Lang Blog part 3

Beginning of the end - Performance Review (October)

October 2009 - Carrion eventually stopped participating in the conference calls and sometimes Harzan called in. He was typically antagonistic and several times (more than once) I remember Harzan got on the weekly conference call with BAASS and then talked out loud to someone else in his office, which disrupted the call (I could tell the BAASS guys were uncomfortable with this)

  • The BAASS guys had articulated to me a number of times that they wanted to work this out with MUFON. At that time my relationship with the BAASS management was good and a high level of trust had developed.
  • The project was going better that ever expected. BAASS was very happy with the Dispatch Operation (data) and the quality of the work the SIP investigators were providing. 
  • It did not appear that much communication was taking place, in that that Carrion and Harzan were at an impasse with BAASS. 

 

October, 2009 Performance Review brought about another problem. BAASS sent a letter to MUFON indicating they were going to reduce the funding to $15,000 (which would force MUFON to spend some of the money in Savings). It was explained to me, that the $15,000 was intended to at least cover the salaries for next 4 months of the SIP Staff (SIP Manager , Operations Director, Public Relations Director and Dispatch operators) until the issues could be worked out. 

  • In any event, Carrion and Harzan essentially refused the deal. (not sure if an actual check was returned, destroyed or just not accepted) It is not clear which other Board Members behind the scenes were involved in this decision.
  • No additional funding was ever received form BAASS after that.

 

November and December 2009 - During November and December the SIP the project continued without any outside funding, rapidly dwindling the remaining financial resources within MUFON (cost then about $28,000 per month).

  • During the last couple months I was never able to discuss this with Carrion and do not know what his thinking was, but it was obvious that he was not happy with BAASS and was losing interest in the SIP project.
  • On 12-26-09 I received an email from Carrion indicating that Jan Harzan was taking charge of SIP project. (see Appendix - B)
  • During the Christmas holiday I initiated a conference call with the Dispatchers and let them know we were running out of money. Moral was very low on the team. They had worked so hard to build the STAR Team to a level that had not been expected.

 

January 2010 - as MUFON was rapidly running out of money, the negotiation to get BAASS to continue funding was suddenly intensified on the part of the MUFON Leadership..

  • Harzan made several requests to BAASS asking them to at least send enough money to cover salaries. You have to wonder what they were thinking when back in October MUFON was  offered  $15,000 a month (from BAASS) and they refused it.

 

Serious Audit Issues come to surface

More critical there was a growing concern developing at BAASS about the monthly financial reports that had been provided to them for the SIP project.  Per the Contract agreement, each month a financial Report accounting for what was spent on the SIP project was required to be sent to BAASS. The report included salaries, operating expenses, travel, lodging and pay to investigators for each respective month.

  • I discovered by accident one night (late) when I got a call from BAASS that there was a problem. The lady (BAASS office) wanted the operations manager's phone number. I asked if I could help with anything and she told me that they were having trouble opening the Quick-Books that MUFON sent over, which seemed very strange to me.
  • I spoke with the our SIP Operations Manager the next day. She confided to me that she was instructed (by Harzan) to turn over the Quick-Books for the SIP project to BAASS (for audit by their accountants). I did not realize until a couple of weeks later how devastating this actually was going to be.
  • MUFON was in a desperate situation financially and was now almost begging BAASS to help (by sending some funding).  What I didn't know until later, BAASS had been looking very carefully at the monthly reports they had been getting for the SIP Project.

 

Before the holidays (November)  BAASS had apparently made several requests for more detailed financial information to clearify how MUFON spent the funding, which were not acknowledged. BAASS made it clear that they would not send any more money until MUFON gave them the financial accounting information they asked for back in November.

 Later I learned that the SIP Project accounting (Quick-Books) did not match up with the bank statements and the monthly reports which were submitted to BAASS each month. Carrion did all of the monthly reporting to BAASS on spread sheets.

 The BAASS auditors went through the Quick-Books and found that the monthly (spread sheet) reports did not match up. BAASS responded back to Harzan and asked for all of the MUFON bank statements from the SIP project and the MUFON checking accounts.  Harzan ordered the operations director to send them to BAASS. Harzan gave the order, but it was not clear which other Board Members behind the scenes were involved in this decision.

