Sunday, June 7, 2009

"True JACC" Lawsuit In The Jordan Neighborhood: Fourth Of July Expected To Be "Independence Day" In Jordan Neighbohood...

Photo By John Hoff

THIS POST CONTAINS ELEMENTS OF PARODY. But, given how bizarre this case is in the first place, picking out those parody elements may prove quite difficult.

So Plaintiff Attorney Jill Clark finished up her cross examination of Kip Browne, asking (but not really ASKING) whether New Majority Secretary Anne McCandless had a plan to change the locks on the office door even prior to the January 14, 2009 board meeting. Clark also wanted to know if Anne McCandless "planned to call the police if anything (from the office) was missing to "make the case against Jerry (Moore) stronger."

Kip shrugged and said McCandless was a former police officer. It wouldn't surprise him if she thought like a cop. Therefore, if stuff is missing, well, call the police. The tone of Clark's question seemed to imply the act of calling the police was a crime IN AND OF ITSELF. Somehow, the way Clark asked the question seemed to invoke some kind of North Minneapolis cultural standard--a standard which neighborhood revitalization forces are trying hard to stamp out--which holds it is "not cool" to call the police, even if some random bullet just hit you in the leg and you're dragging yourself down the sidewalk.

But Clark couldn't get anywhere with Kip Browne, and soon enough she was done with him. Before getting another shot at Ben Myers, Defense Attorney David Schooler called Anne McCandless back to the stand to clarify on a few points...

McCandless put down her sewing and took the stand without drama or hesitation, like "back on the stand. Whatever."

Schooler didn't have a lot of questions. His question was whether Dennis Wagner was upset with the Old Majority JACC leadership because he couldn't get information about the Executive Director hiring process and applicants. McCandless answered this was indeed the case. That was about it, but apparently the record needed to be made on this particular point.

That pretty much wrapped things up for the day, with the hearing resuming the next day, Wednesday. Jill Clark's long-suffering assistant--the "beltless Beta male"--arrived early and waited at the door of the court room. Once again, he didn't have a belt. I was dumbfounded by this. I mean, I can understand misplacing your belt one day and not having it, but now he was wearing a DIFFERENT PAIR OF PANTS. Surely he had a belt, somewhere? Why would he NOT have a belt? What awful things happen if he shows up with a belt? Do I want the truth? Can I HANDLE the truth?

Low strains of The Emperor's March could be heard, and then Jill Clark appeared.

"I didn't hear from you," she said to Defense Attorney David Schooler. No preliminaries. No "good morning, too nice a day to be in court." No, these were just the first words out of her mouth, directed at Defense Attorney David Schooler. Schooler answered that he sent her an email this morning, but Jill just stood with that frequent dour look she has, like Kathy Bates in the movie "Misery," discovering her little penguin is facing the wrong way.

Ben Myers arrived, talking into his phone, projecting self-importance. I remember when we used to play in the sand pile near our double wide trailer, and he would talk into an old, worn shoe like it was a cell phone, pretending he was a master of the universe. And then Mama Sweetums would beat him with the shoe, for "putting on airs." But as soon as she waddled around the corner, he would pick up the shoe again.

"Hell-wo?" he would say. Then he'd pretend to be buying and selling shares of something. Ben never learned his lesson. He never learned to stop "putting on airs." Ben made a brief appearance in the court room, but then disappeared again, with that constant air of self-importance; like his client had a prayer. Three words: Life without parole.

At the defense table, Defense Attorney Al Goins (constantly present, always advising Schooler, but seldom interjecting himself into the proceedings) asked, "When are you going to run again, Jill?" He was apparently referencing Jill Clark's campaign for an associate justice seat on the Minnesota State Supreme Court. Jill didn't win. She didn't even make it past the primaries.

"I was thinking just the other day," Jill Clark answered. "NEVER."

Clark began joking around about the exhibits, joking that she may object to some exhibits purely upon their WEIGHT.

