Mothers of Madness Event

Last Sunday, my friend Eleanor hosted an exquisite dinner to raise funds for my project. There were no speeches, just an exceptionally good time for 18 lucky people. Eleanor, whose mom owned “Mama DeVito’s Italian Kitchen” in upstate New York, is a master Italian cook. Here are a few photos of the the event.

This is me with my brother Eric and my nephew Phil, the waiter.

Appetizers

Cindi and BG. Arlene in the background.

Keith and Susan

 

BG and Dennise Zamora

BG and Eleanor

Fabulous dinner

Nancy Gorbman, my favorite sister-in-law

 

Shoshana, BG and Judy

Susan and Cindi

Eleanor and Phil

Shoshana and BG

 

Eleanor and hungry raccoon friends

Steve, Richard and Judy

BG and Portia

Eleanor in her Kitchen

Dennise and Carol last month

This last photo, taken with my IPhone, is what Mothers of Madness is all about. Women with mentally ill children reaching out to each other.

All other photos were taken by Richard Pauli (who therefore, is in none of them) and Keith Geller.

 

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Massacres in America

by Beryl Gorbman

I am in the USA, where massacres are occuring with increasing regularity. They are not politically motivated and they are not done during robberies. They are done by mentally ill men with delusions. Since the US “de-institutionalized” severely mentally ill people, this trend has accelerated.

The USA is a horribly violent country. Children play with toys that simulate destruction of other living things. Television is full of fully detailed violence, often glorified. Hero action figures are killers, framed as “protectors.” Even cartoons are extremely violent – full of blood, graphic splats, and maimed bodies – with a laugh track.

Fortunately, most people are able to put our violent culture into some kind of perspective, but the mentally ill often do not. When a person is delusional and thinks neighbors are devils or police officers are aliens, he can get his hands on a gun and bravely destroy as many of them as possible.

I am tired of hearing about gun control. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for gun control, but it isn’t going to happen. And it has little to do with these killings. The right to bear arms is in our constitution and many people are so attached to that that will die fighting for this privilege. Right or wrong, guns are here to stay and there is no controlling them.

Mental illness, however, can be treated – but it is not. It is the shame and tragedy of this great country. It is not possible to get the mental health or police authorities to take a threatening person seriously unless they do something violent – and then it is usually too late. I know this from personal experience and it is the heartbreak of my life.

Here are a series of letters generated today. The first is by me, to the Seattle Times.

 

BG’s letter to the Seattle Times, 12/16/2012

From: “Beryl Gorbman” <beryl@gorbman.com>
To: dwestneat@seattletimes.comletters@seattletimes.com
Sent: Sunday, December 16, 2012 3:12:57 PM
Subject: Massacres – Gun Control Is Not the Answer

The problem is not so much gun proliferation as it is untreated severe mental illness. I am famiar with two mass killings in the State of Washington: Isaac Zamora who killed six people in his neighborhood near Sedro Woolley in 2008, and and Ian Stawicki who earlier this year killed five people in the University District, and one on Captitol Hill before shooting himself to death.

Both of these men were severely mentally ill and it sounds as if Adam Lanza was as well. In the two local cases, the parents had made repeated attempts to alert police, mental health workers and anyone else who would listen or pay attention to their potentially explosive situations.
Here is an excerpt from a letter written this week from some Seattle parents to a group of agencies and government entities. They are begging for meaningful intervention for their son. This family wants to remain anonymous at this time.
————————————-

“We want to break the escalating cycle of violence and incarceration that our son is experiencing.  The charges of assault, malicious mischief, and attempt to elude that he currently faces constitute the latest in a series of progressively violent episodes dating back almost three years and resulting in various incarcerations and commitments.  Almost all these incidents have involved weapons.  The event that resulted in his hospitalization in March 2010 involved a loaded shotgun that he kept near the front door of his apartment.  …… While he was hospitalized, our son said to us, “I am not afraid to die.”  At another point in his incarceration, he told us he would rather be killed by police than spend more time in jail.

We fear that left untreated, our son will escalate his violent behavior to the targeting of individuals, either random or specific……”

_______________________

No one is jumping on this. Why?

Mental health services have been increasingly gutted in this state for many years. It is almost impossible to get effective help for mentally ill people until they do something unspeakable.

