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Bullies, Enablers and Victims: #NewSeattle Style

October 6, 2010
by

There has been a great amount of media attention on the subject of bullying lately.

When I was growing up, the attitude towards bullying was that it was a right of passage.  Today however, there are laws and policies in place- one can even face criminal prosecution for bullying.

But bullying isn’t something just faced by kids.  It’s a societal norm that impacts people from all races, levels of income and stature, and all ages.

When bullying happens, there are at least 3 components involved; the bully, the victim, and the enabler.

The bully is the aggressor.  That person doesn’t care about the impact they have, no matter how severe. They are the ones that hit, taunt, and manipulate to get what they want which is simply to reinforce their own backwards comfort zone or self invented idea of control.

Next is the victim.  That person finds themselves on the receiving end of the bully’s actions and doesn’t have the power to stop them. The treatment they receive comes at no fault of their own.

Third, is the enabler- the person or individuals who both watch the bully in action and do nothing to stop them, or join in- for fear they might become the next victim.  The enabler is completely under the influence of the bully and will do anything to keep them happy. In doing so, they strengthen the bully and send the message that bullying is okay.

Lately, I have found myself dealing with this exact scenario.

In August I went to work for a local organization, Tabor 100.  My employment came at the end of an eight month process of vetting and working with members of the board to create the first-time position.  After so much time invested, I was thrilled to be brought on board, and they were equally thrilled to have me.

I brought my “A-game” every day, until suddenly, everything changed.  Out of the blue I was notified by two separate members of the board that an employee from the City of Seattle had contacted the organization to express their displeasure with the organization’s choice of a staffer- me- a person outspoken and critical of Mayor Mike McGinn. The unnamed employee was so upset, the relationship between the organization and the city was in jeopardy- and so was my job.  The bully sent a clear message to Tabor; get rid of her, or suffer the consequences.

Within days, I was fired- a casualty of the organization’s fear; a textbook bully scenario.

I didn’t know who had done it, I only knew why- any commentary I’d made previously about the mayor was not appreciated.

Boy have I learned a lot since then. Specifically, it’s not uncommon for an organization to get a phone call from someone in City Hall about some sort of ongoing political or even personal situation that, at first glace, has nothing to do with the organization being contacted.

Perhaps the city wants an organization to give a public show of support on a controversial or unpopular issue. They “ask” the organization to do so by calling and “casually”- or not- reminding said organization about their city contracts and relationships with decision makers. It’s a passive aggressive bully tactic that happens all too often, and just one of the ways the City and its employees throw their weight around to get what they want. It’s nothing less than shameful, and a dirty aspect of Seattle politics no one likes to talk about.

There are a lot of contracts that can be held over Tabor’s head, not just the contract with the organization. Several member businesses, including the business of the President herself, have gotten contracts as a direct result of Tabor’s activity with the city.  Those contracts represent over $1,000,000 of revenue in the past few years. Proof Tabor is an effective organization doing important work at a crucial time.  Small business owners are struggling in these hard economic times- we all are. I know I certainly am.

I don’t have a traditional career in journalism- I have to work to provide for my family just like everyone else- journalism and commentary are done on my own time. I take time away from my family and my personal life to write and report. There isn’t a single article or interview or commentary that I’ve produced because someone told me to, but because they are stories and truths which demand to be told.

Pair that with my love for Seattle, a city that is great, but far from its greatness. Seattle prides itself on diversity, progressiveness, and tolerance. Yet when the surface is scratched harsher realities are exposed. It’s the collective failure to adequately address those hidden-in-plain-sight realities which perpetuate the city’s flaws. I’ve seen the effects those flaws have, and I choose not to look away for the sake of the status quo.

The SV provides an invaluable perspective on our local society, whether people agree with it or not.  It exists solely to speak truth to power. That is the value, and that is the reward.

Most organizations and government entities- whether they agree or disagree, take it all in stride; apparently not the mayor’s office.  Needless to say, the mayor and his staff have a history of reacting in a way that is a bit more emotional, whether it is to ignore or engage, than one would expect from a public entity.

The behavior displayed in this current situation is about as low as one can go- bullying an organization into firing their employee- directly jeopardizing one’s ability to provide for their family- it hits well below the belt.

