This post will outline my attempts to mediate this situation in the proper forums. However, the proponents of the recall petition against me have consistently refused to discuss this situation privately in order to come to a solution.
On September 28, 2017, Mr. Chris Reeves, our DNC Committeeman for Kansas, used his access at the DailyKos as his own personal bully pulpit to continue his lies and deception in order to cover up his own corrupt activity. Even recruiting out-of-state strangers to send me his article and harass me via Facebook messenger.
Despite my continual, repeated attempts to resolve this situation amicably and promote unity behind closed doors, the forces in opposition to me have repeatedly chosen a public forum to discuss these issues.
Now I have no choice but to share my side of the story here as well.
Point 1: The KDP has real work to do.
My attempts to work with staff to professionalize the operations of the Kansas Democratic Party have been denied. While the status quo may be easy, we must demand transparency and professionalism in all operations of the organization. Our staff does excellent work and needs leadership to take the KDP to the next level to produce Democratic wins across Kansas.
Point 2: I have been repeatedly restricted or undermined when I attempt to do work on behalf of the KDP.
I have worked professionally for Democratic campaigns for almost ten years. In that time, I have observed our traditions and understand the inner workings of the Kansas Democratic Party. Per the KDP Bylaws, Mr. Gibson has the discretion to appoint the chair and members of each standing committee. Mr. Gibson refused to appoint me to any standing committee and has not released the names of those serving on each standing committee so our membership can ensure these appointments comply with our bylaws.
Mr. Gibson and Mr. Corson canceled ancillary caucus meetings for Demofest and refused to give discounted ticket prices to the Kansas Young Democrats in an effort to discredit me.
Point 3: An informal resolution was possible.
Mr. Gibson chose to chastise me via email in front of the executive board and disclosed his personal dislike for me following the tweets cited in the recall petition. I initiated a discussion with Mr. Gibson to explain the situation and we agreed to work together going forward to ease tensions. Mr. Gibson refused to disclose who the concerned parties were so I could resolve the issues with them directly, however, he promised to advise me if there were further complaints about me so I could attempt to resolve those issues.
Point 4: John Gibson demonstrably failed to keep his promise to me and it resulted in a party-wide division.
Despite my attempts to discuss these issues with concerned parties directly and mediate the situation behind closed doors, Mr. Gibson and Mr. Corson have refused to work together to heal this divide. They refused to work with me to keep this matter out of the public domain or facilitate a mediation between the factions. The first time Mr. Gibson spoke to me throughout this ordeal was to inform me that if I did not resign, he would send a letter in support of my recall. He never disclosed the additional accusations he made against me in his letter and refused the opportunity for me to present evidence to him prior to his decision.
This entire saga was manufactured in an attempt to protect the activities of the other consultants upon the Executive Committee of the Kansas Democratic Party, particularly the Smoky Hill Gang, Tom Witt, Chris Reeves and Ryon Carey. This is a pattern of behavior from this crew designed to pressure me to resign so there is no opposition to their fraudulent and reprehensible conduct. Mr. Gibson, Ms. Hiatt, Mr. Hutton and Mr. Corson have refused any opportunity to heal this destructive divide within our party - we must demand more from our leadership.
On Thursday, September 7, the three other state party officers to the Kansas Democratic Party joined in the attempt to see me removed from my duly-elected position as Secretary of the Kansas Democratic Party. I was elected to the post just five months ago. The lack of leadership that has been demonstrated during this destructive ordeal was made clear by their choice to join in the assassination of my character. All the while, those attempting this character assassination have provided no substantiation for their claims, nor have they given me the opportunity to present evidence of my innocence.
We must realize the intent of all these accusations is to bully me into either being a yes-man for the good old boys club, or accepting their slander with resignation.
I am being recalled because I represent a minority opinion within KDP leadership. While at times these attacks have been personally devastating, the flood of encouraging calls and stories of similar harassment by those perpetrating the current situation within our party has strengthened my resolve to continue serving as your Secretary.
Unfortunately, while I have attempted to professionalize the operations of the KDP to set Democrats up for electoral victory in 2018, I have been met with significant resistance which has morphed into an embarrassing display of misogyny that calls for an investigation by the entire body of the state committee.
Point 1: The KDP has real work to do.
We have systemic issues within the infrastructure of the KDP that need to be addressed in order for our party to grow and run as a more professional organization. At our first and only executive board meeting since each of the state party officers were elected at spring state committee meeting (Washington Days), I offered to work with staff on a strategic communications plan to help build the KDP brand to attract new Democratic voters and raise money online. Mr. Gibson informed me he had a group working on this and said he would offer my help, however, he would not connect me with this group.
