How it all started. Sex, Lies and Audiotapes

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sex, Lies and Audiotape

Unless you have been hibernating on vacation in the Bahamas, you have probably heard of the current trouble brewing within MUFON between those MUFON members voicing their discontent with changes in MUFON and MUFON’s autocratic and bureaucratic leadership.

News spread like wildfire across the Internet recently after four MUFON State Directors were fired within a short timeframe. There, I used the F word, although MUFON International Director Clifford Clift prefers to use the more euphemistic “let go”.  “I am letting you go” is what you tell a caller who doesn’t get the hint that a phone conversation has dragged on ad nausea, not when terminating a volunteer. Poor choice of words aside, what is interesting is not that this purge occurred but who was excommunicated from the organization. I was shocked that two long standing State Directors, both very active in UFO circles were on the chopping block.


Almost immediately the Internet rumor mill began to churn and someone spat out on a message board that it seemed highly suspicious that all four state directors were women. Was the MUFON Board living up to its “Good Old Boys” image and reasserting its testosterone laden will on gender demographics or was it just pure coincidence?  Clifford Clift correctly pointed out that this batch of firings was just women but the previous batch was men, so truth be told, the MUFON Board is probably not made up of misogynists.


Clifford Clift in an email to all State Directors gave his reasoning for both sets of personnel actions:  From the first batch, Ken Cherry was fired as the State Director for Texas because he made derogatory comments about MUFON, members, witnesses, and Ufologists and refused to publicly apologize. James Clarkson resigned as State Director for the state of Washington due to his dislike of MUFON's bureaucracy.  For some reason Clifford omitted why he fired Richard Lang, State Director for North Carolina and the one time wonder boy of the MUFON Star Team, but more about Richard in a future blog article.

From the second batch, Christine Dickey, by her request, was removed as State Director for Arizona. Marilyn Carlson, State Director for Oklahoma resigned. Elaine Douglass, State Director for Utah was removed from her position because she wasn't truthful about her Assistant State Director. Leslie Varnicle was removed as State Director of Colorado due to her management style not being beneficial to MUFON's success.

So seven State Directors, one seventh of the MUFON State Directorship gone within a year, four of them fired and three resigned. What in the world is going on in MUFON?

Well, as much as the MUFON Board wants to paint this as just business as usual, there is far more than meets the eye here. Let’s start with the charge of untruthfulness as a reason for firing a State Director. Well I don’t really know what Elaine Douglass allegedly lied about but I can tell you that Clifford Clift was less than truthful about why Leslie Varnicle was fired from her position.

The reason Clifford originally gave for Leslie being fired was that her management style was not beneficial to MUFON. Really? Of all the MUFON State Chapters that I interacted with during my almost four year tenure as MUFON International Director, the Colorado and Minnesota MUFON chapters were always at the top of my ratings list for chapter cohesiveness, satisfied members, and efficient management. All you have to do is examine where the MUFON Annual Symposium was held over the last five years to know that Colorado MUFON under Leslie’s leadership was continuously entrusted with running this important event and she did an incredible job.

So what was the real reason behind Leslie being fired?


A MUFON member made an audio recording of the annual meeting between the MUFON State Directors and the MUFON Board. That audio recording made its way to me and after listening to the recording, I confronted the MUFON Board about some libelous remarks that were made at the meeting. I also heard through the rumor mill that it was Leslie who recorded that audio, but since then, I have learned it was someone else. Evidently, the MUFON Board had heard the same rumors because Clifford Clift in an interview with Angelia Joiner finally ‘fessed up to the real reasons Leslie was fired. Stated reason number one was because Leslie was in the “Ken Cherry” camp and reason number two; because she recorded the State Director’s meeting when she was told not to.

So why didn’t the MUFON Board just come out and state these reasons to begin with instead of labeling Leslie as an inept leader whose management style was not beneficial? Well if you read my previous blog article “MUFON Over Board-Save Our Ship”, and how I was equally scapegoated by this same board, it boils down to the new leadership worrying more about MUFON’s image and avoiding litigation than doing what is ethically and morally responsible.

Grassroots vs. Autocratic Rule

Let me take you back to 1969 when two disgruntled Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) members who were fed up with the bureaucracy and autocratic rule of APRO leaders, decided to form their own UFO Investigative organization. This fledgling organization, first known as the Midwest UFO Network subsequently became the Mutual UFO Network. One of those founding members, John Schuessler is still on the MUFON Board of Directors.

In John’s own words he described the events of that year:    “At the same time the APRO management reacted to the government’s words by reinforcing their centralized management approach. They wanted to direct the work of each investigator in the field from the office in Tucson, Arizona; thereby eliminating the need for mid-level management in the field. They were not aware that industry was turning to the decentralized management style.

Pleas to the APRO management only made them more determined that the Midwest contingent was a threat rather than a help to APRO.”

History Repeats Itself

I can imagine how furious Jim and Coral Lorenzen must have been when the “Andrus and Schuessler Camp” left the organization and began to compete for members. I can imagine the self righteous “good riddances” uttered on the APRO Board and the rallying of the APRO troops that followed as the leadership scrambled to consolidate APRO’s image and message. In the end it was all for naught because APRO had already lost its moral and ethical compass and the organization failed.

When an organization’s Board of Directors doesn’t listen to its constituents and dabbles only in self talk backed up by quashing voices of dissent through unethical actions; that organization is on a path of self destruction, just like APRO found itself so many years ago. Hopefully the MUFON Board of Directors and especially founding member John Schuessler can remember MUFON’s humble beginnings and reverse the dangerous course of autocratic and unethical rule MUFON has embarked on. Otherwise, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

James Carrion

Who is James Carrion?!search/profile/person?personId=35591160&targetid=profile


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