Less than 24 hours after I was fired the mayor’s office confirmed an employee of the City of Seattle initiated the phone call to a member of the Tabor 100 board.  They were extremely conciliatory, saying it was regrettable, inappropriate and a potential disaster.  They expressed a strong desire to see the situation “reeled back in”.  Neither the City of Seattle nor the organization offered the name of the employee but both unequivocally stated the call had been made; surprisingly, both Tabor and the Mayor’s office expressed as much to independent third parties.

The call was made by a City of Seattle employee.  They admitted it and they knew they were in the mud because of it. But this story doesn’t end there.

In the course of a separate investigation conducted by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission to determine if the employee in question inappropriately and/or unethically used their position within the City to influence Tabor 100, the EEC contacted the organization’s President Ollie Garrett.  Ms. Garrett refused to divulge the identity of the employee and withheld the information for an additional 3 to 4 days before confirming she personally had a conversation with Seattle Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith and Nancy Locke regarding his concerns about my employment. Ms. Locke, was unaware of the SV Blog, and only contacted Tabor after the Deputy Mayor advised her I’d written things about the mayor that were “close to the edge”, and that my presence in any meetings with Tabor now constituted a hostile environment.

3 to 4 days.

When they finally did talk to the EEC, both Ms. Garrett and Deputy Mayor Smith denied he had initiated the contact, and though he admitted to calling at least one other City of Seattle employee (Nancy Locke) to discuss his concerns, both claimed to the EEC the discussion came in the course of a coincidental call Ms. Garrett made to the Deputy Mayor.

Ms. Garrett first said I was terminated because my journalism represented a “conflict of interest”. She later stated it was because I failed to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Yet, she didn’t specifically state she asked for one, nor specifically state that I refused to sign one- because she didn’t ask me to sign anything. Ever.  Ms. Garrett also told the EEC she was unaware I was SV.

I went through an 8 month interview and vetting process. One of those interviews was with a Tabor Board member who owns a private investigation company that specializes in employment and background checks.  In that process, I was told I came very highly recommended.

And I would be completely remised if I didn’t point out the fact that prior to my professional relationship with Tabor, articles on the blog had been discussed and used as reference materials by the organization- specifically during their Seattle Mayoral Candidate Forum. They discussed SV articles in at least one membership meeting.  They even went so far as to request comment from McGinn’s staff.

And finally, the Tabor Board President was a fan of the SV on Facebook.  One can’t “Like” something without choosing to. One probably has to know what that something is, too. Other board members were friends with SV on Facebook as well.

Even if none of those things were true, type my name into Google, Bing, Yahoo or any other search engine and it becomes very clear who is responsible for the SV voice. Me.

Tabor can cite a “conflict of interest” or “failure to disclose” as the reason for my firing.  I think we all know that the truth is there was never a problem with my blog or opinions until they heard directly from Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith that HE had a problem with it.  He could say, and probably will say, it wasn’t his intention that I be fired. I think we all know that’s not true either.

So, why am I writing about all of this now?  Tomorrow members of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission will review the report prepared by their staff, much of which I’ve outlined here.  I’ve been getting emails, texts, phone calls, tweets, and interview requests- all about the report.  The fact is the EEC worked diligently and within the scope of their authority to determine who made the phone call and for what purpose.  That the integrity of the investigation was compromised by uncooperative parties at a critical time was outside of their control.

I have never met Deputy Mayor Smith- in any capacity and was completely unaware of his feelings towards me or the SV site.  It’s true, we have been extremely critical of the Mayor- for good reason.  But that isn’t nearly the sum of what we do. We have a much broader array of issues to cover and stories to share.

What I am most proud of is the invaluable stories we tell about the lives and deaths of real people; that is the cream of this city- those who live here and those who die here.  We have been entrusted by people to tell their stories when they trusted no one else to do it.  Equally cherished is the impact that our writing/radio has on fellow journalists, both mainstream and community based.  The countless reporters that have pulled me aside or dropped me an email to say “I’m never going to write about youth violence the same again, because of” an article or an interview they read/heard on the SV or KBCS Radio.

That’s irreplaceable. No bully is powerful enough to take that away.

Nevertheless, being on the receiving end of it is no cake walk.  It has left me shaken. It has made me question whether or not writing the SV is even worth it, if it means I can’t pay the rent. It leaves me wondering, what else…how far?  How far will they go?

Whether you like the mayor or agree with the mayor, the record if his administration speaks for itself.  When they don’t like something- not when something is wrong, but when they don’t like it- they pick a fight. Nearly everyone acknowledges this, and some even like it. It’s evident it’s now gone beyond picking fights- they’ve resorted to bullying to get what they want.

