Mar
16

TLC: Sison To Board, "I Am Not Joane"

Word has it that no one was asked to leave the Trial Lawyers College. All left voluntarilty. I have been provided a copy of the following letter sent to all TLC board members by Fredilyn Sison. It suggests otherwise.


"To the TLC Board of Directors:

"Your president, Jude Basile, called me last Tuesday to tell me that the Board has decided that Mary Peckham and I will no longer be on staff. Jude was specific that it was the Board that made this decision, so I am writing this letter to each individual member to let you know how I feel about your decision. I believe that dealing with people directly shows appropriate respect. While you may not like what I have to say to you in this letter, I write it as someone who loves, and continues to love, the Trial Lawyers College. I hope you are able to read it with that in mind.

"I don't speak for Mary Peckham and I mention her only because Jude spoke of her in our conversation regarding your decision.

"As you know, both Mary and I have been on the staff since 2001, and this past year after Joane Garcia-Colson resigned, Mary was the coordinator for Grad 1 and I was the coordinator for Grad 2 and the Advanced Regional. I volunteered to act as executive director for these two programs for the same reasons I accepted the invitation for staff all these years: I care about this College and its mission. No doubt that many of us feel the same.

"Jude called me because when he removed me from the Board of Directors in October, 2009,1 asked him if I were also being removed from staff, and he informed me he would tell me at a later date. I detail our conversation below because I do not want there to be any question as to what was said. I trust that he will tell each of you about this conversation but I exercise the privilege to tell you myself.

"I asked him why the board decided I should no longer teach at TLC. He gave me the following two reasons:

"First, he said that the CLE program I'm co-creating with Mary and Joane competes, with TLC. He was referring to the Women's Trial Boot Camp.

"Secondly, he said that I'm being removed because of my friendship with Joane and my support of her.

"In response, I said the following: .

"A. I told him that the Women's Trial Boot Camp, which is a small workshop, does not compete with TLC because (1) TLC does not sponsor any women-only program;
(2) the invitations went out to women who are friends or friends of friends, not just TLC women, so we are not "stealing" anyone; (3) more programs that help lawyers become better advocates elevate the practice and are good for the people we represent; and (4) many other TLC alums and staff have sponsored, participated and staffed non-TLC sponsored CLE's, so why is the Board discriminating against us? I named programs involving Bill Trine, Joey Low, Sonia Chaisson, Deb Taussig, Bill Barton, Bob Dawson and Ken Behrens as recent examples. Jude conceded this issue as he has done CLE's as well. He said the real problem was Joane.

"B. I told Jude that his-and I suppose the Board's, since he spoke on your behalf–beef is with Joane, not me or Mary. I said that I am not Joane and that if he or you, the Board, have a problem with her, then you should address her directly.

"Jude said that she's been blogging about him and TLC. Notwithstanding my own opinion about the right to free speech, I said, "Again, your problem is with Joane, not me." I don't blog, and I don't post things on the list serve. If people ask me what happened, I respond to them directly but I don't broadcast. Jude said I supported her when she left, and I said "So did the entire Board as it existed then. If you didn't like what happened when she left, then that's not an issue with me. You all should have taken it up with her. You all had individual votes to deal with her. I voted the way I believed was best for the College, but my vote was only one out of 16. If you feel badly about your vote, that is not my problem." As I recall, [NAME DELETED] went to speak to her and he did not come back to the Board to tell us we should not give her the severance package she requested. While I sensed unhappiness about the package from a number of the Board members, not one person voted against giving it to her. If I had been the only person who "supported" Joane and voted for the severance package, then she would not have received it.

"I told Jude and I'm telling all of you I am not Joane. We are two different people, and I take offense mat any of you would think otherwise. That I supported her is no different from the times I supported Kay and other paid staff when they left. Because being supportive is what I do. I'm just being consistent with who I am.

"I know that I'm not the only friend Joane has on the board. In fact, over the years I've been at TLC, all of you have professed to be her friend. I don't know what happened with some of you and Joane and frankly, I don't care, but I didn't support Joane because she was my friend. I voted for the package because I believed it was in the best interest of the College to do so. That it helped her was secondary to my thinking and vote. (Since I speak of other former board members, I provide, as a courtesy to them, a copy of this letter. If they have a different recollection of the events surrounding Joane's resignation and severance package, I'm sure they let you and me know.).

"If you could point to lapses in my teaching or if I were a disruptive, irresponsible or . non-collaborative staff member, then you have a valid reason for my removal. But I have never been anything but supportive of TLG (SIC). In fact, you can confirm with Jude and Laurie Goodman that despite getting axed from the Board two hours before the start of the Advanced Regional, a program I was coordinating and staffing, I did not let my hurt or anger affect the curriculum, the teaching, the staff or the students. I dare all of you to read the evaluations of that program to find one word that belies that. In fact, I told the staff in my role as coordinator that we were not to mention that three of us who were staffing the Advanced– Carl, Katlin and I–had just been removed from the Board unceremoniously.

"I am deeply offended that you would "de-staff someone because of association. Less than a month ago, I, as a federal public defender, stood with a police officer convicted of child sexual abuse and even the mother of that child did not maltreat me despite her palpable pain. Every day I proudly "associate" with accused people and convicted criminals, not only because it's my job, but because they are human beings. I'll be damned if I let anyone dictate to me who my friends are and judge me for my "support" of anyone without my saying something about it.

"And for the record, Joane and Mary are good people. I am proud to call them my friends.

"I am disappointed by your decision. But please don't be confused by what I mean by that. I am not disappointed to not be on staff. I'm disappointed in the reason why you took Mary and me off staff.

"I will continue to support TLC, the programs and the good people that are involved in it, be it staffer students. I do so because I think this organization has done a lot of good and changed people's lives for the better. Hopefully it will continue to do so. But given the recent actions of this board and/or its individual members, I have my doubts. This is not the TLC of the mission statement, this is not the TLC of Bob Rose and John Johnson, and this is not the TLC that once courageously was.
"
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About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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