Another Friends of Lulu Board Member Speaks

After last week’s revelations about the now-defunct Empowerment Fund, another Friends of Lulu board member, Leigh Dragoon, comments. Here’s an excerpt:

3. The Empowerment Fund is a defunct concept which Friends of Lulu will no longer be pursuing.

4. I have examined the PayPal statements. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Ronee misappropriated any funds. In fact, she donated funds.

5. We offered Fund contributors a refund period.

6. Money was spent ONLY on the Fund’s intended purpose: namely, to defray court costs for Taki Soma.

Later, in the comments, she elaborates:

There is still some money remaining in the fund, and the Board is discussing how to handle the remainder. Shannon has told me that she will be preparing an official FOL statement, but it’s not a high priority at the moment, as there is a mess of (unrelated) clerical work in preparation for annual FOL events that takes priority.

Update: I have sent Ronee Bourgeois a query as to whether she has a public response, but I’m not sure it got through (her contact form threw an error). If anyone has an email address for her, I’d be interested in that (send privately, please).

Similar Posts: Friends of Lulu Empowerment Fund Response § More Friends of Lulu Response § Friends of Lulu Responds § Friends of Lulu Silent on Donation Status § What Went Wrong With Friends of Lulu? A Postmortem Interview

11 Responses to “Another Friends of Lulu Board Member Speaks”

  1. Tommy Raiko Says:

    I kinda hate to nitpick, but since one of the lessons FoL is hopefully taking to heart in all this has to do with making the kind of effective public statements expected of any charitable organization, I have to comment on this part of the statement:

    We offered Fund contributors a refund period.

    Which strikes me as a little ambiguous. Is it “period” as in “emphatically, categorically, no ifs-ands-or-buts”, or is it “period” as in “for a limited time”?

    Like I said, kinda a nitpick, but given the…problems…FoL has had in its communications during this time, I think it’s a nit worth picking.

    Then again, this apparently isn’t even the official statement, so perhaps it’d be more fair to wait for that official communique, whenever it’s issued…

  2. Paul O'Brien Says:

    “Money was spent ONLY on the Fund’s intended purpose: namely, to defray court costs for Taki Soma.”

    I find that comment curious. If the “intended purpose” of the Fund was as specific as “pay Taki Soma’s legal bills”, why call it something as vague and open-ended as “Empowerment Fund”?

    Admittedly, “Empowerment Fund” is a dreadful name on many levels. It singularly fails to explain what the money will be used for. (“Empower” who, to do what, and how?) And frankly, to British ears at least, it sounds like the sort of thing stereotypical strident-yet-amateurish student socialist groups used to set up circa 1982 – hardly the impression to make if you want to be taken seriously. But surely, on any view, it points to a wider remit than just paying one woman’s legal bills.

  3. Anne Blaeske Says:

    “>Shannon has told me that she will be preparing an official FOL statement, but it’s not a high priority at the moment, as there is a mess of (unrelated) clerical work in preparation for annual FOL events that takes priority.”

    And this is where I have to say something. As a former board member, there should be nothing more important than preparing an official statement.

  4. Tommy Raiko Says:

    Paul: I suspect many would accept that the FoL Empowerment Fund wasn’t sufficiently thought out–in many ways. (“Strident-yet-amateurish,” frankly, might be the most apt description yet…) Since it seems that so many at FoL and beyond either tacitly or explicitly admit this, and since there’s been apparent turnover at FoL regarding those involved with the fund, it might not be a bit harsh to re-hash out all its problems.

    On the other hand, future well-intentioned folks may be able to learn something from all this, so maybe there’d be a purpose in that sort of post-mortem discussion after all…

    Anne: With regard to this:

    And this is where I have to say something. As a former board member, there should be nothing more important than preparing an official statement.

    I tend to agree, and am glad someone else has the same feeling.

    As I mentioned in one of the earlier threads’ comment section, I can certainly accept that FoL, like many volunterr-based charitable organizations, may not have the devoted personnel or infrastructure to operate with the high level of efficiency and transparency that the public may expect from such an organization.

    But it certainly strains that indulgence, doesn’t it, to think that they’re actively de-prioritizing formal, public response as if ignoring the question will make it go away. ‘Cuz that almost never works…

    On the other hand, it occurs to me that Shannon Crane did respond over here. Although that statement seems to have been a direct response to Johanna and not something necessarily crafted as a broad, public response, I suppose it’s possible that FoL may feel as if it is already has formally responded with that. But hey, if that’s the case, you’d think they’d cover things on their website or something…

  5. Paul O'Brien Says:

    Yes, I think FoL have quite fairly acknowledged (at least tacitly) that the Fund was a mistake. But it’s also true that they ought to be winding the Fund up properly, rather than letting the money fester in a bank account somewhere.

    I don’t know what else the FoL board are doing that might have a legitimately greater claim to their time, but in the normal course, I would have thought that it was in FoL’s interests to put this affair to rest rather than relegating it to the bottom of the pile.

  6. Colleen Says:

    The thing that always kills me about anything like this is that an organization seems to be organized enough to solicit and accept donations, but can’t seem to get it together enough to deal with any mistakes with said funds. (Even to the point of a simple formal public notice.)

    Adults should act like adults and that means cleaning up your mess.

    As far as what to do with remaining funds, well donate them to CBLDF or Fantagraphics defense fund or schoolgirls in Afghanistan or Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans or on and on and on. Save the damn whales with the money.

    I mean really – if you can not refund any remaining balance because you can’t reach the contributors then there are a ton of well regarded charities it could go to. Why not just do the right thing?

  7. Nat Gertler Says:

    I suspect (without being an expert on it) that giving money to another charity that isn’t in line with the FoL charter may cause them some friction on their tax-exempt status. (I also suspect that some of the donors to the empowerment fund would not be pleased to see their donation routed to defenders of “porn” like CBLDF or publishers of the same such as Fantagraphics.)

  8. Paul O'Brien Says:

    I’m not sure what the position is under American law, but at least here in Scotland, it wouldn’t be as simple as just picking a random charity and giving them the money. They’d have to use the money for the purposes it was raised for (or go to a court to get permission to do something else with it).

    Imagine if a real charity turned round and said, “Yeah, you know we said we’d spend your money on the starving poor? Well, we thought we’d use some of it to build a dogs home…” Same idea. You’d be raising money on false pretences.

    Mind you, it should just be a matter of finding a project that meets the vague remit of the Empowerment Fund, and I suppose that shouldn’t be impossible.

  9. Colleen Says:

    I understand what you are saying guys and I was speaking a bit off the cuff there (hence the “save the damn whales comment) but don’t you think it is odd that you can’t donate the funds collected for a charitable purpose to just any charity, you can’t refund to everyone because you can’t reach them and so the money just sits there….until when?

    They are already in a false pretense situation I think (which is what started all of this discussion). So my question then would be, what are they supposed to do with the money?

    I imagine this is why big charity are purposely vague on their solicitations (or allow loopholes) – to avoid being stuck wtih balances that remain in banks forever.

  10. Paul O'Brien Says:

    Well, I’d have thought the way out was to find somebody who’s running a project that falls within the Empowerment Fund’s goals, and give them the money. I’m assuming that we’re not talking about vast sums of money here. (If we are… well, perhaps they’d better do some Empowering.)

  11. More Friends of Lulu Response » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Continuing coverage of the Friends of Lulu Empowerment Fund controversy, this time with more catfighting (at the end) [...]




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