All of that left me with a choice to make, shut up about it all given the cost I’ve already been forced to pay, or say something. Bullies count on the continued fear and inaction of both their enablers and their victims. And they have bullied effectively. I admit it, I’m scared.  But if I don’t say something I become an enabler myself.

Truth to power it is.

What others are saying:

The Sunbreak

Nonprofit Newswire

Real Change Newspaper Blog

Piece of Work In Progress Blog

A Dad First Blog

Publicola Morning Fizz

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. M-Rock-1 permalink
    October 6, 2010 1:09 am

    Excellent piece.

    I very much appreciate that you mention that you have to work to provide for your family and you do this out of love.

    To have your professional livelihood ended because of something that you do on the side and out of love is extremely unfortunate and quite wrong.

    The finding reminds me of the color gray, it’s not black or white enough to be an out-and-out acquittal and there are enough “non-threats” carefully carved in throughout the various quotes and actions so that there can’t be an out-and-out conviction.

    Sad.

  2. October 6, 2010 6:18 am

    When I was in eight grade there was this bully, Michael Segretti. This “kid” looked like he was about 17, from being held back so many times. It was unspoken that you didn’t mess around with him. One day he took a look at my then hip, silver diver’s watch with the rotating minutes ring (the year, 1972)…He started pulling on it, saying that I should give it to him, and finally the watch band broke. I was about two-thirds his size, but threw all the desks aside and hauled off and slugged him – yes, Jeremy had spoken. The entire class gasped…mostly thinking I would not live until high school, but he backed off…the spell was broken.

  3. Myke permalink
    October 6, 2010 11:41 am

    John,

    Way to go!

  4. On Sable's Side permalink
    October 6, 2010 11:49 am

    This is fascinating. To read coverage on other Seattle-area blogs, you’re painted as a stereotypical out of control Black woman with no respect.

    Also, funny, and not in a humorous way, how people are happy to ride on the BS EEC report and excuse that idiot of a Deputy Mayor.

    This was an abuse of power. I’m betting the Deputy knows that too and hopes it all gets swept under the rug. That won’t happen. Your account is too damning.

    You say you’ve never met him before- have you heard anything from anyone since this happened or since the report came out?

  5. October 6, 2010 11:50 am

    Yes the Dir. of Communications has since asked me to coffee. Doesn’t sound like Deputy Mayor Smith will be there though.

  6. In City Hall permalink
    October 6, 2010 11:58 am

    I work in City Hall. Was here before this flap jack of a Mayor showed up. He is inept, so is Smith. But that’s just my personal opinion.

    None the less, they hate you on the 7th floor. You’re water-cooler talk and the subject of many a joke and unflattering comment. The mayor’s people consider you a “bitch” and they want you to go away so badly, I have no doubt when Smith saw an opportunity to mess with you he launched himself at the chance. He should step down. His ego won’t allow him to. As a result the mayor should fire him- but HIS ego won’t allow that either. Fact is, people in city hall have been talking about this situation for weeks and the mayors staff was hyperventilating over the potential damage it could do because they knew Smith royally screwed up.

    And that lame ass “Tabor didn’t know” claim? poppycock.

    They took a dump all over your life and when they got caught, they put pretty paper on it with a colorful bow and called it Christmas. Guess what? I still smell shit.

  7. White Liberal SV Reader permalink
    October 6, 2010 12:03 pm

    Some people will read this and understand what really happened. Others will not. Ignore the latter and continue, as you say, to speak truth to power.

  8. WTF?! permalink
    October 6, 2010 12:18 pm

    I just read THIS on Real Change’s website- –
    SEEC Executive Director Wayne Barnett says, in effect, that because no one at the city gained from Verity losing her job, no ethics were violated.–

    HUH?! DumbassDeputy Smith repeatedly expressed to multiple people that he did not feel comfortable talking in front of you. YOu got fired. He no longer has to worry about talking in front of you. Seems like a “gain” to me.

    EEC dropped the ball. In fact they dropped it, stuck it with a knife, deflated it and ran over it with their eco-friendly bus.

    This is wrong, wrong, WRONG! Are you going to appeal their decision?! Will you PLEASE appeal their decision?

  9. Bill B permalink
    October 6, 2010 12:21 pm

    A lot of us were expecting that the sleeze-Nickles machine was done. And McGinn has said to me on a couple of occasions “Bill, judge us on how we do”.

