Are you tiring of reading my Listening Ear posts? I’m tired of writing them. I’m even more tired of them embarrassing me and my fellow alumni.
I’ve spoken with many alumni recently, and none of them was comfortable with the idea of working with someone convicted of forcibly raping someone. Not one of them could recall a policy or “long-standing tradition” that would allow it. After trying to convince the world otherwise, they finally enacted a policy banning registered sex offenders from working at the center. Numerous people in the community, perhaps most notably their highly respected state senator, requested an apology, and a week after the news broke, they finally responded to that.
I thanked them for their “apology” and asked they answer some questions they have left hanging for days now. After all, they’ve been promising transparency. The organization has still not responded despite having answered other questions since these were originally asked. For the record, I re-asked the following questions (with my speculative answers in parentheses).
If you started working on this new policy May 11, why did it take nearly a month and require emergency meetings that began at the same time as the media reports? (They didn’t want to enact this new policy. They actually wanted to enact one that would’ve allowed them to keep registered sex offenders on staff.)
How long were leaders aware that there were registered sex offenders on staff? (They knew from the beginning.)
How are you holding accountable those who withheld information about registered sex offenders on staff? (They have no intention to do so.)
What steps are you taking to ensure that a small group of individual volunteers acting without proper authorization and board approval cannot again make such an important decision on behalf of the organization?
What is your plan to review all of your policies and procedures to ensure they align with commonly accepted best practices? (It has been reported that they previously refused help in this area.)
Have you sent a letter to the parents of any and all minors who volunteered at the center while you had registered sex offenders on staff? (They have not.)
Again, the answers in parentheses are purely my speculation. The organization has given none. Not even a “no comment” or “we’re working on that”. They keep saying they want to regain the trust of the community but will have to answer these uncomfortable questions if they ever hope to do that.
During my early days with the organization back in 2003, we suffered an embezzlement. A few within the organization wanted to keep it a secret. Many of us demanded the culprit be held accountable and vowed to quit if there was a cover-up. None of the organization’s current leaders were among that group. None of them were a part of the group who got drenched on a sub-freezing day saving documents, office equipment, and memorobilia when our building flooded.
The Listening Ear was never perfect but used to be run with some integrity. The current leaders have completely failed in that regard. The Listening Ear has already lost most, if not all, of its community partners with little chance of regaining them. The center is likely to lose funding and have extreme difficulty attracting new volunteers for an already-understaffed operation. If the current leaders truly care about the organization, its tradition, and its role in the community, they will come clean and resign. I have almost no hope they will. I suspect they’d rather drown in their own Kool-Aid and take the Listening Ear’s proud tradition with them.
Jim Jones died at the age of 47. The Listening Ear will turn 47 on July 15.