As we discussed the different standing committees, I told Mr. Gibson I would like to be included in the platform committee and the candidate recruitment committee as I actively work on those projects already. I was never invited to participate as a leader in either committee. Mr. Gibson never made a public announcement regarding who would serve as the chair and members appointed to serve on each standing committee. Indeed, those individuals who should have received notice as a matter of right pursuant to the bylaws, such as the Democratic congressional nominees, also did not receive notice of Platform Committee meetings.
It is now clear Tom Witt, who serves on the Executive Board by virtue of his status as chair of the Progressive Caucus, was appointed chair of the Budget and Finance Committee as well as the Platform Committee. It is unknown to me who else serves as members of these committees, despite the requirement in our bylaws that at least four members must also be appointed to these committees, along with a chair, and “an equal number of members shall be appointed from each of the four congressional districts. Each committee shall be divided as equally as possible as to gender.”
To my knowledge, the chair of every standing committee is a man and there is no publicly available list of the members of these standing committees to ensure the Mr. Gibson has appointed those positions in accordance with the Kansas Democratic Party bylaws.
At this same executive board meeting, I expressed concern that our Congressional District Democratic Committees did not uniformly hold federal PACs. I asked Mr. Gibson if I could work with the Congressional District chairs to get federal PACs filed. He informed me that we would work on discussing that with the chairs.
I disclosed that I heard the Governmental Ethics Commission had contacted the KDP to give notice that some ancillary caucuses had been raising money without a properly-organized state PAC. I suggested that since they had recently reorganized at Washington Days, it would be a great time for me to work with the staff to get a paper file collected for each caucus so we had the documentation to be confident all caucuses were in compliance. There is an urgent need to clean up the way we handle ancillary caucuses.
While everyone agrees we need to correct these issues in theory, when I attempted to create a compliance protocol for our caucus operations, it was refused.
Point 2: I have been repeatedly restricted or undermined when I attempt to do work on behalf of the KDP.
While Demofest planning started out smoothly, there quickly developed deep, needless friction.
First, there was debate whether it was important to have caucus meetings or trainings. Ethan Corson, our newly-hired executive director, wanted to bring in organizers from D.C. to host trainings to illustrate that D.C. Democrats are excited about Kansas. I told Ethan that I felt like that was a waste of funds, and we have plenty of very experienced people in every corner of our state. I suggested the opportunity to have panels of different organizers from Kansas to discuss Kansas-focused tips and tricks. This would both serve as a unifying project between different camps, as well as provide information that would be interesting to Kansas Democrats of all levels of experience. (For the record, I was rebuffed, and D.C. folks will be providing trainings at Demofest.)
I also opposed the idea of trainings because it limited our ability to hold ancillary caucus meetings and congressional district meetings. While it was argued that the congressional districts did not need to meet because they had recently met for the platform committee meetings, I was adamant that we need to ensure that caucuses had time and rooms to meet. The impending departure of Carol Williams, executive director at the Governmental Ethics Commission, has created an urgency to clear up compliance issues so that we may start on a fresh foot. It is critical we work with her to ensure that all our ancillary caucuses are operating legally and have documentation of such protocols before some outside party finds it advantageous to attack the Kansas Democratic Party for these oversights.
Again, I attempted to professionalize the operations of our caucuses when I started planning Demofest. At my request, the KDP finance director sent a notice to all ancillary caucus chairs asking them to schedule a time caucus meetings during Demofest. Following the email notice, I made calls to caucus leaders and worked with them to schedule a room and time to meet during Demofest.
Despite numerous slots available for caucuses to meet, Tom Witt, the Chair of the Progressive Caucus, told members of his caucus, who wanted to hold their reorganization during Demofest, that there would not be an adequate room available for the caucus to meet. I reached out to a concerned member of the Progressive Caucus to assist him to schedule the caucus meeting during Demofest and assured him that the KDP would not be involved in preventing a caucus from meeting during Demofest.
My attempts to schedule these caucus meetings at Demofest resulted in Mr. Gibson canceling all caucuses meetings I had scheduled with caucus leadership. However, they recently added them back to the schedule last week following public outcry. To this date, I am unable to get other leadership within the KDP to work with me to ensure all ancillary caucuses to submit documents required for reorganization and recertification and all legally required paperwork.
Despite Mr. Gibson personally telling me that I would be "in charge" of Demofest, he has continually undermined my ability to make decisions without his intervention.
