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MUFON Star Team member fired for asking questions

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  • Elaine Douglass
    The following analysis has been conducted by the Committee to Reform MUFON for the benefit of the Members of MUFON. Every effort has been made to ensure
    Message 1 of 1 , May 30, 2011
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      The following analysis has been conducted by the Committee to Reform MUFON
      for the benefit of the Members of MUFON. Every effort has been made to
      ensure accuracy and sound judgment in this analysis.



      MUFON Star Team member fired for asking questions

      In February of this year, for reasons not disclosed, the much heralded Chase
      Kloetzke resigned as manager of the MUFON Star Team. Her replacement, Larry
      Gessner, resigned two weeks ago. Barry Gaunt of Kentucky was then appointed
      to replace Mr. Gessner. For undisclosed reasons, Mr. Gaunt resigned after 3
      days in the job of Star Team manager.



      "I have no idea why Chase quit"

      Last week Star Team investigator Gary Hart asked ID Clifford Clift questions
      and made statements to Cliff about these resignations, and he was fired for
      doing that. When Gary was fired, another dedicated MUFON worker, Sandy
      Gonzalez, CMS Administrator from Florida, quit in support of Gary. It is
      not surprising. Any members of a team would be upset if 3 team leaders quit
      in succession without explanation, but the MUFON hierarchy won't tolerate
      anyone from the Star Team trying to find out what happened. 'I have no idea
      why Chase quit,' ID Clifford Clift told Gary Hart in an email. Cliff
      expected the Star Team investigators to be satisfied with that
      non-explanation and simply go back to work. To his credit, Gary Hart was
      unable to do that.



      Gary also asked about the 3rd party paragraph located on the witness intake
      form ("Report a UFO") on MUFON's website. The paragraph (for witnesses to
      check yes or no) was added to permit the transmission of witness's names,
      addresses and phone numbers to Robert Bigelow during the 2009 contract
      period-and the paragraph has never been removed. The 3rd party paragraph
      raises the spectre MUFON is continuing to deal behind the scenes with Robert
      Bigelow, and that might have something to do with why Chase quit.



      In connexion with these and other controversial matters, Clifford Clift has
      provided either no explanation or implausible explanations, and that is
      naturally going to increase misgivings in the mind of any thinking person on
      the MUFON Star Team, and beyond. Clifford Clift and Board Member Marie
      Malzahn are attempting to control this situation by making frank discussion
      taboo, and this week Cliff and Marie proved they will fire anyone on the
      Star Team who presses for the truth.



      Bye-bye to Gary

      Six-year MUFON member and Star Team investigator Gary Hart of Illinois
      violated the taboo by asking: Why did Chase resign? Why did Larry resign?
      And what is the meaning of the 3rd party paragraph? He also suggested Chase
      might have resigned because the MUFON Board expected her to be discrete
      about "outside interference" in Star Team cases. Gary would have asked about
      Barry Gaunt resigning, except that he was not aware of the appointment of
      Barry, or Barry's resignation.



      Retribution was swift. Gary was dismissed from the Star Team and stripped of
      his FI badge. He was notified in a brutal letter written by Marie Malzahn in
      which she referred to Gary Hart as "seditious."



      Seditious?

      Seditious means stirring up discontent against the government in power. It
      is a heavy political word usually used in connection with wars, revolutions
      and other matters of state security. Seditious is not a word you expect to
      be used in a 2800 member, non-profit, volunteer, charitable organization
      such as MUFON, but there it was.



      The Committee to Reform MUFON believes all Members of MUFON should be
      informed of this matter, and so we are providing below the texts of the
      relevant emails preceding the firing. Ellipses (. . .) indicate editing for
      brevity. The emails were circulated to Star Team investigators, as well as
      Clifford Clift and Marie Malzahn.




      --- On Sun, 5/15/11, at 2:01 PM, Gary Hart <geehart@...> wrote:


      Subject: Notice and questions
      To: <meansg@...>, cclift@..., cabinessj@...,
      alexmistretta@..., beverlytrout@..., cripplers08@...,
      charlesfetterman@..., cherylgilmore1@..., cwmodlin1@...,
      thecaptain@..., mufondiveteam@..., erugne@...,
      manciniaz@..., eddiemiddleton@..., huginn@...,
      jimkingr@..., kickstar@..., jventre1@...,
      lesterv424@..., mcmalzahn@..., mm@...,
      maximumtenn@..., mikeganstercpr@..., morgan.fl.mufon@...,
      ndwvitality@..., sdcruiser713@..., rwebbly@...,
      apsdmv@..., regehr@..., sandaliog1@...,
      steve13915@..., sfirmani@..., s_white@...,
      teddylsapp@..., silfarms@..., ldrlaw@...,
      rpowell@..., sidewinder1037@..., mufonsam@...,
      <erreary52@...>, ufomig@...

