by Paul Wright
Recently PLN has not been publishing on its usual schedule. There have been a number of unforeseen developments lately that have caused this. In October 2000, the behavior of Fred Markham, PLN's office manager at the time, became increasingly erratic. He closed PLN's Seattle office and moved it to a home office in Monroe, a small town 30 miles away. This effectively cut PLN off from its volunteer base. The quality of PLN's layout deteriorated based on the unqualified person that Fred hired to do it, Gary Taylor Rose.
Around February 15, 2001, Fred had PLN's phones turned off beginning on the 20th and by the 16th had disappeared. It turns out that Fred had been embezzling money and misappropriating funds since at least 1999. Right now we are in the process of figuring out how much he stole and for how long he had been doing it. At this point, we know that Fred has stolen at least $20,000 in PLN funds, most of it in grants we had recently received.
PLN volunteers have been able to recover most of PLN's physical assets. We are in the process of setting up a new office, new bank accounts, hiring and training new office staff and layout person, etc. We also have to measure the havoc that Fred wreaked, which includes not filing PLN's paperwork with the IRS. PLN supporter Don Miniken is heading the recovery operation and will be PLN's executive director for the immediate future.
The February 2001, issue of PLN was mailed using the January issues' mailing list because the computer our mailing list program had been on was damaged by either Fred or his associates. We have switched over to a new mailing list program, which we used to mail the March issue. For a one or two week period PLN had no phone or email service. If you tried to contact PLN during that period and received no answer please contact us again. Fred also stole around two weeks of PLN's mail, which we never received. If you sent PLN anything important that would have arrived in Seattle between February 1023 then we probably didn't receive it. We are currently working with our bank to determine who sent PLN money that was deposited but not recorded and then we'll try to figure out what it was for.
Our current plan is to publish PLN on a three-week publishing schedule until we are back on our regular publishing schedule.
Fred managed to steal all of PLN's money except for $7,000. The only reason he didn't steal this was because PLN's bank account was frozen the day before he attempted to withdraw the remaining funds. One PLN supporter has generously given PLN additional operating funds to keep us going while we sort things out. Fred also left unpaid bills with our printer, among others, that we have to deal with. If you can send a donation of money, stamps (yes, Fred stole all of PLN's stamps too) or other financial support please do so. It is urgently needed. If you can make a donation this is the time to do it.
PLN has taken a big hit, but it's not going to sink. We ask that our readers, advertisers and other supporters bear with us while we get everything back on schedule.
Most of the people at PLN are surprised and disappointed by Fred's treachery and stealing from PLN, especially since it had been occurring for some time. Stealing, in effect, from the prisoners and non-prisoners alike who support our struggle for human rights in the U.S. In rebuilding PLN's financial structure we are instituting procedures and safeguards to ensure this doesn't happen again. These measures include requiring two signatures on all PLN checks, bank statements going to different board members, etc.
In hindsight we should have done this earlier but we didn't think it was necessary as we thought Fred was trustworthy. In any event, while we can't undo the past we can learn from it and take steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.
It is extremely heartening to see the level of support PLN has received in this time of major crisis. Don, Sandy, Linda, Dan and many others have dropped other plans to help PLN work through this bend in the road. PLN's printer, bank and mail place have all been extremely helpful and understanding throughout this ordeal. Our rebuilding efforts suffered a minor setback when a 6.8 earthquake hit Western Washington on February 28. While none of PLN's assets were affected, the quake disrupted everything else in terms of getting things back on track.
We will keep our readers posted on developments as they unfold in future editorials. Enjoy this issue of PLN and encourage others to subscribe.
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