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From: Ronnie
Date: Monday, April 20, 1998 1:04 PM

I agree with Pat, you should have at least the written reports we gave the BoD during the investigation phase leading to last weekend's meeting. So, here's mine. Both professionally and personally fascinates me that, while we recall the timings slightly differently, the facts are so closely similar, since he wrote his privately from Dallas, I wrote mine privately from Phoenix, and we didn't discuss the report contents with each other.

In any event, here's mine:

First, please accept my apologies for this eleventh hour, and necessarily abbreviated (really, it is!), letter concerning my involvement as Merchants' Row Autocrat with Estrella War XIII (EWXIII). Many pressures, not enumerated here, have combined their efforts to thwart this letter to you. Please forgive that my success against them comes to you so late.

Mark Kiel (Master Marcus) originally accepted the EWXIII Main Autocrat position during Aaron and Alyssandre's reign in the Kingdom of Atenveldt. At the time, Spring of 1996, I understood the conditions were that he would work with a War-experienced Pelican. This became Pat Cuccurello (Master Petruccio), who had helped run, or ran, four Estrella War events before EWXII (none of us were involved in EWXII). The same day Mark accepted Estrella Main, and Pat agreed to coach Mark as Main, Mark asked me to be Merchants' Row Autocrat for EWXIII.

So, I helped to organize and put on EWXIII from the start. Because Pat and I are married, and Mark and Pat have long been friends, I overheard many of their conversations and discussions during preparation, set-up, running the War, and what followed. From these, I learned about many problems concerning EWXIII as they unfolded, of which the most memorable are here.

In background, there's factionalization in Atenveldt, no surprise to you. I think one could pretty much draw an outline around many of the people who actually ran Estrella War XII, including the EWXII Crown and the EWXIV Crown, and that core could be seen as a faction that seems always in upheaval trying to control the Kingdom, its Populace, its direction and its traditions. I believe, going backwards in time, that this controversy; those surrounding Don and Nikki (Erik and Nichelle); that concerning fealty of incoming Royalty of two years ago; and those involving Mark and Jaque Newman (Mark and Jaqueline von Newman) of some five and six years ago, are examples of this faction's activities.

One focus in that faction is removing the War to the Schnepf Farms site. I believe the EWXIII Kingdom Seneschal Ellen Parker (Eilidh MacMurtrie) and Exchequer Bill Scott (William the Cursed) have been part of the faction I mentioned. I believe they've favored the Schnepf Farms site, despite what appear to me to be uninsurable dangers that make that site a liability as a War site for the Kingdom and the SCA. I mention this because, if the Estrella site is not or cannot be used for Estrella War in any given year, the Park Service and surrounding Goodyear area may choose to rent that time slot for and promote other events that need such a large site annually. Hence, the future of the Estrella War event would be jeopardized. (I strongly recommend the SCA have its insurance underwriter and financial analyst explore the viability of the Schnepf Farms site for the February event.)

From the start, the three of us found ourselves having to "reinvent the wheel" for EWXIII. The difficulties we had trying to find out "where we'd been" so we could map out "where we were going", suggest to me that the previous War's personnel were reluctant to share information with us. We never had a budget, categories, and actual expenses from EWXII with which to work into EWXIII. We couldn't get the EWXII financial and event reports, about the handling of various Main and Sub-Autocrat positions and expenses, from that War's autocrats, or Ellen or Bill.

For examples, it was months before I had a list of previous merchants to whom I needed to send packets. What I finally did get was over 100 names, addresses, phone numbers, merchandise types and miscellaneous information I had to enter into the computer by hand; I was told the disk on which EWXII Merchant information was stored was lost. Instead of having a report from which to contact and work with the needed local regulatory authorities, I had to locate contacts and requirements for the Estrella War events with the Arizona Department of Revenue and the Maricopa County Health Department. Finally, I never did have a Merchants' Row budget from the previous year.

Mark and Pat also had trouble making arrangements with vendors to complete the vendor contacts and contracts necessary to secure hygienic and grounds facilities and supplies to put EWXIII on. At least twice I overheard them discussing that a vendor had upped his price in response to an arrangement favoring the previous, EWXII, autocrats. It was almost entirely because Pat had prior relationships and experience with some of these people, and his own information gained from running other Estrella Wars, that Mark and he had any information to work with. Ultimately, Ellen and Bill told us there was no budget or report available for EWXII, and we'd have to work with what we had or could find to set up EWXIII.

It was particularly hard for any of us to communicate with Ellen and Bill. I frequently heard complaints that Mark and Pat's answering machine or voice mail messages to Ellen and Bill were unanswered, and that they couldn't reach either Ellen or Bill directly.

My experiences with Ellen and Bill were no different from what Mark and Pat related to me. I incurred large postage and supplies expenses preparing and mailing packets to prospective merchants. I called Bill many times to arrange meetings for payments without any response. Each time, I asked for a date, place and time when we could exchange receipts and a voucher for a check. Each cancelled or missed appointment resulted in greater expenses I was carrying. At one time, I was personally carrying over $800 in receipted, reimbursable expenses! More than once I left messages on Bill's machine, asking if I had to contact Ellen to get him to give me a check; and on at least one occasion, telling him that I would sit in my car outside his home until I saw him if I didn't have a check in hand within 48 hours. At least twice, I called Ellen and left messages on her machine: she didn't return my calls, either.

