update: our volunteer group wants to get rid of a problem member

Remember the letter earlier this year from a member of a volunteer group that wanted to remove a problematic member from their leadership team? Here’s the update.

Thanks so much for running our question! It was great to get so much good feedback from everyone. I have a doozy of an update for you…get ready.

I’d like to say that a lot of the feedback we got from you all was taken, but things just didn’t end up happening that way. The environment got toxic enough that nothing happened in our admin chat until elections occurred shortly thereafter. New elections were planned and executed without a hitch, and Reginald wasn’t even nominated, so problem solved! Or so we thought…

Our de jure council president went to go remove the outgoing admins and add the new ones…only to discover that all existing admins had had their accesses revoked and a new, obviously fake Facebook profile (let’s call him Lord Byron) had been set up as sole admin. We all immediately suspected Reginald, but he vehemently denied doing this, and there wasn’t anything else substantiating that he did it. The only reason we didn’t immediately pursue this further was because we realized that this rogue profile, who we knew nothing about, had the power to change the group’s privacy settings so that the group wasn’t secret anymore. Since we are a community within the LGBT world, that would’ve been a huge safety risk since it would’ve had the potential to out a lot of people who aren’t ready or able to be out. So, we started a big exodus plan and announced to the group that this happened and what we were planning to do.

And then Lord Byron, who had been dodging any attempts at contact, finally spoke up and presented himself as a benevolent dictator of sorts. This, of course, sparked a lot of chaos in the group. I honestly don’t remember how things happened this way now, but we ended up negotiating a surrender of control of the group. (Yes, “don’t negotiate with terrorists” was a phrase tossed around liberally in our new admin chat.) For reasons beyond my ken (I say that since only one of us was negotiating; that was the only person Lord Byron would speak with), a term we agreed to was to allow him to remain in the group so long as power was completely transferred back to us.

And then as soon as the transfer of power was completed, Lord Byron proceeded to make an openly subversive post, which prompted us to ban him from the group, as we should have done in the beginning.

After calming everyone’s fears and closing out the new group, things settled down for a couple weeks, until Reginald private messaged two of the admins and finally confessed to having been Lord Byron and having caused everything that happened. This was discussed in the admin chat, and the decision that was made was to ban Reginald for a short amount of time and permanently bar him from having admin or moderator access.

As for actual changes we made, since Facebook introduced the new moderator function, where you can still manage posts and people but can’t change any group settings, we moved over to only having two group administrators at one time and having the remaining seven elected people fill the moderator role instead. And now that this has blown over, the writing of bylaws and rewriting of community guidelines is now proceeding, and finally, FINALLY, we have a group of nine who can productively work with one another. I will definitely be combing over the feedback you all have provided again as we work on this.

{ 187 comments… read them below }

  1. Arbynka*


    I hope the door hit Reginald in the ass on his way out. WOW. What an update. OP, I am glad now you have a group that works well together.

      1. Arbynka*

        I completely missed that. I thought all of the ban was permanent but reading it again I see that it was only for admin or moderator access. And rest of the ban is for short time. Bad idea IMHO.

        1. H.C.*

          Yeah, but given his sole admin access to the old group – i.e. ability to singlehandedly out everyone in the group by making the posts public retroactively – I’m guessing OP & the other admins had to compromise for sakes of the group members’ privacy/safety.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            Sure. To his face. There was nothing to stop them from rescinding that agreement later. There is no use keeping a contract with someone who is so willing to stab you (and a lot of innocent people) in the back.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Yeah, I am normally a big fan of keeping your word and not making promises you don’t plan to keep, but when someone is functionally holding the identities of potentially vulnerable LGBTQ+ people hostage, I think there is no moral obligation to keep the promises you make when trying to get that control back.

              1. Honeybee*

                Especially when this person made it clear that their own power trip was more important than the lives and identities of the people he was ostensibly supposed to be supporting. Nope, permanent ban.

                1. Katniss*

                  I’d say permanent ban and then report him to Facebook, but considering how useless Facebook’s response is to things like threats and hate speech, I doubt they’d do much.