Yes, it is true that the two Washington State men mentioned above had access to guns,but the tools they used are not the causes of the horrific events. Besides, the right to bear arms is a fiercely guarded part of our constitution and it won’t change. Plenty of people have guns, but it is the mentally ill who commit unspeakable crimes, justifiable only in their own tortured minds.

A letter from Eleanor Owen, Mental Health Advocate, to her sister and to me.

Gloria phoned me this morning with concerns about guns and people with
mental disturbances using them.  Mildred phoned with similar concerns.
This is a letter I wrote to Gloria.  Mildred wants to organize a letter
campaign to Anderson Cooper villifying the laws of the land regarding the
closure of hospitals and the difficulty parents have in getting treatment
and early intervention.  Of course she is correct.  However, bizarre and
unthinkable tragedies such as happened to those innocent children will
happen; they are really not preventable, just as suicide is really not
preventable, regardless of the protections that may be in place.
I told Mildred that I had responded to Gloria with a plea to stop focusing
on guns and begin to focus on who we are as a people and the profit that
can be made by “selling violence.”  That is something we, as a nation,
have some control over.

Mildred said she would come by to pick up this note.  Reassure her that I
will write to Anderson Cooper.

In reading of the “unspeakable loss” that took place at the hands of a
very disturbed young man who clearly must have been brooding or
hallucinating for years, let’s place the emphasis of violence where it
belongs– not on the weapon, but on his personal motivation (about which
little might have been possible), and on our culture (about which we can
not do much).

We live in the most violent developed country on this planet (and
possibly more violent than underdeveloped ones, too).  Why is this so?

We are descendants of criminals clever enough to escape capture in their
own lands, risk takers who were fearless enough to cross perilous seas
in icy winter storms, pioneers who endured scorched earth, starvation
and crippling thirst in covered wagons as they trekked inland.

And, today, their descendants live in a culture of violence,
self-absorption, and personal greed.  Every child is exposed to violent,
weird, titillating video games that glorify those human traits.  TV,
video games, movies, printed media–Wall Street (I made a killing on
that stock deal.)

Yes, killing is glorified by male dominated industries.  Selling killing
is easy and profitable:  And mass killing heads the list. It is the
“lust for the kill” that a marine wrote a book about that honestly
exposed why he wanted to join the marines. He said his first “kill” was
more thrilling than the best sex he had ever had.  He couldn’t wait to
do it again.

It is this aspect of male human instinct that must be explored and faced
head-on.

In today’s NY Times, the front page featuring headlines report the
mindless killing of innocent children and their teachers;  inside a
school child focuses on a contraption in her hand with the challenge of
killing or destroying an outer space “villain.”

Parents buy these “toys and the games that are included.”  Good parents,
blind to what their children are learning and believing as worthwhile
and exciting.

It’s time to do what this country did with cigarettes–make them less
appealing; make advertising illegal and place heavy monetary penalties
upon those who offend. The result?  Fifty years ago doctors, movie
stars, sports idols, all smoked.  Today, almost none.  They no longer
are mentors for young people.

Let’s start making noble acts exciting, dramatize exciting aspects of
courage, sacrifice , compassion, devotion, loyalty.  Show the repulsive
aspects of violence.  Young people today don’t see their pet lamb
slaughtered, dogs in cities never run in front of cars where a youth might
see him crushed.  Both examples of tragedies that teach empathy.
No doubt, one of the painful outcomes of this tragedy in Connecticut,
will be a heightening of compassion.  But the cost to those families and
those innocent babies is too high; we can do better as a nation.

>>> And finally, let’s have open discussions on the male instinct to kill.
>>> Let’s examine and accept this impulse and rein it in.  Let us begin to
>>> highlight and focus on the value and rewards of restraint and generosity
>>> towards others.  These virtues are also part of the human condition;
>>> let’s figure out a way, if need be, to make them profitable. I believe
>>> it can happen. But, I believe, we must start with curtailing  the sale
>>> of the vicarious joys and glorification of  doing harm to others.

Imagine the joy and collective glory that is possible to experience as a

nation of people that aspires to, and elevates kindness toward others
rather than dominance and hate. Other nations (Northern Europeans) have
succeeded. It’s possible!

 Letter from a Terrified Mom published by  ”The Blue Review.”

              Mom who says, ‘I am Adam Lanza’s mother,’ details life with terrifying    son

Published in  ”The Blue Review.”