Pat and Mark figured out that they seemed to be being "stonewalled" for the information they needed, so they arranged a "voucher" system with the Crown's and Seneschal's permission to review any monies that were to be paid to put the War on. I was at the meeting in which Bill agreed to follow that procedure. Afterward, in the Sub-Autocrat meetings, Mark made it clear to all of us that there were to be no agreements, commitments or payments for monies relating to EWXIII unless the Sub-Autocrat prepared a voucher explaining the cost, specifics of what it was for, to whom it was to be paid, and by which Sub-Autocrat it was sought. To get a check, the Sub-Autocrat was to give Bill a completed voucher signed by Mark, or alternatively by Pat.

I tried to exchange such a voucher for a check at Kingdom event where I had finally arranged a meeting that Bill kept. He and Ellen were sitting together on a grassy hill a little apart from the activities, and while I waited several yards away to be noticed by them, she wrote three or four times to a page in a book, then went on to the next page and did the same. When they motioned me to join them, I saw she was signing pages of blank checks. When I offered the voucher and receipt copies to Bill, Ellen told me, "You don't need the voucher; we're not doing that."

Another time when I had convinced Bill to meet me at a fighter practice for a similar exchange, he took and tried to keep both the copies and originals of the receipts. It took me more than six weeks to get him to return the copies, and again I had to tell him I would have to refer the matter to the Seneschal or Crown before I even got a call back from him. When I finally did get the copies, they had notes on the back of them about reimbursement checks he'd told me he'd cut and sent to merchants entitled to them. But, these same merchants still called me and demanded the monies they were entitled to. These kinds of calls continued even after the War.

Several weeks later, a week or two before EWXIII, Mark was at our house while I was working on the Merchants' Row map. I overheard him and Pat ask each other if they'd had any vouchers to sign. I said, "I thought you weren't doing that?", and they then learned that Bill and Ellen were giving people checks without requiring the vouchers.

There also was a problem with trying to get the insurance certificate to cover EWXIII. In November, 1996, Mark said there was a problem contacting Ellen about the certificate. In late December, when I was trying to finalize Merchants' Row, I heard him and Pat trying to figure out why Ellen said she didn't have the signed event documents they had handed her to get the certificate. In January, Nikki (Nichelle, then Queen of Atenveldt) talked with me about Ellen still not having the certificate, and not having completed other work concerning Kingdom Laws. Nikki was worried that the War would be cancelled for lack of proof of insurance. She was also frustrated that the Kingdom couldn't remove Ellen as Seneschal for not taking care of the Kingdom Seneschal business.

After EWXIII was over, Pat and I began getting calls from the Maricopa County Park Ranger with whom the Kingdom contracts for use of the park. The County wanted the rent on the park. Each time, I called Bill and left a message on his machine to get in touch with Mark and the Park, and arrange to get the fee paid. After no fewer than a half-dozen of these calls, and no response from Bill, I put the ranger on my office conference call line so he could hear me convey his message to Bill's machine. His message was: if he wasn't paid in the next two days, he would decline the contract for the 1998 EWXIV; and would refer the bill to the County Attorney's Office for collection from the Kingdom or the SCA. This was at least six weeks, and may have been as late as three months, after EWXIII had ended.

By May, 1997, we still didn't have a financial report on the War from Bill. We prepared reports of our various positions and activities and submitted them with the information we did have. Just after this, Pat and I were visiting Vicki Bostwick (Viscountess Mistress Roslyn of Saxony) in her home. She showed us, not only the elusive EWXII report, but also a comparative study between EWXII and EWXIII's financial reports! Pat looked like he'd been poleaxed when he saw the EWXIII report. Within another month or so, we learned that the Kingdom was investigating the financial results of EWXIII. Mark, Pat and I each received letters from Amanda (Duchess Amanda, the new Kingdom Seneschal), telling us to explain checks we'd received, what they were for, where the money had been spent, and to whom it had gone.

Bill gave Pat a check for working funds of about $500 just before we started setting up the War site. He used it to replenish supplies, such as rebar, that had been depeleted and not restored by EWXII, and for other incidentals, like photocopying several thousand parking permits, fuel for rented gas carts, batteries, and diesel for the food service electricity generator barrel, during the War. Because Bill insisted on having Pat's receipts immediately after the War, and Pat had been working the War and for his employer at the same time, he had no opportunity to make copies for his own records. As a result, Pat was never reimbursed for some $60 of expenses beyond the $500 advanced, although Pat gave Bill receipts for those, as well.

I, too, had given Bill receipts, or copies of receipts, for Merchants' Row expenses. However, I kept copies of all my receipts, including the ones I insisted Bill return to me. I both mailed and handed copies to Amanda. I can also provide them to you. Had I been less insistent about getting and keeping receipt copies, I'd be facing the same attack on my character as Mark and Pat are now defending, and with as little substance to it. And those records would have followed Pat's, having disappeared as misplaced or destroyed, and would not be available as proof of these facts.

Conclusions can be drawn from these facts. The most obvious is that Kingdom-level Officers deliberately denied the EWXIII Autocrats any control of the financial aspects of EWXIII. In addition, Mark and Pat did their jobs to the best of their abilities under adverse conditions. Moreover, the history shows any sanctions sought against them may be motivated by ill-will at worst, and scape-goating at best.

The motives for seeking sanctions against people who do their jobs in good faith should be investigated, both presently and historically. Some action must be taken to prevent future behaviors with similar motives. Anything less dooms Atenveldt to continue a cycle that lies entirely outside the ideals the SCA needs to remain viable.

I serve the Dreame.
Ronna Hodges
(Ronna Rosgaile Soilean Soilleir, O.P.)

Petruccio's Letter to the BoD
Ronna's Letter to the BoD
Comments on the Proposed New Site for Estrella War
A Related Incident
A Song To Atenveldt

Daily Affirmations for the SCA Politician
Your New Government Official (TM)
A Parable For The SCA
Cultic Groups In The SCA