      Friends,
      I just received notice Larry Gessner has resigned as Star Team Manager. .
      .Read his statement here:
      http://mufonnd.webs.com/apps/blog/entries/show/7042821-changes. A rather
      specific remark, which I will not repeat here, was made regarding this
      development that would suggest this was a result of one or more specific
      ideological conflicts between MUFON management (the Board of Directors) and
      Mr. Gessner.

      As a result, I now request MUFON management answer these three questions:
      1) Why specifically did Chase Kloetzke resign her Star Team Manager
      post?
      2) Why has Larry resigned as Star Team Manager?
      3) I was told by one source that Chase resigned because she was
      asked to either de-emphasize or cover up situations regarding third-party
      interference in case investigations. Is this true?

      These are easy questions to answer and I think that as members of the Star
      Team we have a need and right to know what the answers are. If there is
      conflict, it needs to be brought out into the open and in some way resolved
      because this affects all Star Team investigators and the continuity of our
      investigat[ions]. . . .

      I have not seen the revised At Will, Background Check and Confidentiality
      Agreement forms that Cliff was going to send out. . .Are these still the
      sole issues of conflict or are there other [issues]?

      Cliff has justified keeping the third-party contact information disclosure
      selection on the headquarters website case reporting form by saying that
      analytical labs and other third party entities need to be able to contact
      witnesses directly. I am firmly against this. In my opinion, all contact
      with witnesses should be made through the original investigator, the State
      or International Director only, and with the original investigator's
      knowledge.

      Of course this would prevent entities such as Bigelow's organization from
      gaining unfettered access to witnesses as has happened in the past which is
      likely the overwhelming reason why the [3rd party] selection is there and
      should be removed. In Chase's words, referring to Bigelow, "We (MUFON, the
      Star Team) don't need him." . . . third parties do not need direct access to
      witnesses' name or contact information without going through a FI, SD, ID.

      Gary Hart

      The following day, May 16, Gary Hart received a response from Clifford
      Clift, addressed to the same distribution list:



      From: Clifford Clift <cclift@...>

      Subject: RE: Notice and questions



      Hi Gary and All,

      I will answer your questions and concerns the best I can. (See red print
      below.) Your email seems to somewhat antagonistic and filled with
      conspiracy theories. Let me assure you there is no conspiracy. I and MUFON
      are attempting to fulfill our Mission Statement. That is all.





      Clifford's responses were inserted into the email Gary had sent May 15
      (above). Portions of Cliff's responses are excerpted below:



      1) Why specifically did Chase Kleotzke resign her Star Team Manager post?

      Chase sent me an email resigning from her position. No reason given. What
      more can I say? I will not make up a story.

      2) Why has Larry resigned as Star Team Manager?

      From his email to me. He resigned for personal reasons. I am sure you
      appreciate I will not disclose his personal reasons. No one else's
      business.

      3) I was told by one source that Chase resigned because she was asked to
      either de-emphasize or cover up situations regarding third-party
      interference in case investigations. Is this true?

      Absolutely false. Your statement is straight from the conspiracy book.



      I have not seen the revised At Will, Background Check and Confidentiality
      Agreement forms that Cliff was going to send out. . .Are these still the
      sole issues of conflict or are there other [issues]?

      Your SD has the new forms. They will also be included in the FI manual and
      the new SD manual. . .Other than concerns over the old "Confidentiality
      Agreement", I do not know of any other concerns about the Star Team. Do
      you?



      Cliff has justified keeping the [3rd party paragraph] on the website case
      reporting form by saying that analytical labs and other third party entities
      need to be able to contact witnesses directly. I am firmly against this. .
      .all contact with witnesses should be made through the original
      investigator, the State or ID only and with the original investigator's
      knowledge. I don't see any reason why it should be otherwise.

      You are very wrong in the paragraph above. I have never justified anything
      including the third-party contact. I nor MUFON needs to justify what is
      done. . .We don't justify.