I was approached by Kansas Young Democrats concerned that Mr. Corson would not agree to the traditional discounted YD pricing for Demofest. I contacted the KDP finance director, discussed the issue and we tentatively agreed that we would offer the traditional discount pricing to Kansas Young Democrats, as we had for Washington Days and countless other annual meetings in the past.
I informed the Kansas Young Democrats everything was cleared up and the finance director would create a link to allow them to purchase the discounted tickets. However, following the September 7 email from Mr. Gibson, Ms. Hiatt and Mr. Hutton, the Kansas Young Democrats were informed that they would not get a discounted ticket price. Mr. Gibson made the decision to deny the Kansas Young Democrats the ticket price they pay every year and discredit the decision made by me and the KDP finance director. This decision is motivated by Mr. Gibson’s desire to showcase his power and use it to shut out the Kansas Young Democrats.
Point 3: Informal Resolution WAS Possible
On July 28, 2017, I received an email from John Gibson with the Vice-Chair, Treasurer as well as the DNC Committeeman and woman copied in reference to my tweets. Rather than picking up the phone to discuss the situation with me, Mr. Gibson chose to chastise me in front of the rest of the executive board and inform me that he "did not like me personally."
I immediately replied to this email that I would like to speak with him on the phone, as this conversation required an in-depth discussion.
Mr. Gibson called me that evening, and I expressed my concern about his comment that he didn’t like me personally, as it was confusing and hurtful to me. I explained that I did not understand how he had any opinion about me personally, as we’ve had no opportunity to develop even a working relationship. While we may not have always seen eye to eye on everything, I felt like we were both working very hard, and I had concerns that this personal dislike he had developed towards me would interfere with our ability to work together.
Mr. Gibson and I discussed the series of tweets that would be later cited as part of the recall petition. I explained to him that while I agree, the discussion did not need to occur on Twitter, that it had gotten far more detailed due to the DNC Committeeman, Mr. Reeves, responding to my initial tweets in an attempt to attack me. I promised Mr. Gibson that I would always call him and try to resolve issues with him privately in the future, and I apologized to him. I told Mr. Gibson I could not delete the tweets, because in my experience, that causes the situation to become inflamed again, and I thought it was best to move along and not draw additional attention. He did not want to disclose who had complained about my tweets, even though I asked multiple times for the opportunity to clear any grievances directly with the source.
Mr. Gibson assured me again that, while he did not like me personally, it would not interfere with our ability to work together for the good of the Kansas Democratic Party. I informed him that while I hoped to change his opinion of me, my top priority was creating a stronger KDP.
At this time, Mr. Gibson agreed to let me plan Demofest and I asked Mr. Gibson not to inform anyone else that I would be planning Demofest for the immediate future because I had concerns that if that had became known, efforts would be made to sabotage my work.
Mr. Gibson agreed, and I made a promise to Mr. Gibson that day not to publicly criticize the Kansas Democratic Party. I have kept my promise until now for the sake of potential resolution. However, Mr. Gibson promised that he would keep me informed when there was an issue in the future so I could help him to settle it.
Point 4: John Gibson Demonstrably Failed to Keep His Promise to Me and Created Party-Wide Division.
The first time I heard about the charges alleged in Ms. TeBeest's petition was from Taylor Dean at 12:46 a.m. on August 23, 2017. While Mr. Dean did not advise me about the petition, he began to harass me about various claims he had heard from circulators of the petition. When I asked him where these accusations stemmed from, he refused to advise me. Since it was clear that Mr. Dean was not interested in a real discussion about the accusations he described, I asked to speak with him in the morning. Mr. Dean continued his harassment of me via text message. At that point, my business partner, Levi Henry, reached out to Mr. Dean to emphasize my requests to be left alone. Mr. Dean continued to harass me. At this point, Mr. Henry told Mr. Dean that when a woman asks to be left alone at 1:00 a.m., that he should comply. I was later informed that Mr. Henry's text message to Mr. Dean was used to "prove" that threats had been by Mr. Henry to those in support of the recall petition against me. However, at the time of Mr. Dean's text message harassment of me, neither Mr. Henry nor I had knowledge of the petition.
Since it was clear from his responses that Mr. Dean was not interested in a real discussion about the accusations he described, I asked to speak with him in the morning. Mr. Dean continued his harassment of me via text message. At that point, my business partner, Levi Henry, reached out to Mr. Dean to emphasize my requests to be left alone. Mr. Dean continued to harass me. At this point, Mr. Henry told Mr. Dean that when a woman asks to be left alone at 1:00 a.m., that he should comply. I was later informed that Mr. Henry's text message to Mr. Dean was used to "prove" that threats had been made by Mr. Henry to those in support of the recall petition against me. However, at the time of Mr. Dean's text message harassment of me, neither Mr. Henry nor I had knowledge of the petition. Mr. Henry was simply trying to help me stop harassment from a man in the middle of the time that had twice refused my requests.
