Editor's note: The following synopsis of the trial of Richard Pettys was taken from materials provided by Mr. Pettys and from my own records of the proceedings. I was privileged to be originally selected as Mr. Pettys's representative; when the Board summarily denied this choice, Mr. Pettys asked me instead to serve as his advisor, a position which I held throughout the trial. Thus, I have been intimately involved with the conduct of this trial from its inception.
As in the case of Tim Stowell's trial, the Board conducted the entirety of the trial in secrecy and because Mr. Pettys refused to participate in a closed trial he was not allowed to view the Board's clandestine deliberations. The National Coordinator during the trial, Shari Handley, removed the Board member believed to have leaked the records of Tim's trial from the secret Board lists. In this record you will not be treated to the Board's candid impressions of the defendant, the witnesses, or the charges themselves.
Materials provided by Mr. Pettys and Ms. Carpenter are reprinted below in their entirety and with their permission. Materials authored by Board members, witnesses, and others are redacted. Any supplemental materials are welcome and the identity of correspondents will be kept confidential.
As always, all editorial comments are mine own personal opinion. Read at your own risk!
The Devil Went Down To Georgia: The Trial of Richard Pettys
Since Richard received his last direct communication from the Board the following things have occurred:
On February 7, 2005, Richard's lawyer sent the following letter via US post to Shari Handley and Darilee Bednar. It was copied to David C. Moon of MyFamily.com, Inc., Tom Stockham, also of MyFamily.com, and Steve Carter, the Attorney General of the State of Indiana.
Dear Ms. Handley and Ms. Bednar:[Ed. Note. This letter was mailed before I had a chance to see it. Although I had discussed the letter with Richard briefly, I had asked him not to send it as written because it contained a notice that publication of the letter in the DBS would serve as "appropriate notice to all members of the USGenWeb Project of their potential liability." The Daily Board Show is a personal journal and not an official publication of the USGenWeb Project. It cannot be considered an official venue to provide "appropriate notice" to project volunteers of matters which may affect them. That would be the Board's job. I did not suggest or approve the statement regarding the DBS and would not have allowed it if asked before the letter was sent. The DBS reports on activities in Richard's trial because they are newsworthy in the context of USGenWeb and that is all. It does not serve as the mouthpiece of any project member but me.]
Please take note that I represent Richard R. Pettys, Jr. with regard to the ongoing issues between the Advisory Board of the USGenWeb Project and Mr. Pettys.
In my previous letter, I demanded that the USGenWeb Project and the members of the Advisory Board cease and desist with the “trial” of my client. Apparently, this demand has been ignored. My first letter was a warning and a demand. It was not a “shot across anyone’s bow”. This is the second warning. There shall not be a third such warning.
Should this “trial” continue, my client will seek relief in the appropriate court. The members of the “jury” in this case have not followed acceptable rules of parliamentary procedure, have not followed their own bylaws, have not followed their own grievance proceedings and are in violation of numerous code provisions. Moreover, the members of the “jury” in this matter have continuously created the rules as the “trial” proceeds.
Accordingly, my client will not participate in this “trial”, for to do so might be seen as somehow sanctioning your actions. You are hereby directed not to communicate with him in any manner whatsoever.
My client hereby demands that the “trial” be terminated without a finding of guilt or innocence and that he be restored to his previous positions within the USGenWeb Project. If this is not accomplished within ten (10) days, litigation will ensue.
You should know that, inasmuch as the USGenWeb Project is an unincorporated entity, it does not afford you the protections of the corporate form. Therefore, your personal assets, and, potentially, the personal assets of all of the members of the USGenWeb Project, are being risked by your actions in continuing this matter against my client.
In the event that this “trial” continues and litigation is filed, my client intends to identify MyFamily.com, Inc. and the State of Indiana as defendants. Accordingly, a copy of this letter is being forwarded to appropriate representatives of those entities contemporaneously with the mailing of the letters to you. Likewise, a copy of this letter shall be published in the Daily Board Show in order to give appropriate notice to all members of the USGenWeb Project of their potential liability. Finally, a copy of this letter is being sent, via email, to all members of the Advisory Board.
My client is serious about pursuing litigation. Having reviewed and discussed his claims, it is my belief that he has a strong case and is likely to recover damages for, inter alia, intentional torts and others harms. I recommend that you consult competent legal counsel before making any decisions regarding this matter. Please feel free to have your legal counsel contact me regarding this matter.
Govern yourselves accordingly.
On February 11, Darilee posted a message to BOARD-L in which she resigned as Chair of the trial committee and in which she admitted bias against Richard: "..I received an email that was suppose to be from Mr. Pettys attorney...who threatens me personally with litigation if I continue as chairman of the hearing currently being held...Because of this threat I find myself severly bias against Mr. Pettys which means I can not remain impartial...My deepest apologies to the people who supported me." Additional Board members also admitted their bias against Richard in this public forum.
Apparently sometime after receiving the letter, Darilee phoned Richard's lawyer. Her primary reason for the call seemed to be to inform the lawyer that she had resigned as Chair and to ask him to therefore not sue her. However, she also asked several questions that appeared designed to extract usable information about Richard from the lawyer, perhaps to have something over him to forestall litigation. She tried to ascertain where Richard lived, who he was married to, and what his goals were with a lawsuit. She also claimed that several Project members physically fear Richard.