In the post-Newtown debate over mental illness, a distraught and exhausted mother has written a chilling article describing life with her troubled son and the health care system’s shortage of options. The boy, “Michael,” remains undiagnosed, and despite medication he continues to exhibit a hair-trigger temper. His mother says Michael shares characteristics with gunman Adam Lanza and other mass killers, and during his unpredictable episodes he makes frightening and violent threats. The mother’s lack of help is typified by her meeting with a social worker who informed her that their best option is to get Michael charged with a crime, because “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.”

 ”The Blue Review.”

Friday’s horrific national tragedy—the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut—has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

——————

Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.

“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”

“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”

“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he’s in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He’s in a good mood most of the time. But when he’s not, watch out. And it’s impossible to predict what will set him off.

Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the district’s most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can’t function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30-1:50 Monday through Friday until they turn 18.

The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, “Look, Mom, I’m really sorry. Can I have video games back today?”

“No way,” I told him. “You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly.”

His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. “Then I’m going to kill myself,” he said. “I’m going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself.”

That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right.

“Where are you taking me?” he said, suddenly worried. “Where are we going?”

“You know where we are going,” I replied.

“No! You can’t do that to me! You’re sending me to hell! You’re sending me straight to hell!”

I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waiving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. “Call the police,” I said. “Hurry.”

Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer.

The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork—“Were there any difficulties with… at what age did your child… were there any problems with.. has your child ever experienced.. does your child have…”

At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits. You’ll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.

For days, my son insisted that I was lying—that I made the whole thing up so that I could get rid of him. The first day, when I called to check up on him, he said, “I hate you. And I’m going to get my revenge as soon as I get out of here.”

By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all apologies and promises to get better. I’ve heard those promises for years. I don’t believe them anymore.

On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.”

And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.

When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.”

I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population.

With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill—Rikers Island, the LA County Jail and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011.

No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.

God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.

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What’s New?

by Beryl Gorbman

After a record two-month dry spell in Seattle, it has at last begun to rain. Locals are relieved.

Politics

The election has already started, with a number of states opening their polls early and absentee ballots flowing. Washington hasn’t sent out mail-in ballots yet, but they are due this week. Fewer and fewer people actually go to the polls. I’ve been working on the Obama campaign – making calls and hosting a few events at my house.

Feelings are so intense that I’ve heard of previously friendly neighbors who aren’t speaking to each other. Many of us can’t quite believe that our otherwise rational friends and acquaintances have taken positions that diverge from all logic and compassion.

Since this country is blessed with a certain amount of freedom of speech, everyone is allowed their say, no matter how offensive it might be. I drove past these people the other day and had to turn around and visit.

Lyndon LaRouche acolytes

They gave me a couple of info sheets quoting the 90-year-old LaRouche, who says, “Obama is a danger to mankind.”  And “sheer evil.” And “mass murderer.” Notice the Hitler moustache they added to the President’s face. Oh, well. I had an extended conversation with the people at the table who asked me for a donation. This is truly a diverse nation.

Thanksgiving Next Month

My brother and sister-in-law occupy some acreage north of Seattle and they are raising two turkeys for this year’s Thanksgiving. Eric, in the end, couldn’t bear to slaughter his own bird last year, and took it somewhere to be killed and cleaned.

My brother with doomed turkey

Mothers of Madness

As I continue to plod along on my book project, I am now editing some of the interviews. Every time I read them, I am struck as if I’m reading the material for the first time. As I’ve explained in an earlier post, the book is a series of interviews with women whose children have/had major mental illness and committed crimes. This is my friend Dennise Zamora, whose son Isaac, a paranoid schizophrenic, murdered six people in his neighborhood in a town north of Seattle four years ago.

Dennise Z.

Here is a partial quote from my 32-page interview with Dennise.

BERYL:          Have you ever spoken to the victims’ families?

DENNISE:      I wanted to.  I wanted to go and sit by them, or go visit them over at the prosecutor’s office after court was over, but somebody told me, no, we don’t do that here.

BERYL:          Then I’m sure they didn’t want to see you.

DENNISE:      Yeah, the guy came out and said “I’m sorry, there’s just” – he says I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but it just wouldn’t be a good time….   I would have traded places with them so that they wouldn’t have to suffer, you know?

BERYL:          Right.  And there are so many of them.