      2. Emi.*

        I think they agreed to that as part of negotiating with terrorists, and then perma-banned him after all the power was safely back in their hands.

      3. BeenLurking*

        I think the temporary ban has to do with the type of group this is. OP does mention it’s a group within the LGBT community and it sounds like it offers support for those who are looking for a safe space. It could be that while he was a complete wackadoodle, they don’t necessarily want to take that support away from him which, if my assumptions on the community is correct, I don’t blame them for.

        1. BPT*

          I mean it’s one thing to be a wackadoodle, it’s another to threaten to out people who are under the assumption they are in a safe space. If one person threatens the group like that, then it’s not a safe space anymore. One person’s comfort isn’t more important than the safety of 800 other people.

          1. LQ*

            + all the numbers to this!

            Don’t let him back in. He can find another space because he’s made is super crystal clear that he’s not someone who should be a part of this. Out out with him. The safety of everyone else is so deeply important. Don’t let him hold them hostage again.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Truly, with threats like that they are no longer a safe space. I am not sure why he was so interested in defeating the purpose of his own group but there it is.

            He IS the very person the group tries to protect people from.

          3. BeenLurking*

            Oh, I completely agree with you. He has given them more than enough reason to kick his ass out into the cold. I guess I’m just saying that if out of the kindness of their hearts (which would be a hell of a lot of kindness) that’s what they were going for, I can see why. Could also help to defuse any situation where they throw him out, he goes full wackadoodle again, and then takes his lordly ire out on everyone anyway.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Yes, instead they take it away from however many members (almost certainly more than one) feel unsafe because he will come back in and be able to see them, see their words, screenshot and share if he wishes.

          If you deliberately make the safe place unsafe, then even after that is fixed, IMO you have forfeited all rights to use it. (And “fixed” is a loaded term since we do not know what screenshots he may have saved off _during_ the debacle.)

          1. Venus Supreme*

            That was my first concern– what confession/personal issue/story told in privacy was screenshotted and saved for blackmail?

            This was a Facebook group created with respect for others’ confidentiality. Reginald crossed a major line, broke the group’s trust, and totally abused his power. I would not feel comfortable if Reginald came back into the group.

        3. Alice B. Toklas*

          True, Been Lurking, there is usually some concern for mental health in lgbt organizations that lead us to put up with wackadoodle behavior that’d otherwise lead to expulsion. This is particularly true now that we know these people are probably cruising online, it’s better if the community can keep a closer eye on them..

      4. Annonymouse*

        Everyone has missed the double ban.
        He is banned from having any kind of ADMIN ACCESS PERMENATELY

        But only temporary banned from accessing the group as a member.

        Considering the type of group this is, I don’t think a permanent group ban should happen UNLESS after he returns he continues to prove disruptive.

        I think the message the group wants to send is:
        “Here in group we offer support and give people second chances – because sometimes the world doesn’t even give us first ones.

        However, the comfort and safety of group comes first. If Reginald (after his ban) continues to make the group a negative place then this is not the right place for him.”

        1. AMG*

          I didn’t miss it, I just don’t agree that the group ban should be temporary. I think everyone is on board with the admin ban so it wasn’t really discussed.

          1. Annonymouse*

            I’m thinking the morale impact is a double edged sword here.

            Because it is a support kind of group it’s a more difficult thing to ban a member than if it were simply a recreation group.

            Again we have to think about the message that it will/can send.

            I can see how both can be bad (we’re keeping a trouble maker on board VS. no second chances, cross us and you’re out).

            Personally I’m of the opinion give him a second chance (show the community you’re open minded and forgiving) but a single toe out of line and he’s gone (but you won’t stand for destructive and negative forces in the community)

            1. AnonEMoose*

              I’m one of the moderators for the Facebook group for the science fiction convention for which I volunteer. From that perspective, I absolutely disagree with you (although I do appreciate your compassion).

              Reginald has broken the group’s trust in a major way, and has threatened to “out” people, which could have very real and bad consequences for some of the members. If he had just been obnoxious and offensive, I’d be more inclined to suggest a second chance. But some things are sufficiently egregious that, in my view, it becomes more important to protect the rest of the members than it is to offer second chances. (And, anyway, if I recall correctly, it seems to me that Reginald has been given many chances already, and has chosen to not only continue to engage in problematic behavior, but to escalate when it seemed he would be held accountable.)