      I am sorry you do not have the correct information. . .the third party
      contact information is for Consultants or analyst to use when they are
      needed for an event. The witness(s), FI, the SD, or the Chief Field
      Investigator of the state of the event will check that box. It is not
      arbitrarily checked by someone else. That is plain silly. The consultant
      will check with the appropriate person before they make contact with a
      witness. That is part of the agreement with consultants/analysts. . .



      The reader will note that Cliff's discussion of the 3rd party paragraph is
      incoherent. The witness, and only the witness, has a chance to check the box
      as the witness fills out an initial UFO sighting report. Cliff's statement,
      "The witness(s), FI, the SD, or the Chief Field Investigator of the state. .
      .will check that box," makes no sense. Cliff's responses to Gary Hart's
      letter continue below:



      Of course this would prevent entities such as Bigelow's organization from
      gaining unfettered access to witnesses as has happened in the past which is
      likely the overwhelming reason why the selection is there and should be
      removed. In Chase's words, referring to Bigelow, "We (MUFON, the Star Team)
      don't need him.". . . third parties do not need direct access to witnesses'
      name or contact information without going through a FI, SD, ID.

      I am very frustrated you feel BAASS is still getting information from MUFON.
      MUFON has not had any contact with BAASS in over a year. Why on earth would
      we be giving Mr. Bigelow any information. We owe Mr. Bigelow nothing and he
      owes us nothing. Our contract ended 1-30-10. Again, the sole reason for the
      box is allow consultants/ analyst to have access to the CMS report, WHEN AND
      IF NEEDED. Again the Witness(s), FI, SD, or CFI may check this box and the
      consultant will be making contact with the appropriate person (the one who
      checked the box, as a rule.) Who would check this box other than those
      mentioned? . . .



      Clifford Clift, ID MUFON



      On the 20th this exchange took place between Gary Hart and Steve Firmani,
      state director for New England. Gary's statements are in blue.



      Gary...
      Frankly I have to agree with Cliff. To make it simple your statements and
      questions are very much conspitorial and insulting to Cliff, the MUFON BOD
      and the MUFON membership. I don't agree but find your response to be
      suspiciously extreme. I never mentioned a conspiracy angle. The several SD
      respondents to my messages are the only ones pumping this view. Rather
      bizarre for what I had hoped would be a "respectful" response. The reasons
      why anyone resigns or hired into a MUFON position is not your business as a
      MUFON FI. Then just say it is confidential without ranting like you are
      doing here. Give it a break. You are not a part of MUFON administration and
      as it seems, don't have any idea of the inner workings of an organization. I
      have been a member of several. . .and MUFON is the most uncharacteristicly
      disfunctional group I have ever been connected with. Your message here is an
      example.

      I support Cliff and the board 100 percent. Furthermore, ypour demands, yes I
      said demands, because that is how you come across in your statements are
      absolutely condescending. And your raving here is not? Release of such
      information is not released as a courtesy for the privacy of all involved.
      Just say no. Cliff did not have to add any editorial comment. None was
      necessary. Even Larry, in his statement did not go in to detail for the same
      reasons. Also, I have spoken with Chase on many occasions and I'm sure she
      will never trust you again with personal information about her. I'm sure
      whatever she told you was in confidence. You are jumping to conclusions and
      have no right to speak for Chase. Hers was not a confidential communication
      . . .Try to calm down a bit Steve.

      I feel that Cliff gave you a fair offer to discuss the issues privately, but
      you were relentless and unprofessional. If I were a UFO witness, I would
      find it difficult to trust you keeping their anoninimity after reading your
      messages as posted here. I don't get your point. This last statement doesn't
      even make sense. I find it impossible to trust MUFON with persons like
      yourself in positions of power.

      You are a MUFON IF [sic] and that's it. You are not in administration and
      releasing that personal information to you would be a breach of
      confidentiality. Again, Cliff could just say no. Knowing these reasons have
      nothing to do with your duties as an IF [sic]. Your response shows a loss of
      composure. I seem to really have struck a nerve here. It is obvious to me
      that you are deflecting the conversation from the most basic issue of
      whether Bigelow is still operating behind the scenes in MUFON and none of
      you will answer that question directly. B.A.S.S. was just a false front.