"It's the poundage thing," Clark joked, and it seemed like she was trying so hard to josh around, to be congenial as lawyers can be with each other, despite being on different sides. Yet there's always something which comes off as forced and fraudulent about the little act Jill puts on at moments like this. You know she's really Kathy Bates in Misery, just wanting to smack your ankle with a sledge hammer, but thank god she doesn't have a sledge hammer...she just has this pathetic loser of a case.

Questions arose as to where Ben Myers was.

"They've had a couple of jury questions," Jill explained, referencing the murder case where Ben was one of the defense attorneys. "So I think he's up and down the elevator."

Ben finally came back and Jill Clark put him on the stand, asking about the night Jerry Moore was fired and the old executive officers were replaced. She asked how physically far away was the church where that night's meeting was held from the JACC office? Ben answered it was some blocks away and he wouldn't have time to get a copy of Jerry's contract during the meeting where Jerry was fired. That would be the meeting where EVERYBODY KNEW the subject was likely to come up, though the "Old Majority" would have preferred to avoid and delay discussion.

Moving to another subject, Myers mentioned the JACC listserv which is monitored by Megan Goodmundson. Myers claimed he hadn't received emails on the listserv since January of 2009 and maybe even earlier. Maybe since November or December of 2008. Myers asserted Steve Jackson and Shannon Hartfield weren't getting the emails, either.

On cross examination by Schooler--surprisingly gentle and restrained, I thought, not the brutal crucifixion scene Schooler is quite capable of pulling off--the issue came up of revenue versus administrative costs. Myers asserted the only thing which mattered was "one not exceed the other."

Yeah, I thought, that's how me and Ben's mama would pay bills, too. Throw all the money in the old metal cookie container and about once a month--after buying a good stock of original formula Nyquil--send something in the general direction of the bills and hope there was enough. If there's not enough, then don't pay utilities, because those can be put off for months. If worse comes to worse, you can always get a new name and find a new trailer court, packing up in the dead of night before the landlord comes to change the locks.

Schooler indicated he was finished with Myers. I felt the anti-climax of that moment as Ben started to rise up in his seat, but then Judge Porter said, well, he had a few questions for Myers. And then--to my amazement, and the amazement of everybody in that court room, including Jerry Moore, who seemed wide-eyed at times--Judge Porter proceeded to grill up the Porterhouse Special, with Ben Myers starring as the steak. The grilling by Porter went on for almost HALF AN HOUR. It was like cross examination, only Myers didn't dare duck and dodge because this was THE JUDGE.

"I'd like to go through your personal history with the board," was the first thing Porter said, and it was ominous-sounding. Ben and his "personal history" with the board. It's like the kind of thing you'd say to a guy who won't stop stalking his girlfriend, so he sues her over ownership of the bed and dresser, just to drag her into court.

Myers answered he'd been on the board in 2006. Ben became the lawyer for JACC when he moved to the Jordan neighborhood. It was February of 2006 when Ben moved into his home, the home where he doesn't bother to pay the taxes, though Ben didn't say anything about THAT part. He'd been in the neighborhood FIVE MONTHS when he became the JACC lawyer in the Spring of 2006. And he ran for the board.

Porter asked if there was ANY QUESTION AT ALL that this was a two-year term? No, Myers admitted, there was not.

And, Porter pressed, did that term expire in October of 2008?

"Yes," Myers answered, and I was glad to see all those beatings from Big Mama Sweetums finally paid off. FINALLY, a yes or no answer from Myers when it really MATTERED.

Judge Porter asked if Myers could run again, and the answer was yes.

"You came on board and almost immediately became chair?" Porter asked.

"Yes," Myers answered.

Your term as chair would expire in October or November of 2008? Porter pressed. Myers went into some explanation about officers being elected by the PREVIOUS board.

"Your view is the officers are elected by the PREVIOUS board?" Porter asked.

Oh, yes, that was Ben's view. Because it was the only line of reasoning which could explain his power plays, when those plays were contrasted with the bylaws. But Ben didn't say THAT exactly.

"If there had been a board election in October of 2008," Porter asked. "Who would elect the officers?"

"The ones ALREADY SEATED," Myers answered.