              If someone had done this to the convention group, I would be advocating for a permaban from the Facebook group, and the stakes there are a lot lower than they are for this group.

              And I think the message to the rest of the group is something to the effect of “We are here to support each other, and with that, comes a responsibility to the other members – a responsibility to keep what is here confidential. Keeping this a safe space is everyone’s responsibility. Reginald chose to engage in blackmail and threats. That is absolutely unacceptable, and while we hope Reginald finds a supportive community, it won’t be this one.”

              1. KellyK*

                Yeah, I agree, particularly because we’re talking about outing LGBTQ people. There are plenty of states in the US where it’s perfectly legal to fire people or kick them out of an apartment over their orientation. Teenagers or college kids get thrown out of their homes, or get help with tuition cut off. Outing LGBT people (especially the T) can literally put their lives at risk. (I don’t know if this happened after the current uptick in hate crimes the US is experiencing or before, but either way, it’s extremely callous with the safety of vulnerable people.)

                You *do not* out or risk outing a bunch of people in a secret group, and then be allowed to come back to that group.

              2. Annonymouse*

                Actually lord Byron/Reginald never threatened that.

                The letter says the administrators stopped investigating if LB was Reginald because they figured out LB could change the settings.

                If LB had mentioned it or threatened it I would be on the ban forever bandwagon.

                And if it wasn’t a support group I’d again be on the van forever bandwagon.

                Again I’m playing to the reasoning that this particular group may not get a lot of support or understanding outside their community and to ban someone is a huge deal.

                However if this ends up costing the group members due to feeling unsafe then ban his ass.

            2. Alice B. Toklas*

              AnonEMoose normally I’d agree with you, but I think it’s not Ok to administer a live group and an online one the same. In this case, the live group may be the -only- real contact that Reginald may have, which could be partly why he’s so nuts. Cutting him off entirely may legitimately be felt by the organization to be too extreme.

              1. AnonEMoose*

                At this point, as harsh as this sounds, why Reginald is so nuts is really not the group’s problem. The group’s problem is how to deal with Reginald’s behavior, and he has blown past lines that should legitimately never, ever, be crossed.

                I’m aware that in-person events and online groups have different needs, and need to be handled differently in some respects. I’m can’t recall whether there is actually an in-person component of the OP’s group; if there is, in some ways, I think it actually makes Reginald’s behavior worse. If only because there is a tendency to perceive people only encountered online to be less “real.” If these are people he actually knows in person, it seems like an even bigger betrayal.

                And at some point, the organization may need to decide whether to prioritize whatever need for support Reginald may have, or the needs of the other members. For me, Reginald would have ceased to be a priority when he took the actions he did. Some may see that as harsh – that’s fine. Others may see it as protecting the interests of the group as a whole, which is more where I tend to land. In my view, some things do call for a harsh response, and this is one of those things.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Same—he should be permanently banned in any and all capacities. He held a page hostage that had access to the identities of many individuals—some of whom were not out—simply to satisfy his crazy. In the words of Maya Angelou, when someone shows you who they really are, believe them.

        3. Artemesia*

          I find it extremely self destructive to suggest that someone who goes to this length to sabotage a group (this wasn’t a misstatement, or an awkward speech, or a lashing out in angry in an argument — this was a calculative taking hostage of the group and blackmailing them over access -) deserves ‘support’ and a ‘second chance’. People who are often marginalized have the occasional sociopath in their group just like any other group might. It is not necessary to a mission of tolerance and support to allow someone this vicious and calculatively aggressive towards the group to continue to receive its support. For every one jerk like this you coddle, you loose several strong members.

          1. Alice B. Toklas*

            Actually I once read something that really struck me about how sociopaths are more likely to target liberal organizations full of nice people -because- they know they’ll be given endless second chances.. Seems to be true in my experience..

        4. Trig*

          I think the problem is that he probably already has screencapped info and names. Maybe they’re worried if they permaban him, he’ll retaliate by sharing the stuff he has publicly? I don’t think letting him back in is a good strategy, but that might be what they’re thinking.