Interestingly, Darilee also told the lawyer that the trial had been indefinitely suspended and that the Board appeared quite content to leave it that way. She also apparently said that the only hold-up was the matter of Richard's counties and that was in the hands of the NC.
On or near 18 February, Shari Handley herself emailed Richard's lawyer to ask for an extension of the 10 day limit. Apparently in this email, she notified the lawyer that she had also retained counsel. This turned out to be John Schunk's sister, a lawyer who has helped the Project out with legal stuff in the past. Although this lawyer did send a letter to Richard's legal team, it was just full of the usual legal blather and vague threats you generally find any lawyer's letter. Shari's request for a few days more time turned out to be a delaying tactic in order to buy a bit of time for the Board to finalize its plans to publicly humiliate Richard in the name of the Project.
On February 20th, Shari published the following to the Board list:
The USGenWeb Advisory Board has reviewed and accepted the following recommendation of the Pettys Hearing Committee for resolution of the disciplinary hearing of Richard Pettys, Jr. This recommendation is hereby adopted, effective 21 February 2005.
The USGenWeb Advisory Board Hearing Committee issues this finding in response to the charges brought against Mr. Pettys by members of the GAGenWeb Project and recommends that:
1) Because of Mr. Pettys' actions while RC of GAGenWeb wherein he was not responding promptly to email, not actively supporting researchers' efforts to find information, and not serving as a good example of the guidelines and standards of The USGenWeb Project, it is the finding of the hearing committee that Mr. Pettys shall be found MNIGS. After a period of one (1) year, Mr. Pettys may apply for removal of MNIGS status.
2) Mr. Pettys' counties were never "removed" from him, only his affiliation with GAGenWeb was suspended and that affiliation will not be restored by the Advisory Board. Therefore, after MNIGS status is removed, the AB will recommend to the SC of the GAGenWeb Project that Mr. Pettys' application for any open county be considered at the end of his MNIGS status just as any other person's would be; however, should the GA leadership ever decide to reinstate Mr. Pettys, the AB recommends that it be on a probationary basis depending on demonstrated and continued good conduct within USGenWeb and GAGenWeb Projects.
3) As an appointee to the positions of ASC and RC in the state of Georgia, Mr. Pettys' appointment ended upon the termination of the appointing SC, Tim Stowell, and therefore, he has no further claim upon these positions.
AB Members voting "YES" (to adopt this recommendation):
Gail Meyer Kilgore
AB Members voting "NO":
AB Members abstaining from the vote:
Many thanks to each of you for your work on this hearing.
[Ed. Note. Oy, this is so shameful and embarrassing we barely know where to begin. In its notice ending the trial of Richard Pettys, the Board claimed to be responding "to the charges brought against Mr. Pettys by members of the GAGenWeb Project." But there were no charges filed by members of the GAGenWeb Project in the original list of charges. All of the charges were filed by the Board and devised well after the fact of Richard's removal. After receiving correspondence from a real lawyer, they instituted entirely new charges, charges of which Richard was not informed and to which Richard was not allowed to respond. These new charges bore no resemblance to the ones that the Board was originally trying Richard on and were charges on which any member of the Board could themselves be held to task [Unresponsiveness to email? Not supporting researchers' efforts to find information? WTF were they smoking?] They appeared to have chosen this narrow and petty list of sins because they were in no way associated with the original charges, they provided the framework on which to hang the MNIGS label, and they might have acted as a shield against the lawsuit Richard had promised to file. Apparently, in all their righteous strutting around, the irony of their own actions in continually harrassing Richard and breaking the rules of the organization of which he was a member and of which they were elected representatives was lost on them. In truth, once they decided to drop the old charges and institute new ones, a new hearing committee should have been seated, the new charges formally presented, and evidence provided to Richard for his rebuttal. That would not, however, have accomplished the purpose of the "finding", which was to get this behind them as soon as possible, lose as little face as they could manage, and protect themselves legally. So they washed their hands of it. They showed the Project they were both brave and wise. They saved USGenWeb from the sorry likes of Richard Pettys, and hopefully saved their own asses in the bargain. They didn't cave in to the lawyer by openly terminating the trial and they managed the acrobatic feat of switching the charges in the dead of night so that they could find Richard guilty of something and not appear to the Project like craven whimpering dogs. What a sad, sorry lot of losers. They could not convict Richard of what they charged him with and fired him over, but they couldn't bear to admit it either. As long as Richard got punished, they did their job.
By "terminating" the trial in this manner, not actually finding Richard guilty of any of the original charges, and claiming to have not taken his counties from him, the Board most likely felt it met the letter of Richard's demands and thus cleverly avoided leaving itself open to a lawsuit. And although that may have been true, they came closer than they know to seeing Richard in court. Richard and his lawyers were preparing a lawsuit that was to have been filed on April 1, in honor of Shari and her band of fools. But to the Board's great good fortune, Richard's grandfather passed away in the middle of March, and he decided he had better things to do than play games with idiots and more or less dropped the matter for good. ]
|© 2005 by Teresa Lindquist, all rights reserved. The opinions expressed above are solely those of the author; they may not reflect those of the USGenWeb Project or its members. The USGenWeb Project Advisory Board does not endorse this site and is not affiliated with it. Several people have helped me research this material, I'd like to thank them by name, but as they are still project members to do so would invite reprisals against them. So You Know Who You Are, and you have my thanks!|