Monday, February 14, 2011

PCD Board Member Resigns over Firing of District Executive

The following is the full text of a letter that was sent to the UUA District Presidents' mailing list.  I post it here with his permission.

From: John Schick
Date: Mon, Feb 7, 2011 at 10:17 PM
Subject: The true story of the unilateral firing of Cilla Raughley

Hello everyone,

My name is John Schick and until two days ago I was a member of the Board of Directors of the PCD. I had been in that position since 2007, having been elected to two terms by the lay members of this district at our annual District Assembly. I resigned on February 5, 2011, due to the way in which this matter of Cilla Raughley's unilateral termination was handled by both the UUA and the UUMA. I have read Meghan Cefalo's note and it is full of half truths and self-serving words from the ministers. As a person who was present during the entire situation and who is no longer under any constraints about telling the truth, I will let you know what REALLY happened. I do this not out of spite, but because this group -- district presidents -- need to be aware of what I believe are the long term goals of the UUA in its regionalization plan and the lengths to which they will go to achieve that goal. What you and your districts choose to do or not to do is up to you. But I have always believed that having all the facts is important in making any important decision.

First, personal background. I am 65 years of age, and have been a member of the Stockton, California church since 1973. Until about a month ago, I was in the choir and for the past four and a half years was chair of the Worship Associates, a group that helps plan services. I have written and delivered several sermons and been in charge of services in the absence of the minister. I have served as president of my congregation, been on two search teams, been called to serve on the Committee on Ministry about 10 years when our then minister relapsed into an alcohol problem, and until recently took pride in being a UU. My father was a Lutheran minister, and so I know what it is like to be in a family where there is a professional minister and the problems that come with that job. Professionally, I am currently a law school professor and have been full-time for the past three years and before that was a trial attorney for 37 years, defending five death penalty cases, thirty murder cases and countless other cases. I think I bring to this message a great understanding of human nature and the problems that power brings to people's lives. I am the president of the law school alumni association at King Hall, the law school at UC Davis where I attended 40 years ago and thus have great experience in working with people on committees and doing board work. I do not think I am a difficult person to work with, but I do have a strong sense of right and wrong.

What I am about to tell you is my opinion, but it is based on many facts which I have learned during our meetings and also during the minister interviews that I and others on the board conducted over the past few months. The issue with Cilla Raughley has little or nothing to do with her job performance. What it has to do with is the perception on the part of those in the higher ranks of the UUA that the PCD was going to resist their efforts to regionalize and thus water down the work our district had been doing in its ongoing efforts to grow the faith that supposedly motivates those who work for the UUA and the professional ministers.

Let me expand on that. We board members first heard of regionalization about a year and a half ago. We were told that there was nothing concrete on the drawing board but the outline of the plan meant that there would be one district or region encompassing almost all UU churches west of the Mississippi River. This would replace our district and three others in the west. This seemed odd to us, but we adopted a wait and see attitude. Then at our DA in April of 2010, Gini Courter came out to discuss this issue. During the Q/A session she held, many of our board members asked somewhat difficult questions. This obviously distressed her and in my opinion she became quite abrupt and rude in her answers. This only exacerbated the feelings of our board members that the plan was not going to be one that benefited us.

As a point of information, the PCD is an independent 501(c)(3) organization which is not controlled by the UUA. Then in August of this year, a letter was sent to our board from a lawyer in southern California. The thrust of the letter was that Cilla had allegedly said something less than flattering about the former president of our district, Mary Ellen Morgan. Some of you may know her since she was until May of this year the PCD president. Although the letter said no legal action was going to be taken, there was an implied threat in the letter that something had been done that was wrong.