          1. Lynda Ariella*

            This is what would worry me the most. Think about it – if they temporarily ban him with the promise of letting him back in, they will then have time to craft a response which will be less likely to set him off the next time. They’ll also have time to figure out a way to protect the privacy of the community members, which is a loophole that absolutely needs to be closed.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      You took the words out of my mouth (fingers?) with that first line.

      And the sad part is that I totally believe this OP and I’ve seen similar crap go down in forums I belonged to and even helped Admin/Moderate.

  2. fposte*

    Wow. I think commenters here are good at imagining all kinds of things that might go wrong, but I don’t think anybody predicted “Dude may make a pseudonymous profile from which he’ll try to take the group over.”

    1. Interviewer*

      There’s been a number of questions posted here about how to fire a disgruntled IT person who might go rogue with the systems. But a “take the website hostage and deny being the kidnapper” scenario is a brand-new one for me.

      1. the gold digger*

        The horrible campaign manager Primo hired for his first run for office four years ago – let’s call her Samantha – did this to another candidate for whom she was working.

        I found the story. Note the candidate had paid for her campaign website.

        Post 1:
        More Samantha and her other candidate. Ralph and Potsie came by to show us a draft of the last campaign piece. We got into Samantha, who, if you remember, was fired by another candidate, Michelle.

        Samantha has refused to call godaddy.com to turn over the account to Michelle. Michelle has asked several times. When Samantha set the account up (for Michelle’s campaign website), she used Michelle’s credit card but put the account in her name, that is, in Samantha’s name.

        Now, despite Michelle’s repeated attempts, Samantha won’t turn the account over.

        Instead, she sent Michelle an email with an invoice for $3,000 and a note saying that she couldn’t guarantee that the site would be maintained unless she was (were?) paid.

        Now. We all know this is extortion. However, a good moral to this story is to HAVE A DARN CONTRACT! Michelle and Samantha did not have a contract. What was the agreement? What would Samantha do? How would they measure whether it had been done or not? Bad, bad business. You need to outline the roles and responsibilities and milestones.

        Still. Extortion is extortion. So Michelle wrote back to Samantha and suggested that Samantha contact Michelle’s attorney – information provided – to discuss the possible consequences of not converting the godaddy.com account. Then Michelle said that if Samantha could not reach the first attorney, there were six more she could talk to.

        Let’s see if Samantha moves now.

        Post 2
        Remember I told you Samantha was invoicing that other candidate $3,000 and holding hostage the website that the candidate had paid for?

        She shut down the website today.

        Yes. Today, one week away from the election, Samantha closed the candidate’s website.

        The candidate is going to sue. I am not a big fan of civil lawsuits, but boy do I think this candidate has a case.

        1. Alice B. Toklas*

          There is a reason why even godaddy encourages setting up domains with different people for tech, admin, and financials. It does make it easier to regain control of your organization’s domain. In any case, it’s always possible to prove that you are the president of an organization and should be allowed to control a site that represents it. You may need to fax or email paperwork, and it could take months, but it is possible to regain control. Of course, everything goes better when you have good backups..

          Can you tell this is the voice of experience speaking ? Even if you’re not very technical, at least -try- to keep track of your main accounts..

      2. Alice B. Toklas*

        There is a reason why it’s possible for a domain to be registered with 3 different people named – the admin, the tech, and the financials. Most organizations don’t do that, and that makes things more difficult for them when they have to fax/email the host with paperwork proving that they’re indeed the president and need to control the site representing the organization. But be assured that while it -is- a huge pain, and the process can take months, it -is- possible to regain control.

        Of course, everything also goes better when you have good backups of all your data :-).

        Yes, this is the voice of experience speaking :-), I’ve helped half a dozen organizations to regain control now, and it’s a bitch.. Even if you’re not technical at all, at least please -try- to keep track of your main accounts.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      Cross my heart, I’ve seen someone hack the group and take over before. In two separate groups.

      But even then, they didn’t use a pseudonym to do it. Or a new pseudonym, since in both cases, they were using a Lord Byron type internet persona all along, and it just added to their “all powerful” schtick.