      You also claim that your emails have not caused a problem? Since when was
      disrespect and conspiratorial comments ever caused any good? When evil is
      embedded in MUFON, Steve. Please re-read your e-mails and do the right
      thing. Which is, my friend? My place is right here as your conscience.
      Steve Firmani



      On May 22, MUFON Board Member Marie Malzahn, Director of Investigations,
      wrote this letter of dismissal to Gary Hart:

      Dear Mr. Hart:

      The STAR Team distribution list is not a forum for anyone to attack another
      member of the team. I am appalled at your lack of tact and disgraceful
      behavior. Cliff has put his heart and soul into this organization and the
      STAR Team. You have no right or authority to engage in a disruptive verbal
      assault on the International Director, the Board of Directors, or any
      current or former MUFON volunteer. When you insult one member of the STAR
      Team, you insult the whole team. Along with that sentiment, when you insult
      one member of the Board of Directors, you insult the whole Board. It is
      quite apparent that you do not have the concept of teamwork and loyalty. I
      understand you have been in MUFON for several years, and as a senior Field
      Investigator you absolutely should know better than to behave in the manner
      in which you have conducted yourself here. There is no place in MUFON for
      malice and distractive rhetoric. We are Team MUFON, and we are proud of
      this motto for our investigative staff. The STAR Team members have worked
      diligently and tirelessly to get on the team. This type of rant is
      certainly not appreciated and is fatal to the mission of MUFON. I am
      gravely disappointed with your disrespectful attitude, seditious interest
      and dissident discourse.

      Mr. Hart . . .this diatribe you provide is a hindrance to [MUFON's] mission.
      You have divulged confidential information provided to you by other
      volunteers and that is not acceptable. A MUFON Field Investigator is
      expected to be a person of integrity and good character who can be trusted
      not only by his/her peers, but by the public as well.

      You are hereby removed from the STAR Team. You are suspended as a MUFON
      Field Investigator pending a review by your State Director and the Office of
      the Director of Investigations.

      Marie C. Malzahn
      Director of Investigations/MUFON Board of Directors
      David MacDonald
      Assistant Director of Investigations/STAR Team Administrator



      On May 26, CMS Administrator Sandy Gonzalez of Florida, 5-year MUFON member,
      wrote the following letter with his reaction to the firing of Gary Hart:



      Ms. Malzahn,

      . . .In your email to Gary Hart you wrote. . , "I am appalled at your lack
      of tact and disgraceful behavior," and "A MUFON FI is expected to be a
      person of integrity and good character who can be trusted not only by
      his/her peers, but by the public as well."

      Those words are rather insulting. . .for you are suggesting, without proof,
      that Mr. Hart lacks integrity and good character, and cannot be trusted.
      Your use of the word "disgraceful" is particularly inappropriate for Mr.
      Hart said nothing that can be considered shameful or dishonorable. . .it can
      be argued that the person exhibiting a lack of tact and inappropriate
      behavior may very well be you.

      In my opinion your rhetoric and the suspension of Mr. Hart are out of line,
      and anyone with a sense of fairness should be shocked, as I am. . .

      In. . .the [emails] I did not see anything resembling attacks, verbal
      assaults or insults on the part of Mr. Hart, but your email [and] a couple
      of others may fall into those categories.

      The ID skirted the issue in his own email by [saying], "your statement is
      straight from the conspiracy book" and "Elaine or others [make] false
      statements." What I've seen are questions that MUFON for whatever reason(s)
      has apparently chosen not to answer.

      During a 32 year law enforcement career, from which I retired as a federal
      executive-level manager, I fought these same attitudes constantly. My
      experience was that time and again whenever managers were put on the spot by
      employees or whistle blowers (as MUFON was in this case), these employees
      were often labeled "not-team-players," "troublemakers" or "conspiracy
      theorists". . . The labeling was usually followed by the proverbial killing
      of the messenger, which you have now done in this case.

      It is wrong for MUFON members to label Mr. Hart, or anyone else, a
      conspiracy theorist for simply asking questions. . .

      What we have is hardly a conspiracy theory. There are real issues. . .a
      number of unexplained resignations from key positions. . .the smoke from
      "where there's smoke there's fire" fame. We also have the. . .matter of the
      FOI request, and public comments from some. . .who have resigned, including
      a Star Team manager and the former ID. Is that something the rest of us
      should not be aware of and discuss openly with management?