DENNISE:      It’s not like their loved ones died in a car accident, which is natural, or had a dad gum heart attack or something.  But, you know, as I reflect back on it, we have ourselves as a society to blame as well, because the mentally ill just do not get tended to properly.  Hardly anywhere in the world.  But not here for sure, and we’ve got more resources than anything; but oh, we’ve got another dad gum war to pay for.  How can we afford to take care of them?  I think I told you that documentary filmmaker from Holland, said to me, you guys, you Americans take care of the rest of the world whether they want it or not but you allow your most vulnerable people to live under bridges and they are punished because they have a medical condition called mental illness.  What’s up with that? I said, I don’t know what to tell ya.  You know?

BERYL:          I couldn’t have said it better.

DENNISE:      Yeah.  And I remember telling the governor, she was on the speaker phone, and I said, this is going to happen again and again.  She cut the budget for every dollar for  beds for the mentally ill.  Cut every dollar.  Look, it’s happened since this tragedy four years ago, just in this state we’ve had three more severely mentally ill people that didn’t get the help they needed.  It happened just two months later where that guy killed a hiker, and I think a forest ranger.  And then there was the guy in Seattle that just three months ago killed five people and himself. And other ones…

BERYL:          What other ones?

DENNISE:      I can’t remember, but there’s been three more since then.  We’re lucky.  I said one of these days somebody’s going to go in to a school and wipe out the kindergarten class.  I said, what’s it gonna take for y’all to get it?  You know?  Nobody gets it.  It doesn’t matter what their politics are.  Our society doesn’t get it.  That’s why they don’t have to be accountable.  Everybody else has got a lobbying group behind ‘em.  You can’t overpay doctors and nurses and teachers.  But you know what?  They’ve got power.  They’re powerful.  If doctors don’t go to work, we’re all in trouble.  Policemen don’t go, we’re in trouble.  Teachers don’t go.  They’ve got a lobbying group that extracts that money.  It had to come from somewhere because those people vote.  The mentally ill don’t.  That’s why I’m desperate to have a really powerful documentary that speaks to what’s going on.  And I’m not talking about one of those silly things from Geraldo Rivera.  I’m talking about something solid that speaks to this issue of the mentally ill – you know?

Detroit

I went there recently, as my 95 y/o Aunt Rose, one of my favorite people, was dying. It is an awful place, Detroit, but there are signs of progress. New housing downtown and the resurgence of General Motors have brought jobs and vitality to the place.

Here’s a pic of my zippy cousin Esther, in Farmington Hills, a Detroit suburb. If you google Esther Korinsky (she is now Esther Woodward), you will see her connected to Iggy Pop and the Stooges. Friend her on Facebook to see rare old rocker photos.

Esther Korinsky Woodward, aka "Cuz"

Esther and I were about to enter an orthodox synagogue for Yom Kippur services. Neither of us had cried since my aunt’s death, but hearing the haunting melody of the sacred Kol Nidre, brought the tears out of both of us.

And here is a pic of me with the Blues Brothers in the Chicago airport. BTW, I love Southwest Airlines.

The Yenta and Blues Brothers

Fall In Seattle

By accident, I stumbled on this giant vegetable contest in north Seattle.

Measuring competing pumpkins

 

Giant beet - looks lilke an organ transplant for Tyrannasauris R.

Literary Reading

My friend Eleanor Owen reads from her memoirs of girhood in a raucus Italian family in upstate New York. She is reading her piece from a memoir collection called, We Came Back to Say. Eleanor is writing the preface for Mothers of Madness and is the co-founder of NAMI, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Eleanor Owen

Garden Open House

We went to the annual open house in Arthur Lee Jacobson’s back garden. He had delicious snacks and lots of odd plants for sale. I bought a Japanese ginger for $5 and he gave me about four additional plants. He’s a well-know horticulture guy in Seattle and has published a number of books including Trees of Seattle and the recent Wild Plants of Greater Seattle.  Here is one of the more appreciative attendees at the event.

Young goat enjoying the garden

Arthur Lee Jacobson

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Mothers of Madness

by Beryl Gorbman

BG is working on a new book. It’s non-fiction! Mothers of Madness is a series of interviews with women who have children who are severely mentally ill and who have committed violent crimes. Most of the incidents have made the news. And most are in the State of Washington.

The interviews do not focus on the crimes, but on what the mothers continue to go through. How did they learn about what happened and what was their first reaction? How do they feel about their children? How do they feel about the victims? How do they deal with this on a daily basis? Have they been rejected by friends and family? Do they think the mental health system could/should have intervened before the tragedies?