      1. Misc*

        I guess because it’s on Facebook it makes the difference – an anonymous forum account isn’t the same as a personal profile.

    3. Turtle Candle*

      Yeah, that is A M A Z I N G. The last time I saw something like that go down, it was on a Harry Potter fanfic group populated by mostly middle school students. The idea of a grown-ass adult doing this in a semi-professional venue is boggling my mind.

      (And most of the middle schoolers knew better, for that matter.)

  3. La*

    I’m so curious about why Reginald confessed that he was Lord Byron. Could he just not stand not having the drama focused on him? Did he seriously think he was above getting banned? Geez, what a nightmare.

    1. OP/Antti*

      Ultimately, I think his conscience got the better of him. It took long enough, but it sank in that he gave a lot of people very real cause to fear for their safety. He was accepting of the ban (though strangely enough, a few vocal comm members were outraged that we would even dare use the banhammer).

      1. fposte*

        Was the objection the nobody-can-ever-be-excluded Geek Fallacy? I get that it feels mean, but when your alternative is the death of the group, ban away.

        1. seejay*

          Yep, don’t let your entire group suffer for the sake of one person. The mental health and safety and good of the many outweighs one single person who’s making their lives hell. I’ve had game groups that fell apart because of one person and the belief that we had to include everyone because we were all outsiders and geeks and we were inclusive (aka, the Geek Fallacy). No, don’t ruin it for everyone else.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          When I’ve seen this kind of thing happen (although the fake profile adds a certain extra layer of weirdness!) it’s been some combo of the Geek Social Fallacies thing and this “but how can we expect people to repent if we don’t give them a path to forgiveness?” thing.

          Which is, I mean, in the larger societal sense a fair and good point. But it doesn’t mean that you get to do rotten things, confess, and then immediately get a free pass from the specific individuals/groups who you harmed!

          1. neverjaunty*

            Yeah, this. And also there’s a weird thing where a lot of people secretly (or not-so-secretly) admire the jerk and don’t want bad things to happen to them.

          2. Emi.*

            Step one on the path to forgiveness has to be the apology step, taken by the offender. Step two is the reparations step.

            1. fposte*

              Step two is the dividing line, I think, between the inconvenienced offender and the truly repentant. There are a lot of people who treat an apology as a renewed license to misbehave and would balk at doing anything significant to fix the situation.

                1. fposte*

                  I was actually agreeing with you about reparations being a key next step! I was just being a little wordier about why.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              The Bible is pretty clear that contrition is required for forgiveness. And the person doing the forgiving isn’t required to give the other person a second chance.

              1. Cristina in England*

                I think you misread that? I certainly don’t see a dig anywhere, not in the comment you replied to.

          3. Liane*

            Many years ago, the Protestant church we belonged to had a pastor who had molested children at previous churches. (He went to prison shortly after confessing to the ministers’ chaplain and resigning.) The denomination had a Christian counseling practice in to help the congregation. The thing the counselors, licensed psychologists, said that has stayed with me is that (paraphrased), “Forgiving someone for horrible actions **doesn’t** mean you have to allow them any chance of repeating those acts.”
            I think it is very applicable here. Reginald/Lord Byron **endangered** a lot of people–he might have caused them to lose their jobs, be kicked out of the house (it still happens **a lot** to the teens) or even been physically harmed! If the groups’ members want to forgive him, great. But I still don’t think letting him be part of the FB group ever again would be wise. If FB, like the site I mod, allows Mods/Admins to set an account to permanent moderation (a mod has to okay each of the person’s posts before they are visible to the community), that should be done if he gets a user account; that way if he falls back into his old jerky ways, no members are exposed. If FB doesn’t allow this, then I think the current Admins may want to think twice before deciding to allow him back.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. You can forgive and still not forget.

              Some churches use a system where the offender has to check in with certain people on a regular basis. Even though the transgression is forgiven, the habit or the bad choice is addressed separately by assigning mentor/monitor type people to guide he individual. This works into an involved process.