    ‘Nuff said here. I think a deputy mayor resignation is in order due to Sable-gate.

  10. Belltown Baby permalink
    October 6, 2010 12:25 pm

    I’ve been reading the SV for years. Assuming you’ve been gainfully employed elsewhere before this debacle, I don’t recall reading anything on your blog about any day job you’ve had. Have you? If so I’d like to see the links please. People on “other” blogs suggest you do or have in the past and if you have, indeed, Derryl Smith would have concrete examples to point to, and would prove your claim of personal and professional being separate is false. Please do not ignore my comment.

  11. October 6, 2010 12:28 pm

    Belltown Baby,

    I never write about work. Folks are free to try and disprove that. They wouldn’t be very successful.

  12. October 6, 2010 12:42 pm

    Isn’t media supposed to represent a 4th establishment that is entrusted in keeping gov’t honest? Frankly, what was done to you is a slap in the face of the democratic tradition. Oh, so it’s suck up to the corporate media big wigs, but stomp on the “little guy” like an ant?

    I say don’t quit what you’re doing with this blog and otehrwise. If anything, use this as the motivation to go even harder in true honest journalistic fashion. Trust me, the people that follow your work are and will continue to pay attention.

  13. RiddleMeThis permalink
    October 6, 2010 3:46 pm

    Here is what I’m struggling with Sable, the report clearly states the org hoped to secure a non-disclosure agreement from you after they discovered your side gig. Why wouldn’t you have signed it, if, as you say, you don’t write about work on the blog or your other media outlets? That part doesn’t sit will with me. If you could explain that, I would appreciate it.

  14. October 6, 2010 3:56 pm

    RiddleMeThis,

    Great question. I addressed this in the post above but am more than willing to do so again. Please note Ms. Garrett told the EEC she “hoped” to get an agreement from me. She then basically says I flipped my lid, implying that I refused to sign one.

    Ms. Garrett never asked me for a non-disclosure agreement. She never even mentioned it. Nor did I wig out when approached. She stood in the door way to my office and I sat at my desk working on a filing project. The next steps we agreed to were that I would meet with the Board to address any concerns they had. No such meeting ever took place, instead, I was fired.

    If I had been presented with an agreement to sign that helped the organization have confidence that I would not write about work or write about anything I learned at work or in the course of any conversations or statements by the Deputy Mayor, I would have gladly signed it and moved on. I noticed, that while the report does leave room for inaccurate interpretation, it does not outright say that I refused to sign an agreement. That’s because no such agreement existed, was discussed or proposed. Why the EEC put that statement in their report without having any evidence it was fact, I do not know. They certainly never asked me if it was true. Further, when I was terminated, that was never mentioned. I was told by the VP that my employment was being discontinued because they determined by “the actions” of my “alter ego” were a conflict of interest for them. Nothing about non-disclosure.

    I understand fully why they’ve said those things- but it doesn’t make them true.

    I also understand that to many this all seems like a back and forth he said/she said, but it is not. I’m confident with my version of events because I have a stack of documentation to back it up. I’m guessing neither Tabor or the Deputy Mayor considered that before they synched their stories and finally spoke with the EEC. Such is life.

  15. YuckFace permalink
    October 6, 2010 4:52 pm

    The comments on Publicola are particularly distasteful. I hope you’re not reading them. If they’re upsetting to me I can only imagine what you must be going through, seeing people write about you as if they know you personally. And also, the mayor’s cronies are all over it, throwing out tons of red herrings.

    So disgusted right now.

  16. Reportschmort permalink
    October 6, 2010 4:57 pm

    I read the EEC report recommending your concerns be dismissed. If that’s all people are reading, I can see why they’d be inclined to agree. But now I’ve read your story. I’ve ready it more than five times. I’ve flipped back and forth between the report and your blog post here and, I gotta tell you Sable… something just isn’t right. I won’t pretend to know how the EEC does it’s job or even how they came up with the recommendation to dismiss. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the Deputy Mayor threw his weight around to get you fired. It jumps off the screen and slaps you in the face. He called around to people for jimminy’s sake!

    And I agree with the comment above- he DID benefit by you being fired. He wasn’t just worried about speaking freely, he admitted to telling another city employee flat out NOT to speak freely. Now you have no job soooo… he can speak as freely as he likes. No benifit? My foot.