Porter asked if Myers was concerned about the legitimacy of the board elections in January of 2009? Myers said he was indeed concerned. The electoral slate was "streamlined" by Kip Browne to narrow the field to individuals Kip wanted on the board. At some point, Ben Myers brought up his own "ex officio" position on the board. He was still on the board, Myers asserted, though he was there "ex officio" because of his previous position as chair.

"I'm not sure what the bylaws say in that regard," Porter said, doing that "princely brooding thing" with his brow. I wondered how many times Senator Larry Craig had seen that particular expression. I sat there and thought, "This is a judge who drop kicks a UNITED STATES SENATOR, so what's going to happen to poor little Ben Myers?"

Myers asserted the one year term issue came up because of fears of losing many board members too quickly. Too much turnover, Myers said.

"Why didn't you appoint people?" Porter asked. Myers said he didn't want to appoint people because he didn't want JACC to "appear like a dictatorship." The Judge said, "You could have accepted input, and then appointed people." Myers replied something along the lines of, "Yes, oh well. I guess I could have. But I didn't want to." Something like that.

Porter wanted to know "what happened" at the March 2007 board meeting where Moore was hired permanently. Such a general question, I thought. WHAT HAPPENED? Myers said the search committee interviewed "maybe 10 individuals." Those interviews all took place at The Bean Scene at Broadway and Penn. Myers said a white female applicant raised concerns about having to be out by herself in this particular neighborhood.

Porter asserted "the minutes of that particular meeting--Exhibit 184--are pretty sketchy." In fact, it seems to me Porter said the word "sketchy" twice. I made a point of writing it down. Sketchy minutes.

Seemingly trying to keep a tone of desperate bargaining out of his voice, Myers said he would turn over agendas from the executive committees to the judge if the judge would "keep the record open."

The judge pressed about whether there had been discussion regarding administrative expenses? The subject of Moore's salary came up, Moore's Blackberry and health coverage. Porter pressed about how the board was "committing itself to a managerial position" and, really, where was the MONEY going to come from to cover this? Myers answered about the need to have somebody who was "doing everything" because, well, there was a need for that. Myers said how Moore was doing it all, and made special mention of Jerry Moore's rather impressive ability to always take out the trash.

Ah, but Moore was so much more than somebody who could properly dispose of a filled-up Glad bag! Myers spoke of Jerry's attempts at fundraising and making the minutes. Myers asserted Moore was, in fact, doing "programming" as well as administrative stuff.

"Give me an example," Porter said.

Myers gave the example of the 10K Aids Walk, and how much Jerry Moore helped with that. At some point soon after this, Porter seemed to tire of Myers, as a cat tires of a mouse which has stopped twitching. Jill Clark asked Myers a question, apparently hoping she could put some twitch back in his ragged, torn body. She referred Myers to a section of the bylaws which addressed (she said) board appointments.

Porter interjected, in a harsh tone, "That's the section for appointing executive officers. That's, like, if the secretary doesn't show up!"

A few minutes went by as Clark and Myers hunted in vain for some part of the bylaws which would allow Ben Myers to appoint somebody to the board. Judge Porter finally said, "Ms. Clark, we're about to run out of time."

"I just have a few questions," Clark answered.

"Use it wisely, Ms. Clark," the judge answered.

A paper was passed to the judge. It appeared Myers may have been wanted elsewhere. The last question Clark got in involved how much programming activity was done by Jerry Moore? Myers asserted the number was 60 percent. Schooler approached with a document to ask about a final question. Ben tried to look at his Blackberry on the stand.

"If you could set down the Blackberry for a moment," said Schooler, getting a fact in the record: Myers had been using his Blackberry on the stand. Who knows what communications he was receiving? Not that it did a lot of good.

The ghost of Brian Smith walked in at that moment, and took a chair. His face wore a harsh and hard expression, considering it was a time of celebration: "Old Home Week" at JACC. Brian Smith used to be the Vice Chair. Some "New Majority" people say it was really Brian Smith who opened the door wide to Jerry Moore. JACC's tailspin into chaos didn't start with Myers or Moore, they would assert, it started with Brian Smith.