The interviews are difficult for both the interviewer (me) and the subjects because it is a topic that doesn’t come up very often. No one wants to talk about it. Their feelings are raw because they haven’t voiced them for a long time, for some – never before. For most of these moms, including me, friends and family rarely bring this up, yet for us it is a daily struggle to cope with feelings of isolation and guilt.

Some of the women have contact with their sons, (yes, all of them are males so far) most of whom are incarcerated or in mental health facilities, such as they are. Some of the moms have lost their sons, either to the electric chair, suicide, or fatal confrontations with police.

The women I am talking to all make extraordinary efforts to be brave and honest in these interviews. They know how important it is for other such women who may read these words and who are isolated in their own nightmares.

Since I started with this project, a number of the women have met and made their own connections, a healing thing for all of them.

I owe the inspiration for this book to my friend Leah, who had two separate,  explicit dreams about the project, dreams that included the name, Mothers of Madness, and predictions that it would be widely read. She told me I had to do this and she was right.

I am pleased to say I have an offer for representation by an agent.

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THE DAY OF RECKONING IS NEAR

Deadly Awakening

Many peope think that the Maya predicted that the world will end on 12/21/12. To find out exactly what’s going to happen, you’ll want to read my book: 2012: Deadly Awakening. It’s on Amazon as either a paperback or an ebook. The time to read it is now, before it’s too late.

Just go to Amazon and find this book or enter the URL http://tinyurl.com/9ekjtax  in your browser. Happy reading!!!!

Book Description

Publication Date: October 15, 2010
A mystery novel set in Merida and Chichen Itza Yucatan around the crucial date of December 21, 2012. The scene in Merida is chaotic and tense. People think that the world is about to end, as it is the end of the Maya long-count calendar. Other people think humanity will evolve to a higher form of consciousness. You wouldn’t think these are ideals people would kill to protect, but they do. Thousands of spiritual tourists have descended upon this once-peaceful city, creating chaos. People die, and die very badly. New York investigator Miriam Glass teams up with Yucatecan police chief JL Contreras to solve the dramatic murders. Other characters include William, a shady American expat who lives in a Maya Village, Contreras and his two assistants, all earnest policemen bowled over by the behavior of the spiritual visitors, Martin, who has come to Yucatan to experience the death he so richly deserves, the medical examiner Dr. Poot who calls cadavers “people” and Miriam’s friend Patty, a taciturn American nurse. Leaders of the spiritual groups include Adam Lionheart, of the Pyrolites of Faith, a huge group of doomsdayers who dress in black and use meth, and Dr. Abyssinia Schlossman, queen of the Children of Kukulcan, a peaceful group of people who hope that humanity is about to evolve to a higher consciousness. The story is set in and around Merida, a lovely five-hundred-year-old colonial city populated by a million souls, eighty-five percent of whom are Maya.

  

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Return to Merida of Scam Artist Lachlan Ansett

Please see my original post about this scam artist written in January 2010. I have received three emails dated this past week that people have encountered him in March 2012 in Merida, using the same old stories, telling the same lies.

In 2010, after I wrote my article, I learned that he had ordered, received, and not paid for a large order of medical supplies from a Merida company.

This guy must really turn on the charm to hook so many people.

My old article:

http://gorbman.com/2010/01/26/crime-con-man-on-the-loose/

See his photo in my article.

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Yucatan Yenta has hung up her ballet shoes

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MELL #3 – Background Information

by Beryl Gorbman

Note: I would deeply appreciate it if anyone who cares to forward this article or quote from it resist changing any of the original language, EVEN THE TITLES. You know who you are. Please attribute the content appropriately.

More about the Merida English Library

The following information is factual or assumed to be factual by people other than me. None of the statements reflect my opinion about anything. The data comes from interviews with people close to the situation. If anyone disagrees or wants to add or deny information in this article, please write a comment at the end of the article. If you feel strongly about it, I will interview you and post your comments as an article. I will give you the right to review what I write before publishing it, so you can make sure you are fairly represented.

First I will list some facts people have been inquiring about. There is more detail in the later text.