I first received notice of the petition when it was sent out by Ms. Tebeest on August 24, I called Ethan Corson to have a conversation regarding the petition.
I expected Mr. Corson to be surprised by the petition. However, when I asked about the petition and informed him that I had two sources confide to me that Mr. Gibson had been encouraging people to sign the petition at Shawnee County County Party meeting, I was shocked that the KDP didn’t disavow prior knowledge of the petition.
I asked Mr. Corson why I was not given notice of the petition when the KDP had notice so I could attempt to settle the issue amicably.
Mr. Corson told me that the party’s position is that it was not involved.
I asked Mr. Corson to have Mr. Gibson call me as soon as possible because Mr. Gibson had not responded to repeated phone calls and text messages. I never heard from Mr. Gibson that day.
On August 25, as I walked out of court, I had three missed calls and a voicemail from Jonathan Shorman from The Wichita Eagle. I immediately texted Mr. Corson and Mr. Gibson jointly, informing them that I had a call from Mr. Shorman from The Wichita Eagle; that he had a copy of the petition; and I would like to discuss a response with them ASAP.
My text message was ignored.
I called Mr. Corson and told him the situation. I asked if he could get Mr. Gibson to join in a joint conference call to discuss how we wanted to handle it.
Mr. Corson then called me back and said that Mr. Gibson was busy, but it was the KDP’s position that they are not involved. I asked Mr. Corson how they could take that position as I am a member of the executive board.
Mr. Corson repeated that the KDP’s position was that "they are not involved."
I continued to push Mr. Corson about why the KDP would not work with me on a joint statement unless they were also in support of the recall petition.
I suggested to Mr. Corson that we work together to at least postpone the story so that there could be an opportunity for reconciliation and for cooler heads to prevail. Mr. Corson told me that he "didn’t know how to do that." I suggested that both Mr. Corson and I jointly contact The Wichita Eagle and inform Mr. Shorman that no petition had been submitted to the Kansas Democratic Party for certification at this time. If a petition were eventually submitted, it would need to be inspected by the state party officers to ensure that there were enough signatures from valid state committee members to be certified. Only at that time would the petition be considered as an agenda item for Demofest.
I suggested we contact The Wichita Eagle jointly, provide this background to Mr. Shorman, and ask him to hold the story until the proper time, with the assurance we would gladly provide complete statements on the matter at that point. The petition contained serious allegations, and I would not be guaranteed due process to answer the allegations unless the petition gained enough signatures from valid state committee members. To print this story now without the proper background would create the opportunity to expose this matter to the public unnecessarily before we had the opportunity to mediate in-house.
Mr. Corson refused, stating that he believed that Levi Henry had leaked the petition. This was subsequently proven to be false.
I was very confused by this accusation and asked him if he had talked to The Wichita Eagle yet. Mr. Corson informed me that The Wichita Eagle had not yet called the KDP for a statement. Again, I asked where he had gotten that information because I had just received the call from The Wichita Eagle myself and immediately called KDP.
Mr. Corson informed me that KDP staff reported Levi leaked the petition around 12:30 p.m., thirty minutes prior to my first call and voicemail from The Wichita Eagle. I told Mr. Corson that whoever messaged KDP staff was likely the source, yet Mr. Corson refused to discuss this because he was convinced by this anonymous tip to KDP staff.
I told Mr. Corson to inform Mr. Gibson that I wanted to figure out how we can mediate this situation and move forward. I requested a meeting of all interested parties to discuss further issues and how we remedy them behind closed doors. I never heard from Mr. Gibson.
At this point, I felt the need to respond to the state committee after the petition was released to the paper. I planned to attend the Johnson County Gala and the State Platform Committee meeting that weekend and I did not want to create any opportunity to distract from these events, so I planned to send a response on Sunday night.
Throughout the week, I was harassed online for not responding immediately to the petition, accusing me of having something to hide. I discussed my plan to respond on Sunday evening to those individual Facebook comments and offered to talk on the phone with anyone who wished to discuss prior to that.
Despite my explanation, the Lyon County Democratic Party Chair, Jeremy Adkison, continued to copy and paste the same accusation that I was not being transparent, even after our conversation. I worked on my response and sent it to the state executive committee as planned on Sunday night. Despite my response, Mr. Adkison still continues his daily misinformed harassment of me online, even in private message.