Jill Clark began to argue for the opportunity to put Jerry Moore back on the stand to say he did "60 to 65 percent programming." She had some affidavits, too, and wanted to get those in.

David Schooler argued that Clark had all the time she needs. Schooler wanted no new affidavits or witnesses. Close the record, Schooler said. Let us have a decision. Clark argued she wanted rebuttal by affidavit.

In the spectator section, Anne McCandless leaned forward and whispered loudly, "She's grasping at straws!" Clark did indeed appear to be flailing at that moment. The rank odor of seared flesh from Porter's grilling of Ben Myers still hung in the air, and now the whole proceeding was wrapping up. Anything to delay crushing and total defeat. Anything to live in the pretend world a few days longer, the bizarro fantasy universe where the ousted and exiled plaintiffs triumphantly return to JACC like General MacArthur stepping off an amphibious troop carrier, "People of the Jordan Neighborhood...we have returned!"

Porter compromised. He agreed to close the record at 9:30 Monday morning. Then, Porter said, there would be "one week for argument in briefs." I sat up at this point. That's an amazingly short time to submit briefs, I thought. Porter said he would try to get the order out "by the Fourth of July." Over Clark's objections, Porter said he would allow Schooler to submit one month of financial records.

The last, desperate argument I witnessed coming from the mouth of Jill Clark involved the "Flowers affidavit," which the judge had earlier rejected. Clark said the Flowers incident at the JACC office was "a set up" and that "fact" (using "fact" as one would in the BIZARRO UNIVERSE) is corroborative that Jerry Moore's "fracas" was also a deliberate set up.

At long last, things seemed to be over, except for the waiting part. For more than a month--if Porter issued his order on the Fourth of July as hoped--the "New Majority" would have to wait for resolution. With a foreclosure crisis hitting the neighborhood with one body blow after another, with desperate scrambles to keep the JACC organization afloat financially, resolution was on the horizon but still not at hand.

However, things were OBVIOUS. It was OBVIOUS which way it was going to go.


Guess Who said...

Ben, Shannon and others have never participated in the JACC listserv. They have to sign themselves up, I can't force it on them. They were continually reminded and invited.

Steve Jackson is still a participant, however he sets up his delivery preferences are up to him, however.

Ben used to discuss in meetings about the need to abolish the listserv.

Matter of fact, in January 2009 there were some strange 'requests' coming to the listserv. It almost worked. Almost.

Anonymous said...

You forgot the best part - After Mr. Schooler asked Ben to stop playing with [JACC's] blackberry, he had Ben read from his deposition where he had stated that Board Officer are elected by the incoming board. Can anyone say "perjury?"

I am shocked that Ben managed to disconnect from the borg long enough to take the stand, but I am sure JACC's bluetooth was not too far away - maybe Steve Jackson was holding it for him - along with the one that Jerry bought for him wiht JACC's money...

Anonymous said...

If Al Flowers affidavit were able to confirm that what happened to him at the JACC meeting was a set-up, then he is indeed predictable beyond question. How would anyone have anyone be able to "plan" that CM Samuels would need to go over and stand in-front of him to get him to shut his mouth long enough for the press conference to continue? If anything, it should be asserted that him showing up at the meeting was staged and planned to benefit the "old majority".

With regards to Brian Smith, in my opinion, he is probably the most racist, hate-filled (including BOTH white AND black) person I have ever met in my entire life.

Anonymous said...

"Ben used to discuss in meetings about the need to abolish the listserv."

Yes, by all means abolish the listserv for JACC. I mean afterall, why would a neighborhood organization support having a listserv for beliefs/expressions/ideas to be communicated to others?

If Ben were smart, he would have put Jerry Moore in-charge of listserv moderation, thus giving him something meaningful to do for his salary......

Daniel Rother said...

"Jerry Moore's 10k AIDS Walk 2008"

I was there and Jerry Moore showed up after not raising a single penny for the walk and went around asking "where is the free stuff?' He put a shame on the AIDS WALK and the Jordan Area Community Council! What an emarrasment to all envolved.

Daniel Rother