON. Perhaps the MUFON Board needs to be reminded of who it really serves as a non-profit. Hint, it is not a for-profit organization.

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