On Monday, August 28, I Was awoken to another call from The Wichita Eagle. My response had again been leaked.
I was shocked and devastated.
I had a discussion with Mr. Shorman and his editor regarding the implications of the first story. I explained that part of the attack on my character is that I am acting out of a desire for personal publicity and enrichment. The accusation that my partner, Levi Henry, leaked the petition is feeding into that false narrative.
The Wichita Eagle acknowledged Levi was not the source of any leak, and while it was their policy not to disclaim sources, they would print my response that disclaimed us as the source, because The Eagle had no interest in promoting claims they suspected to be false and motivated by desires other than genuine journalism.
I again called Ethan Corson to inform him that The Wichita Eagle had my response, and they would be printing my statement that we were not the source.
I again asked if the KDP would be interested in working on a joint statement or attempting a mediation. Mr. Corson said the KDP’s position was still that "they were not involved."
I asked for Mr. Gibson to call me as soon as possible to discuss a possible joint statement. Though Mr. Gibson did attempt to call me, I missed the call, immediately returning the call, which was sent directly to voicemail. Mr. Gibson never attempted to call me again.
At this point, I began to call elected officials to ask for advice. I was becoming increasingly frustrated by Mr. Gibson refusing to answer my calls or work with me to calm the petition and refocus everyone on a common goal.
Each person I spoke with expressed concern that Mr. Gibson had refused to speak with me or work with me to organize a mediation. Each person agreed to speak to Mr. Gibson and informed me that they had also pushed Mr. Gibson to call for a mediation. However, they would also report back that Mr. Gibson was convinced I was not willing to compromise, despite his refusal to discuss these matters with me personally so I could present him evidence disproving the allegations against me prior to Demofest.
The first and only time I have spoken with John Gibson about the petition was September 7 at 10 a.m.
Mr. Gibson called me because he had falsely heard I planned to resign.
I informed him that I was disgusted by what this recall petition has done to the KDP. I expressed to Mr. Gibson that I was willing to resign to make it stop, but I needed assurance that if I was going to give up my opportunity for due process, he would help clean-up some of the damage that had been attempted upon my professional reputation by this process so far.
I also expressed concerns that if I resigned and there was no call for other consultants on the executive committee to resign, it would instigate further recall petitions. I informed Mr. Gibson that I have discouraged additional recall petitions to this point, but if I resign and no statement is made by the KDP regarding the other consultants serving on the executive committee, there will be a flood of additional petitions to correct the injustice that was apparent to so many others.
I asked Mr. Gibson if his statement could include an affirmation that I did not violate any bylaws or have a conflict of interest, but that we need to amend our bylaws because this situation has showcased this to be an important issue among the membership of the state committee.
I additionally asked for Mr. Gibson's support in a joint statement for other consultants on the executive committee to follow my lead and resign so we can work on passing the bylaw amendment regarding consultants at Demofest. Mr. Gibson said that he would not make those statements. It was Mr. Gibson's opinion that asking the many other consultants on the executive board to also resign would not promote unity.
After Mr. Gibson denied my requests via email, he called me and informed me that I had two choices. I could resign effective yesterday before 5 p.m. and he would send out a statement wishing me well, or I could refuse to resign and he would send out a letter in support of my recall.
Mr. Gibson said he would not be calling for my resignation because that was “bullshit” and the decision to resign was totally my choice, but he would outline why he supported my recall.
Mr. Gibson started to become very frustrated that I refused to resign and said if he sent out a statement in support of my recall, “This isn’t going to be good for you.”
I told him that this was a lot to consider in less than eight hours, and I wish we had more time to come up with a compromise. As he outlined why he supported my recall, I attempted to explain to him that is why we need a mediation, because he hasn’t seen the evidence disproving what he’s claiming. Mr. Gibson told me “we are way past that.”
Unfortunately, we are not past the truth of these matters, which is why I could not then and certainly cannot now resign.
I have continued to press for a mediation and resolution prior to Demofest to discuss the evidence disproving the allegations against me. However, instead of planning a mediation, party leaders conspired to play power games and use the press to attack me once again, with no evidence of their lies about me or my company.
We need strong, principled leadership within the Kansas Democratic Party more than ever. This entire public embarrassment could have and would have been avoided if my fellow leaders within the KDP would have encouraged mediation and reviewed evidence regarding the matters involved. Instead, Mr. Gibson chose to let his false claims of neutrality be an excuse to avoid executing reasonable, responsible leadership. As a result, my name has been repeatedly demeaned, my character has been repeatedly defamed and our party has been repeatedly damaged. This entire sad episode is completely unacceptable.