 Harzan never conducted any kind of internal accounting on the bank records and made no effort to rectify any of the information on the monthly statements with Carrion. Essentially the whole bag of dirty laundry was handed over which was a very reckless mistake. 

 Carrion was still International Director while all of this was going on, yet he was not told about any of this until it was all over. In all fairness, Carrion was never given a chance to rectify the accounting or put together any kind of  final report to make sense of it. It is not clear why Harzan did not take time to consult with Carrion and put the financial records in proper order.

 The Operations Manager soon found herself in the middle of a modern day inquisition. She had worked closely with Carrion and basically took direction directly from him as to what information to record and who to pay. I personally believe she is honest and did the best she could in managing the funds for the project. In her defense she did not have any kind of financial training or bookkeeping experience.

 She relied on Carrion for direction and with him suddenly out of the picture and many loose ends from the project laying around (unfinished business) she found herself being interrogated by the BAASS auditors.  The Auditors were questioning her about discrepancies  between the Monthly Statement reports sent to BAASS and bank statements.

 Note: It should be noted here that the SIP bank statements reflected a number of ATM Cash withdrawals from the SIP account. These kind of transactions would be normal in a personal checking account, but are not at all typical in a business banking account and would understandably arouse the attention of any auditors.

 It was the practice during the SIP Project  to provide money to investigators to pay hotel and  meal expenses. MUFON used Wal-Mart Visa cards, so when a deployment initialized, the operations manager would make a cash withdrawal from the SIP checking and then make a corresponding deposit into the respective Investigator's Visa Card at Wal-Mart, so they could pay the hotel bill.

 None of this was clearly explained in the whole bag of raw financial records that was turned over to BAASS.  MUFON was presented in the absolute worst possible light.

 MUFON Board Responds to AUDIT - MUFON Meltdown

January was a busy month for the MUFON Board. BAASS sent a formal letter on Jan.19th to the Board, essentially indicating BAASS auditors found about 35 financial indiscretions (discrepancies) in the reports MUFON provided to them each month in accounting for how the project money was spent.

 BAASS was very professional in their correspondence, but thanks to Harzan (and all of the dirty laundry he shared with them) they had MUFON in a very delicate situation.

 The MUFON Board now headed by the new international director (Clifford Cliff ), responded in a letter that apparently was not copied to Carrion, which blamed him for why the MUFON-BAASS relationship was in jeopardy. Specific language in the Board's letter like “we are sorry that we gave James responsibility without proper oversight” and "the Board was “shocked” about  (the discrepancies) appeared to be a last ditch effort to use Carrion as scapegoat to take the full blame.

 Someone leaked a copy of the Board's letter to James Carrion and he was understandably outraged. He responded (1-27-09) with a very sober Letter of Resignation to the MUFON Board, criticizing them  for not consulting with him and giving him a chance to get the books in order before they handed everything over to BAASS.


SIP Project Shut Down

The project ended prematurely in January 31 2010 when the remaining funding ran out. I was instructed by Harzan & Cliff to shut down the Dispatch Operation. Cliff stated that the official reason was to be "that the program was officially over due to an end in the contract".

  • On 1-22-10 the MUFON Dispatch operation was Shut down at 9:00pm EST. The Dispatch Operators were notified in a conference call (facilitated on 1-23-10) that their employment had been terminated
  • I was instructed to remove the BAASS Investigator's passwords and user IDs from the CMS data base and they were deactivated accordingly. BAASS no longer had access to the CMS System.
  • As the funding dwindled MUFON was asking me to stay on and help with damage control.  Harzan (and other board members) told me repeatedly not to worry because that they had enough money to pay me through the end of Feb. 2010 and probably March. They had made a promise to me that at least 2 weeks' notice to be given to end my employment.
  • The operations manager confided to me that they did not have as much money in the bank as they had previously thought.
  • Finally I got a call from Clifford Cliff on the last Friday in January (29th). He told me that this payroll check I was getting (that day) would be my last. He blamed it on BAASS indicating they had failed to send additional funding.
  • The SIP Operations Manager was terminated one week later. 

 

By that point, MUFON was essentially broke and had to close the office in Fort Collins. They laid off the last of the two office staff employees.  


END REPORT - RRL

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