As a lawyer, I made inquiry of what this was about. Everything that may have been said was legally privileged and gave no basis for any legal action. However, on the pretext that this letter represented some wrongdoing by Cilla, Teresa Cooley, Director of Congregational Services for this area, made contact with our current board president prior to our regularly scheduled meeting in September of 2010. Teresa told Ed Massey, our current president, that she wanted Ed to ask the board to fire Cilla. The basis for taking this action was the letter I just referred to. Ed refused and did not even want Teresa at our board meeting. She came anyway and briefly spoke in general terms about regionalization. After that meeting in Marin County, she said she had a meeting with a group of ministers. This is likely where the plot to write the letter from the UUMA was hatched.

So in October of 2010, a letter was drafted and signed by the then president of the UUMA. The letter expressed dissatisfaction with Cilla and said "we request new leadership." To say that we board members were shocked is an understatement. During my tenure on the board and before, we have ALWAYS had a minister as one of our board members. And NO ONE ever expressed this feeling. And there were surveys done wherein these same people could have anonymously expressed their dissatisfaction. None did so. In short, it is my opinion that this letter was nothing but a pretext which the UUA could seize upon as a basis for terminating Cilla. Cilla is co employed by the UUA and our district. Either side can unilaterally fire her and she also had that option of terminating her employment.

It is my opinion that some within the ranks of the ministers have had a long relationship with Teresa and were frankly willing to do her bidding. Her marching orders were to fire Cilla and the means mattered not a whit, only the end mattered. This does not sound like an adherence to our first principle in my opinion. We did decide as a board that we should investigate the matter and our executive committee began the first in a series of tasks dedicated to finding out what the truth was. While many ministers explained some concerns, most of them did not rise close to the level of being a basis for termination. Some seemed related to hurt feelings and perceptions that were not true. Without subjecting this minister to any harassment by colleagues, I will quote the context of the most revealing interview I had with a minister.

This person told me that when she was doing a start up, she was bargaining to get a four week study leave put into her contract. Cilla was present but did not speak up in favor of the minister, but took a neutral position with the board. The minister was upset, thinking that Cilla should have been HER ADVOCATE. Then upon reflection the minister said that she realized that Cilla had to represent ALL of the district.

This is the crux of the problem. Ministers are in my opinion much more concerned about their compensation packages than they are about the welfare of their churches. Cilla did not reflexively back their demands but sought to represent all sides, which is what a DE should do. Our district has about 6,700 members, and only 100 ministers. It would seem that an elementary school student should be able to see that a proper executive would not put the interests of a small group over those of the entirety. But this is exactly what the UUA has done.

When Peter Morales got involved in this matter, he referred only to the letter signed by the ministers as a basis for agreeing to terminate Cilla unilaterally. I continue to be surprised that even he would fail to see the significance of getting ALL points of view before making this decision. And it was his role in this debacle that eventually led me to conclude that I could no longer be on the board and will ultimately lead me to resign as a member of my former church.

Some of you may regard what I think as extreme. But I can say that we took a survey of our board a few weeks back and I am not the only person who is nearing the conclusion that being a UU will no longer be a part of our life. This may be sad, but it is the eventual outcome of the raw exercise of power. And the sad thing is that the ministers, a group of well educated people, still don't realize how they have been manipulated by what I would opine are Machiavellian minds.

UUism will certainly go on without me and without some of my colleagues who are about to quit. But the movement will experience some shock waves as we speak truth to power and let the public know that there are many clay feet standing on that statue of Unitarian Universalism.

John Schick


  1. Thanks for posting these. I'm curious to know what that note he refers to says. ("Meghan Cefalo's note and it is full of half truths and self-serving words from the ministers") Is there an online copy somewhere? (I feel like both sides ought to be presented, and think that note would explain their reasoning, however valid or invalid it is.)

  2. @kinsi - I have a couple of versions of the letter as they were re-transmitted by ministers. I do not have a copy with permission to post. I will look into doing that.

  3. If you haven't seen it, Daniel Harper posted a letter from the UUMA with permission:

  4. @Louise: I have also posted a copy of the UUMA letter and my comments in the recent post,

    The letter that John Schick refers to above was an earlier letter written by Meghan about February 6th and went to various ministers and some PCD presidents. It resembles the official UUMA letter.