              I have seen other churches forgive and still tell the person to leave. The only way to restore the group is to remove the person. This is usually done in serious cases but I have seen simple issues blown out of proportion also.

          4. eplawyer*

            Here’s why the “we included everyone no matter what” is a bad idea. Say you have a person who likes to punch people. “Oh that’s just Malfoy. It’s the way he is. We can’t ban him, all we can do it ask him to stop. Because we don’t exclude people.” Great, so now you have someone punching people and everyone else just have to put up with it. This guy has shown you who he is. From what the LW said in the comments here, he has done stuff before and everyone forgives. This guy is not going to change. You don’t OWE him inclusion if he is willing to self-exclude by being an abusive jerk.

            Inclusivity does not mean putting up with jerks, whether it is this group or the Jane Austen Book Club.

    2. seejay*

      Usually someone that finally confesses, it’s because they want to “prove” how smart they were in getting everyone to dance and that they were the mastermind behind the whole thing. Essentially, Reginald wanted to prove that he orchestrated the whole shitstorm and manipulated everyone and *let* them know he had the power, even if it meant that it blew up in his face. He doesn’t care of he’s booted and banned, as long as he’s the centre of attention, positive or negative, he’s going to keep yanking everyone’s chain.

      OP, you haven’t heard the last of him. Trolls like him don’t go away, they just keep at it. :(

      1. Arbynka*

        For the sake of OP’s group I hope you are wrong but from personal experience I fear you are right :(

        1. seejay*

          I swear I hope I’m wrong too. Trust me, I wouldn’t ever want to see someone like this come back ever again… the fact that he had the gall to do something like this makes me want to kick him in the taint so bad, he’d never leave the house again… but yeah, been around online communities enough to have seen this behaviour over and over again and it’s unfortunately easy to predict because it’s so commonplace these days. >< Trolls thrive on this activity or something, it's like they can't wrap their head around how to play nicely with others and when they finally get banned for being such obnoxious wanks for it, they refuse to move on and make other peoples' lives a living hell.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Take an example of a newbie fireman who is actually a pyromaniac. Something like this is abundantly clear- the damage and the hurt.
            I see no difference here. Lord Bryon violated a core service this group provides. They provide a safe space. Lord Bryon breached that promise.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        Unfortunately, I agree with you there.

        Oh, they eventually get bored and move on, but it’s not a fast process.

      3. YuliaC*

        I feel this is the correct reading of Reginald’s motivation. A person living on power trips. I can just see him tittering with excitement when he saw people scrambling because of what he did. And I agree he will be back for more.

    3. Jessesgirl72*

      Because that type lives on the Dramaz, and wanted the credit for having hacked the group, plus the sympathy from the few remaining followers for being banned.

  4. AMT*

    This is an issue that I’ve seen come up a lot with LGBT groups — or, really, any groups that prioritize inclusivity (e.g. church groups, activists, geeks of all stripes). No one feels comfortable excluding someone who is clearly causing problems until those problems get so bad that people start leaving the group en masse. I remember discussing it in the AAM comments in the context of a church group that didn’t want to exclude a member who was sexually harassing women at church functions. I think the lesson here is that when you make too much of an effort to include a toxic person despite their behavior, you’re implicitly excluding the people hurt by them.

    These get posted all the time, but they’re always a good read: “The Missing Stair” and “Five Geek Social Fallacies.”


    1. Lily Rowan*

      Yes — absolutely. An online community I’ve been part of for years didn’t quite know that people were leaving the group because of one member until everything blew up elsewhere, literally years after it started.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Sophia Brooks posts here sometimes, too, so if you know her, it’s the same one, but I’m sure this is not a unique story!

    2. Turtle Candle*

      Yeah. I mentioned this above re: people being uncomfortable with the ‘banhammer’ being wielded even in the face of this amount of loony bullshittery (taking over via fake profile, seriously?), but I’ve seen it a fair amount in various activist groups. The worst was a guy who was, according to him, trying to work out his guilt about having been abusive (emotionally, physically, and sexually) to his past girlfriends… by working with at-risk women. And telling a lot of them at length about what he’d done to his exes. And it took a long, long time to get rid of him because “how can we ever expect men to repent and make amends if we don’t give them a path to redemption?”