MELL facts:

  •  No one who has ever worked for pay for the library has been a legal employee (except for the janitor). No IMSS, no payroll taxes, no records whatsoever. Workers were authorized by the Board to work informally, even though some of them were foreigners without the proper immigration status to work in Mexico. None (including the coordinator, Maria Hernandez) were given IMSS coverage or had payroll taxes deducted, as required by law.
  • Yes, MELL is registered with Hacienda (Mexican version of the IRS), but probably not at the level required to legally receive donations or contributions other than membership dues. (This is easy to check at Hacienda.) They are a legal non-profit (Civil Association) but proceeds from events are simply stored as cash and it is this cash pool that has paid “employees.” No checks, no records.
  •  Members of the library have absolutely no legal power to remove or change board members. According to Mexican law, the board members are trustees for life, unless they resign, are fired by other board members with cause to be removed, or die.
  • Day-to-day powers currently rest with three board members who are officers, according to Mexican law. At present these are Chloe Pacheco, President, Surratt Williams, Secretary, and Carlos Arias, treasurer.
  • Ex-President Jose Martinez (who stole a great deal of money from MELL) told the board he offered to resign. He confessed to some volunteers and then he met with some board members and confessed to them. It is unclear whether the board accepted his resignation or terminated him.
  • The board has complete control over the library. They can sell the building and the books. The proceeds would probably go to Hacienda.
  • There is a strong, but unsubstantiated rumor that the board has hired a new coordinator, perhaps as an interim measure. That person is Reg Deneau.
  • MELL did not file an annual report, as required by Hacienda, for a number of years.
  • Recently, the board asked the Coordinator (Maria Hernandez) to resign. For unexplained reasons, they did not like her. She refused. They offered her increasing amounts of money to resign, but she still refused so they fired her. Maria’s family has hired an attorney.
  •  Some of the board members have been behaving unprofessionally. The board at this point does not seem concerned with the good of the library but rather has become insular and vindictive. They have ended any attendance privileges or participation by members.

Further Detail

Laws regarding non-profits are quite different in Mexico than those in the USA. It is not productive to get indignant about why things are or are not done in certain ways because that’s how they are done in the USA. It is best to educate yourselves on what is and isn’t legal here in Mexico.

The library has been careless in disregarding Mexican law. The social gatherings, Chili event, etc. are clearly fundraisers, which the library is not allowed to hold under their current status with Hacienda.

If detailed investigations are made into MELL it is possible that Hacienda may levy taxes or fines on it. It is the board’s responsibility to keep the operation legal, but a number of members and volunteers knew they were operating below the legal horizon.

Jose Martinez admitted to having stolen about 250,000 pesos, but in truth the amount may be closer to 450,000. He has committed to paying back 250,000 pesos. I don’t know whether the money has actually been returned to MELL yet.

Many of you have asked why Jose Martinez’ theft was not reported to the police. The answer is complex and involves MELL’s having been out of compliance in the first place, and also the enormous costs of prosecution of a case of this kind.

When Jose Martinez became the board president in 2009, he proposed and the board accepted his suggestion that the constitution be changed to allow him to sign checks without a second signatory. Previously, two signatures had been required on checks. Many people wonder why the board did not begin to suspect something was amiss at that point.

Generally, the board was hesitant to confront Jose Martinez about the missing money, and in fact never did. He confessed to several of the volunteers. The theory is that board members were operating in their own self interests because Jose’s family is one of the most influential in the city, and their affiliation with him may have benefitted their personal goals in one form or another.

Reg Deneau may have originally left the library from his job as coordinator because he knew about the thefts but was pressured not to reveal them. This is speculation.

Maria Hernandez was hired to take Reg’s place. She is Mexican-American, has a master’s degree in library science, and is bilingual. She fit well into the community, brought fresh ideas, and was implementing some much-need organization when she was fired. When she was fired, all of the volunteers walked out of MELL in protest.

The board changed all the locks on the building and it is and continues to be locked down. All activities have been suspended.

Here is more detailed information about the Board of Directors of MELL.

A board member in Mexico, a trustee, is not expected to be involved in the day-to-day operation of the non-profit, and it has been noted that indeed most of MELL’s trustees never entered the library at all.

The MELL board was formed about 15 years ago.

As mentioned above, only the president, secretary and treasurer are primarily responsible for the operations of the library. These are the three people likely to be targeted for punitive action by Hacienda, should such a thing take place.

The other board members are associates. As mentioned, a board member serves for life. The board removed Jose Martinez from his office for cause. There is some question as to whether he resigned or was fired by other board members. The reason this is not know is that the meetings are secret.

