From any perspective or vantage point in this mish mash thing we call Element 11 you can tell this isn’t typical. We aren’t a typical corporation, or non-profit, or festival. We’re not just a Burning Man regional. We’re not just great pARTties and wild outfits. We are a family with strong bonds. We are a tribe (and a fiery one at that)! That means we think differently, we work differently, we approach things differently, and we treat each other differently. That’s what makes us unique. That’s what makes us powerful. That’s what enables us to transcend the models we emulate—in festivals, community, art , even in love!—and become the truest expression of us. Hope you all can see it that way!
All this strength also enables us to move beyond challenges with direction and resolve. The E11 Board has become aware of some actions by Board leadership which can be interpreted as ethics violations. However, there is a lot of gray in this situation and no clear rules to fall back on to help with decisions. In the end, and because some of these actions were determined to be an abuse of delegated authority and violated trust in our Board leadership, changes to the Element 11 Board of Directors have been made and are effective immediately.
Details of the issues and changes are at the bottom of this email.
The E11 BOD has documented pages of specific steps we are taking to resolve every aspect of this as best as we can. We’ve combined experiences and ideas to come up with several direct changes aimed to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again. Mostly, this issue arose out of an environment of ambiguity and past culture. Therefore, these changes will include amendments to BYLAWS, corporate policies, and other legal documents, as well as cultural and behavioral changes, both of the Board and the community at large. These changes will be voted upon during the first quarter Board Meeting on Feb 10, 2013.
That said, we’ll always be vulnerable to situations that lead to bad choices. And we will always have those among us who try to work through lies and disrespect, as we saw with Longfellow. As such, we feel the best way to avoid this is to work with absolutely no shadows, full disclosure, and the enforced expectation of honesty and integrity first. It’s easy to work in that kind of environment—and impossible to hide in it. The BOD doesn’t like secrets and won’t stand for them. However, we must also ensure we respect each other, only speak facts, and we approach each conflict with love first and foremost in our hearts—especially since 15 of us are putting our butts on the line for the rest of you, to encourage the success of this unique community that we all love so much.
If members of the Board of Directors are allowed confidence and trust to work within those parameters, but to still have the space to do it on their terms and on a professional level, we will continue to have responsible and solid leaders step forward to work on the Board. But it is apparent that this support can only be given and enforced by the E11 Community. Thank you for doing that. It is very demanding volunteer work. If those who donate three years of their life to be on the Board know you’re behind them, they’ll enable our E11 Community to reach far and wide into the world. We’re confident of that!
As you consider this issue, as well as others that may arise, remember that we have all done things that we are not proud of. It is important to remember that our community supports love and acceptance. Mistakes will always be made; it is how we choose to deal with them that matters. We are not a culture that alienates our friends, or that perpetuates negativity. To do so, only implicates our own insecurities and flaws. Love the person, and dislike the mistake. It does no good to abandon or crucify someone for a bad choice. It is important that consequences follow our actions, but we must remember to forgive, forget, and give people the chance to learn and grow.
–Element 11 Board of Directors
1. Element11 is still in its very early organizational development. With only a year behind us, we did not have adequate rules, policies, procedures, or culture to directly address the decisions and actions in question. As such, no direct punitive actions are appropriate. But we will change our documents to ensure we’re not vulnerable in the future.
2. Due to the ethical implications of the choices, action was required to ensure the trust and goodwill of the E11 Community is maintained.
3. It should be clear that there was never any accusation of theft or stealing, and no need for legal or police involvement. Monies in question were paid back in full and with interest. What challenged us is the lack of specific processes around binding agreements or lack of general awareness by the BOD that such things were occurring.
4. The actions, motives, and context of the situation are very complex, and in the environment of inadequate processes and documentation, Element 11, Inc. was vulnerable to this kind of issue. That has forever changed—we are developing clear rules and boundaries to enable a functional environment of trust and clear boundaries.
5. On two separate instances, Del Hargis, E11 Chairman, used income that he had collected on behalf of Element 11 for personal use. While he did pay this money back in full, the BOD was challenged by the secrecy, as well as the ethical implications of his actions, especially given his position of leadership.
6. Deciding how to appropriately address this situation was very challenging for the BOD. And for the first time in our history the BOD was NOT unanimous on how to act. There are many on the BOD who continue to support and trust those involved—but in the case of Del, we could not come to a unanimous stance. Because these actions broached on trust and ethics, we felt the entire BOD had to be aligned moving forward. As such, the BOD has accepted the immediate resignation of Del from the BOD. This was not an easy choice for us—no one can diminish the many years of contributions Del has made to the community and the BOD (Frankly, we couldn’t have done it without him)—but we felt this course of action was necessary to find the right balance within the BOD and the community as a whole. We regret this had to happen, but feel it was necessary to allow us to put our best foot forward and move beyond this episode stronger and healthier. Del will be allowed to function fully as a volunteer in our community moving forward, except in the areas of cash collection or fundraising. Despite this very difficult outcome for Del, which has been one of his most significant personal challenges we’ve seen him go through, we have appreciated his willingness to come clean and accept the ramifications of his choice. He knows his actions shook the trust of many and we believe he is sincere and earnest in his desire to rebuild the trust of the community. We’re happy to see him take this position and know that Del has a lot of love, excitement, passion, and great ideas to contribute to our community moving forward. We are happy to have him among us!
7. The BOD Treasurer, Suzanne Oleson, was aware of the revenue in question. She had accounted for the cash, but chose to keep it private (between her and Del) at Del’s request. Because of this, she had to be treated as if implicated, until all the facts came out and decisions were made. This implication was very challenging for Suzanne on many levels, but she responded to the challenges with professionalism and truth. As such she has the continued support of the BOD, who unanimously voted to keep her in her position on the BOD for her last year of service. Suzanne was caught in the middle of a gray area for Element 11. Moving forward the BOD is committed to patch up these procedural holes and ensure members of the BOD are not vulnerable.
8. Formal reprimands on both the Chair and Treasurer positions will be made. This means that similar actions by anyone in those positions moving forward will be grounds for immediate dismissal from the E11 BOD.
9. Changes to the BOD leadership will be vetted and voted upon in the 1st Quarter BOD meeting and will be announced at the Feb 10th Community Meeting.