      I find it ironic that at the same time we're told we are a "team" we also
      get a statement by a MUFON member telling Mr. Hart that Star Team issues are
      "not your business," which is nothing short of ludicrous, . . .and
      detrimental to the morale of ANY organization, especially an organization
      run by. . .volunteers. . .the members of such an organization have a right
      to know how their organization is being managed, or mismanaged.

      That you and others have become so defensive as a result of valid questions
      is indicative of a problem that should be dealt with forthwith. As a veteran
      police investigator, let me suggest that anyone who is against answering
      questions and disagrees with an independent review of the issues must step
      aside for the good of the organization.

      Frankly, and regretfully, the bottom line for me is I don't like what I've
      seen from MUFON management so far, and I understand the consequences of
      making that statement and sending this message. Therefore I'll save you the
      trouble and suspend myself as a CMS Administrator. . .

      S.Gonzalez



      A missed opportunity to tell the truth

      At the Committee to Reform MUFON, we see Gary Hart's initial letter as a cry
      for help. Despite the letter's confrontational tone, it seems to us the
      letter was Gary's attempt to throw open the door and give Clifford Clift and
      Marie Malzahn an opportunity to tell the truth and restore the Star Team's
      faith in MUFON's leadership.

      Instead of taking that opportunity, Cliff escalates with his accusations of
      "conspiracy theories" and it is all downhill from there, leading inevitably
      to the firing of Gary Hart. We predict the MUFON hierarchy will be
      unsuccessful in its effort to stifle the doubts and bludgeon into submission
      the members of the Star Team, and numerous others in MUFON. Sandy Gonzalez
      quit in protest, and there will be more Gary Harts and Sandy Gonzalezs
      because the leadership of MUFON is so far unable to do what is necessary to
      restore the faith and trust of the Membership.

      This is what we are expected to believe

      What would be necessary? Telling the truth is absolutely necessary, but it
      is obvious the leadership of MUFON is unable to do that. Asked, 'Why did
      Chase resign?' Clifford Clift tells Gary Hart, 'I don't know.' Are we
      expected to believe that? Are we to believe that when a key member of his
      management team, Chase Kloetzke, resigned, CEO Clifford Clift did not pick
      up the phone and ask her why?

      A similar moment can be found in the Feb. 8, 2011 Angelia Joiner radio
      program where Cliff was interviewed. The topic was whether MUFON Board
      member John Schuessler received a security clearance in connection with
      MUFON's 2009 contract with Robert Bigelow.

      In the first hour of the program former ID James Carrion stated that John
      told the Board he would be getting a clearance, and that he, James, was
      later interviewed by the government for a clearance for John. Angelia stated
      John Schuessler told her "No comment" when she asked him about the
      clearance, so she put the question to Cliff. Cliff's answer is, essentially,
      'I don't know.' See: http://www.angeliajoiner.com/multimedia/audiolibrary
      <>

      Not a credible performance

      So here we have the CEO of a major organization (MUFON) doing a media
      interview. Controversy is swirling around the organization and the CEO is
      asked about an allegation of wrongdoing by a member of his Board. And this
      CEO is so oblivious to the requirements of leadership and his public
      position that he feels safe in blandly answering 'I don't know' to a very
      important question he most definitely should know the answer to. In the
      meantime, the Board Member, John Schuessler, feels safe in telling the
      media, "No comment." This is preposterous-just as preposterous as for Cliff
      to say, 'I don't know why Chase resigned.'

      Very well. Let's take Cliff at his word. He doesn't know why his Star Team
      manager resigned. And he doesn't know if a member of the Board he heads
      received a security clearance. Apparently he does not know what is going on
      around him. And he cannot figure out who checks a box designated for the
      witness on the witness intake form. In that event, how can Cliff say
      "Absolutely not!" Chase did not resign because she was asked to ignore
      "outside interference" in Star Team cases? How would he know?

      There doesn't seem to be any point in asking Cliff further questions since
      by his own admission he doesn't know what is going on in MUFON-either that
      or he is lying. Whichever, the situation is disturbing, and in such a
      situation who wouldn't ask questions and generate "conspiracy theories"? We
      thank Gary Hart and Sandy Gonzalez for their courageous stands.

      Submitted by the Committee to Reform MUFON-

      Steven Bass

      Marilyn Carlson

      Elaine Douglass

      Bill McNeff

      Marlee Spendlove

      Ron Spicer









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