At one point, the board accepted the presence at their meetings of some representatives from the volunteers and membership, indicating that they would accept one or more of them as board members at some point. This never happened, relationships deteriorated, and the member advisory committee was excluded from the board meetings.

Any time a board member is added, terminated or replaced, the board is required to hold a formal meeting called an asamblea (assembly) which is officially recorded with specific corporation papers, and submitted to Hacienda.

Unless there has been an official assembly, with signed papers submitted to Hacienda, the change of personnel does not legally exist.

In 2008, some new people were brought on as associate board members. Some have since quit, but since the process was not formalized with an assembly and required Hacienda paperwork, some are still officially on the board. These people included Grant Spradling, Roberto Guzman, Malena Peon, George Fisher and Tonia Kimsey and “some other Yucatecans.” Roberto Guzman, George Fisher and Grant Spradling have since resigned, but the resignations were not officially recorded until quite recently. Two other board members, Anibal Gomez and Monica Hernandez, (probably the “some other Yucatecans”) were brought onto the board, but there was no formal assembly or filing of required paperwork, so they are not legal board members.

Raymond Branhan is also a board member.

Jose Martinez needed to summon an assembly to remove himself from the board. Only the president can do this. This assembly took place and we think that Grant and Roberto were removed at the same time as Jose Martinez. Tonia Kimsley was ratified but Malena Peon was not since she is the spouse of Jose Martinez. The other two Yucatecans who had been nominated also were not ratified. George Fisher’s status is unclear.

The current associates and members are Chloe Pacheco, Tonia Kimsley, Mitch Keenan, Surratt Williams, Carlos Arias and Raymond Branhan.

All of these changes have been done in secret. The membership does not know whether some of the papers have been filed with Hacienda, but this is public information and an attorney is looking into this.

This is not an editorial piece so I will not wax on about the massive loss to the expat community that this represents.

Please forgive formatting anomalies. Microsoft Word and WordPress are not made for each other.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Merida Expat Life | 7 Comments

Library Update

Lots of mail and suggestions, both decent and not, have come in today. Just today, about 700 unique readers (as of 4:00 p.m)., have accessed the library information on this site.

My understanding at this point is that the library is indeed registered as a non-profit organization, but does not have necessary credentials with Hacienda to raise funds. Membership fees yes, gatherings and events, no. MELL is also not authorized to pay salaries as the payroll tax setup has not been done. The Board structured the non-profit in such a way that there is no input or control from the membership.

Do any of you know for sure what of this is true?

Among the more constructive suggestions to emerge today, has been that the members draft an open petition to the Board, each Board member by name, legal address and business affiliation, requesting their resignations. This petition, signed by as many members as possible, would be widely circulated.

A MELL member is drafting such a petition; it will take a few days. Whether to do this or not is up to the membership.

I hate using the passive voice, but it has been pointed out to me that the Board holds full control of MELL and can do whatever they want right now, including closing the library and selling the book collection. This would be their legal right.

We would appreciate your comments. Make them anonymous if you wish, but you must include your email address which will not be published.

Good luck to us all.

Posted in Merida Expat Life | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Merida English Library Uproar

Hope to see you tomorrow, sat., 12/31 at 10 AM in front of the library at Calle 53 near 68.
Sorry about the formatting from all the forwards, but I am trying to get this out tonight and hope that some library members will have a chance to see it.
The board of he library has fired the coordinator.
The membership and volunteers are completely backing the coordinator and think the board is highly unethical or worse. 
As you probably know, the ex-board President stole a large amount of money from the library and many of the same people who allowed this to happen are still on the board. 
I personally am not renewing my membership to the library, because who knows what will happen to my money?
Tomorrow, Saturday 12/31/11, library members are meeting out in the street in front of MELL since the library is locked down. 
Please be there and ask anyone else who is interested to be there. If you know anyone in the media, please call them. 
Apologies for errors of attribution, etc. but this was done in a hurry. There will be a full coverage of the incident in the next day or two. Watch this space.  -Yenta.
String of emails from tonight:
From: Leroy Osmon
Date: December 30, 2011 7:59:12 PM CST
To: library members
Subject: letter to board

As a member, patron (that has donated thousands of dollars of books over the years to MELL), advertiser and 16 year supporter of MELL, I feel it is time for the present board to resign. No matter what part any or all of the members had in this present situation IT HAPPENED ON YOUR WATCH. There can be absolutely no confidence in the present board and as a result the MELL will suffer greatly.

