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A Tale Of Two "Can’t Stop The Serenity" Cities

The One True b!X

Thursday 19 June 2008, by Webmaster

While I no longer have any authority to speak on behalf of the worldwide Can’t Stop the Serenity effort, and can comment only from the combined perspectives of being the event’s founder, part of this fandom, and an observer, I post the following message because no one else seemed willing to do so until after this year’s events had passed.

Their argument was that making this information public might endanger this year’s worldwide CSTS events. My argument is that it is entirely unethical not to make this information public.

Here’s the short of it: Equality Now has indicated that they never received the money raised in 2007 by the Can’t Stop the Serenity events held in either Denver or Dallas/North Texas.

In the case of Denver, the person ultimately responsible for the estimated $1,900 raised — the co-organizer there who was serving as the event’s accountant — apparently has since disappeared and reportedly become completely incommunicado. That money, as near as anyone can tell, simply is gone forever, although no one knows why. Equality Now reports having no record of those funds.

In the case of Dallas/North Texas, the roughly $5,600 raised wound up in the account of the lead organizer there and got “lost”. He currently is under a signed agreement to make monthly payments over the next two years to Equality Now.

The fact that these two cities had “missing” funds has been known for some time — at least since February, in fact (although this year’s new organizer in Dallas/North Texas did not know until about a month or so ago and has been instrumental in getting the situation addressed).

I had thought that it was the right thing to do to wait until this year’s organizers in Denver and Dallas/North Texas made public statements on their own regarding 2007’s funds. But we are far, far past the point at which those statements should have been made, either by the current organizers in those cities, or by this year’s global coordinator.

It is important to take note here that these events are not run by Equality Now itself, but by fans. The only role Equality Now has in this entire process is to accept our donations — or report back that they have not received them. The onus of publicly disclosing problems with CSTS fundraising events rests with CSTS itself and no one else.

While this year’s organizers in both cities on Wednesday posted a statement to other CSTS organizers, the global coordinator (and some other local organizers) requested that those statements and the facts they contain not be made public. I disagreed with the notion of a delay, as I have for some time now.

The event-going public has the right to know what happened. There is no ethically-defensible way in which to withhold the fact that someone’s money did not go where it was supposed to, while asking them to give more money again this year.

That’s true even if the organizers this year are different, and processes have been put into place to prevent it from happening again (as they have been). The relevant people in both Denver and Dallas/North Texas are out, and new rules exist. The organizer in Dallas/North Texas is different, and the organizer in Denver, while not new to the event, was not that event’s accountant in 2007.

But even beyond the right of local event-goers to know, the fandom as a whole also has the right to know. Those two individuals are, for whatever reasons, in effect responsible for the fandom being bilked out of several thousand dollars being raised in its name.

It’s especially shocking and frustrating (if there’s even any way in which to rank these incidents) to see what happened in Dallas/North Texas. Not only was the individual in question the local organizer there, but he was 2007’s global coordinator — that year’s public face for the overall global event. To my mind, it’s unforgivable and inexcusable.

It’s a betrayal which, for me personally, surpasses — in the level of disgust, if not in amount of money — the 2006 debacle regarding the canceled Flanvention 2.

One final note of personal argument. It was suggested that this information be kept under wraps until after this year’s CSTS events concluded, so as not to scare off any potential attendees or donors. But let me share an example to explain why I vehemently disagreed with this notion.

If a newly-elected mayor had as one of his or her tasks putting a levy renewal on the ballot to be approved by voters, but discovered that their predecessor had embezzled funds from the existing levy, the new mayor could not ethically — under any rationale or argument whatsoever — keep that embezzlement a secret until after the election in order to make sure the levy renewal was passed by the voters.

In such a situation, the idea that learning of the prior missing levy funds might keep the voters from approving a new levy would fall under the phrase “tough shit”. Same goes here.

It’s stressful, it’s difficult, and it’s profoundly unfair for these two individuals to have created this situation. But those are not excuses for refusing to inform the fandom about what happened, and doing so in a timely fashion to allow them to make their own informed decisions about this year’s events.

In essence, these two individuals already took advantage of the fandom. Not telling the fandom about it before asking it for more money amounts to taking advantage of them a second time. That’s wrong.

My sense of ethics isn’t up for a public vote, despite some on the CSTS organizers’ forums trying to make it that way. And, to be honest, it’s absurd (to put it very tamely) that apparently I have to drag people kicking and screaming into exhibiting ethical behavior.

The resistance to exhibiting ethical behavior by making these unfortunate facts known to the fandom at large in a timely manner, delaying doing so for so long that it’s now mere days before this year’s events, became so rabid that one organizer accused me of simply wanting attention for myself.

As the founder of Can’t Stop the Serenity, why in a million years would I ever desire going out of my way to write a gut-wrenching statement such as this one?

All anyone had to do to prevent this coming from me was for Denver, Dallas, or this year’s global coordinator to have the ethical will to treat the fandom with respect and explain in a timely manner — in other words, at any time since this past February — what was done in its name.

No one was willing to do the right thing. Which I guess tells me something I wish I didn’t have to learn.

The original transgressions are on those two individuals out of Denver and Dallas/North Texas from last year. The on-going unethical stall on being up front and transparent with the fandom which CSTS represents is on Denver, Dallas, and this year’s global coordinator.

It will not be on me, any more than it already is by “virtue” of the fact that I was stupid enough to trust that the proper parties would go public in a timely fashion.

All of that said, it’s important to know one other thing: While all of this reflects poorly on the entire CSTS effort (or has the potential to do so) it is important to take note of the fact that these incidents are an aberration.

Remember that CSTS is a distributed effort, with each city handling its own fundraising activities. What happened in two cities last year has no direct bearing on what happens in your own city this year.

For two years running, CSTS has operated honestly and successfully, and is fully expected to do so again this year, and into the future, especially with tightened reporting processes which I’m told have been instituted in the wake of these disheartening revelations.

In other words, one should not at this stage feel hesitant about attending your local CSTS event this year. If you do have any questions, participating cities are linked on the main CSTS website.