  17. McGinn Rocks Seattle permalink
    October 6, 2010 5:00 pm

    I know the mayor and the deputy mayor. I supported mcginn during his campaign. you are an insufferable bitch and I’m glad they got rid of you. you needed a wakeup call and to be reminded of your place. He is the deputy mayor and you are a racist, hatefull bigot with nothing of substince to give this city. you play on race and inuendo to write. you have no ethics, no respect for authority and clearly you should have been fired. suck up the loss and go apply for food stamps. oh wait, that’s racist- right?

  18. October 6, 2010 5:14 pm

    I heart publicola. I do not read their comments. Don’t read them if they’re upsetting you!

  19. October 6, 2010 5:15 pm

    I haven’t made that decision one way or the other.

  20. Mommy Said So permalink
    October 6, 2010 5:33 pm

    Wait a good got damn minute. Sable you wrote a lot here hun and I had to go through it a few times to fully absorb the irony in this.

    Tabor has used the blog as reference material in an official capacity in the past? The board president was a FAN?! And now they want to say they didn’t know about it and now that they do it’s a conflict of interest?!

    The fact that you can show that beyond a shaddow of a doubt speaks to the integrity of Ms. Garrett and what she told the EEC. How could they believe her when she lied to their faces? If she lied about knowing about the blog, it stands to reason she lied about a bunch of other stuff too. Was she president of the org when they used the blog as a reference material during the meeting? Please tell me she wasn’t. Pleeeeeeease tell me she was out of the country.

    That’s an insult to everyone’s inteligence.

  21. October 6, 2010 5:37 pm

    Ms. Garrett was present.

  22. Mommy Said So permalink
    October 6, 2010 5:43 pm

    I’m harping, I know. In what capacity? I guess I need you to spell it out for me please.

  23. October 6, 2010 5:59 pm

    She was board president at the time. Same position she is currently in.

  24. Mommy Said So permalink
    October 6, 2010 6:13 pm

    And the EEC believed HER over YOU!? This is an outrage. She should step down. So should that sorry ass so called Deputy Mayor.

  25. City Haller permalink
    October 6, 2010 6:33 pm

    I also work for the City of Seattle and am around the mayor’s staff often. You know that thing they say in Harry Potter? He Who Must Not Be Named? Yeah that’s totally the spirit in which you’re envoked. BUT, if it makes you feel any better, you’re not the only one. They’ve got hatred for (and fear of) a slew of people. What was done to you was wrong. I would speak out, but I would get fired! How ironic!

  26. Lew permalink
    October 6, 2010 7:21 pm

    It’s true: you are not the only one. I know that doesn’t help. This mayor, and his team, are mean and vindictive. McGinn is a flop and Smith is a sell-out.

  27. October 6, 2010 10:13 pm

    You are so off base about Sable, but that’s stating the obvious of what your comments display for all to say. I am so very different from Sable politically, religiously, ethnically, maybe even philosophically…but she is someone I hold in very high regard. Why? She’s real and she’s not a standard tow-the-line-at-any-cost kind of person, as opposed to say…oh, I dunno, you, hiding behind anonymity and protecting your people in City Hall.

  28. October 7, 2010 5:16 pm

    Actually I don’t think that’s the case. Their findings were basically inconclusive. I don’t think the people I met with at the EEC “don’t” believe me. They’re good peeps. Tabor is a great organization. And the mayor’s office….needs a lot of work. 😉

  29. Pat Murakami permalink
    October 8, 2010 7:38 pm

    First, I believe that no one should be allowed to post a direct comment about another person on a blog without giving their actual name. It is a matter of human decency and courage of conviction.

    “McGinn Rocks Seattle” was the posting of a coward. To call Sable a foul name is the action of a person with low intelligence and a very limited vocabulary. Even worse, was to imply that Sable needed “to be reminded of” her “place”. Were you implying her place is on the back of the bus?!?!!! What an utterly vile and contemptible comment.

    I have news for you “McGinn Rocks Seattle”…Sable’s place is ABOVE McGinn and Smith. As a resident of Seattle they answer to her – she owes them nothing.

    And shame on the Mayor’s office for not distancing themselves from your tasteless comment. Since we know they monitor this blog with close scrutiny their silence shows a terrible lack of character and judgment.

    Sable darling, your right to freedom of speech has been violated!!! Call the ACLU and sue the City into an even greater budget deficit. Perhaps the overflow of red ink will force our elected officials to finally give our City the direction it so desperately needs – to take us away from endless development for the sake of empty, unoccupied development (both residential and commercial), and toward a focus on ECONOMIC development.

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