The board needs to turn to the original concept with an all English speaking membership and an all North American membership and include only those that are not in any way associated with the present board fiasco.
The ‘whistle-blower’ that brought this to the attention of the ‘officials’ should be rewarded – NOT FIRED! This act alone by the board (firing the present Liberian) cast aspersions on the present members. If the library is to survive this, the board must do what is best for the preservation of MELL and that simply means they must go. Right, wrong, uninformed, complacent – it does not matter at this time. Many members, like my wife and I will simply no longer have any thing to do with the present situation and that would include the retention of the present board.
As current members, we call for the resignation of the present board.
Dr. Leroy Osmon, DMA
Dr. Cay Smith Osmon, EdD

Lorna Gail Dallin to me (BG)
show details 8:10 PM (1 hour ago)

Hola!  Beryl …I just sent this email to the volunteers of MELL as we have walked off the job in protest of Maria’s firing.  Your observation that we are (or were) very lucky to have a person of Maria’s calibre working at our own little Library, is spot on.  How could the board push that aside so carelessly.-0-0-0-0-0-0

The volunteers are out in protest … we will not open the Library Tomorrow morning, Saturday.  We will be there at 10.00 to talk with members who show up.
If you can, come by the Library tomorrow between 10 and 1 … to get more information, to consolidate, to comisserate, to confirm our message both to the members and to the board
I will look forward to seeing you there at sometime … we will meet in the street.Again, I am not sure that I have all current volunteers on my list so if you see any misses, please pass the word.
Pass the word to friends of the Library and ask them to come by as well.  We need some visible support.
See you there.
oxox
lg
z[z[z[z[z
Why don’t you drop by … there will be lots of discussion as to what is happening, what has happened and what might happen.

 

Begin forwarded message:
From: Leroy Osmon <l
Date: December 30, 2011 7:33:47 PM CST
To: Arnott Hilary Elizabeth
Subject: Board meeting Sat. at MELL 10AM

If you have ever used the English Library and are interested in the future of the Merida English Library then I would like to recommend that you attend the board meeting Sat. 31 Dec. at 10AM.

As some of you may know, there was a reported theft of between $250,000.pesos and $450,000.pesos and the person that discovered the theft has been asked to resign. As a 16 year supporter of MELL (the English Library) I do not want to see it be closed and or damaged any more than it has.
There are some very good people that have served in the past on the Board of Directors and there are some good people presently serving, however, the situation has developed to a ‘vote of no confidence’ and to save the Library I feel that the present board should step aside.
It is my understanding there will be a meeting tomorrow and I would like to invite anyone that is interested in the preservation of the English Library to attend the meeting.
Leroy Osmon

Dr. Leroy Osmon, DMA
Begin forwarded message:
From: Leroy Osmon
Date: December 30, 2011 5:05:00 PM CST
From Osrom: 
Subject: MELL problems
It seems that the MELL (English Library) is in a big mess these days. In fact when I moved back a year ago the library was in such a mess that we simply did not even trust donating books any longer! We saw the newly appointed Liberian as a step in the right direction.  At this point I do not care who is right or who is wrong – I would like to see the board resign and a new board be established. After the theft of money and the way it was dealt with I see no way there can ever be any confidence in the present board. I am sorry to say this because there are some friends of mine presently serving on the board, however, what is best for the library is my concern because it is an absolute treasure in Merida and I do not wish to see it suffer any longer.
As for the Merida English Library…. Cay and I will no longer support MELL to any degree and withdraw our monthly ad and our membership! When there is a new board in place and legal action has been taken to regain the money stolen (all of the money) we will consider supporting MELL once again.
Dr. Leroy Osmon
Letter from Roger

Some of you may have already heard about the irregular,unlawful and shameful things happening at theMerida English Library under the inept leadership of the current board and this letter from the most recent Library Administrator ( who was today unjustly fired ) by the current board pretty much says it all. I would ask all of you to not patronize the library until a new board is in place. All the current volunteers have chosen to no longer donate their time operating the library or support such extra activities as the chili cook-off until the existing board is either replaced or resigns. If you read the letter carefully you will have pretty much the entire story.
Posted in Merida Expat Life | 25 Comments