      Well, maybe he could do almost anything else, besides work in close proximity with other abuse victims? I do think that forgiveness is important, and that making people permanent society-wide pariahs can do more harm than good, but seriously, the one thing we needed to permit him to do was work with members of the population he hard harmed? At that point you’re putting the group you are mandated to help and support at risk for the sake of one guy’s redemption narrative.

      (They did get rid of him, but it took a shockingly long time.)

      1. AMT*

        Argh. You hit the nail on the head. It’s not just that toxic people want to participate in these communities. It’s that they want to participate in ALL aspects of these communities, and they must participate in EXACTLY the way they want to, with NO checks on their activity — otherwise, you’re excluding/discriminating/other no-no word!

        If I’m remembering this right, the person who wrote in about the bad church member didn’t want to throw the guy out completely, just stop him from going to the young adults group (in his forties!) and implement a set of conditions on his participation. You can bend over backwards for these people all you like, but they’ll never be happy unless they’re 100% in control.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Ugh, this dynamic is so stupid. Maybe they can redeem themselves in other ways? Maybe this ‘path to redemption’ thing is less about actually facilitating change and more about feeding a co-dependent need to feel like we’re saviors?

      3. Emi.*

        Here’s a path to redemption: he could get a miserable job and donate his entire salary to fund his local PD to process rape kits. It’s called “fasting and almsgiving,” and it’s how you make reparation for terrible, community-destroying sins. Extra points for hairshirts.

      4. Calliope*

        And it took a long, long time to get rid of him because “how can we ever expect men to repent and make amends if we don’t give them a path to redemption?”

        The path to redemption cannot be given. You gotta find that on your own.


        1. Liane*

          Also see my comment about Forgiveness doesn’t mean allowing someone the opportunity to repeat their sins/crimes/meanness. Neither does Redemption.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          So they used abuse survivors to help this guy?
          Jaw drop. They are lucky they did not get sued from here to breakfast.

          They are not much better than he is. When a person deliberately puts vulnerable people next to predators or “recovering” predators, that person has become not much different from the predator themselves.

          Not only has this person failed to up hold the trust of their position, they have
          deliberately put vulnerable people in harm’s way. Why? So they can feel good about “curing” someone of their bad ways? That sounds like a bunch of ego to me.
          I totally agree there is some savior complex going on there.

          I have seen similar questions come up in leadership before. I have to believe that people who ask these questions do not understand a key part about leadership. You have to keep your group safe. Not optional. The people who give away the safety of the group in such a manner also should be booted out.

          1. Alice B. Toklas*

            Really. This brings to mind the catholic church putting known abusers in charge of school groups, so they can work on resisting temptation. Harumph.

        3. babblemouth*

          It’s to enable a social fallacy: there is a magical list of things to do, and then you’re forgiven, and everyone HAS to move on – no one can bring back your past misdeeds against you.
          The idea being that once they’ve done everything right, they are a victim if anyone still mistrusts them.
          By not communicating the magical redemption list, we representing that fallacy from taking place, but that confuses the shit out of them.
          Similar: there a magical list of things a man has to do to get a woman to date them – take them out to diner, bring flowers, be nice. If after all this the woman still says no, then she’s violating some kind of contract, and the guy is the victim.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This story was so disturbing that I threw up in my mouth a little. Super ugh, but also agreed that I’ve often seen organizations do this, and it drives me nuts.

    3. LQ*

      It makes Reginald The Most Important Person In The Group. Which sucks for everyone else. And why would they bother staying if they are all subservient to Reginald. It’s really depressing when a group, likely set up to help support people who need it, starts catering to the needs of one person who clearly does NOT have the group or its individual’s best interests at heart. (Not that best interests are a cure all either…but at least it’s something.)

    4. Brett*

      Sadly this is exactly what happened to a civic coding group that I helped found locally.

      We had one of the better chapters in the country, and the co-leader and I allowed a toxic person to drive away all of our best people. Then we had a planned leadership change, and toxic person drove off one of the leaders creating an opening where another toxic person who we should have banned to step into a leadership role.

      Last I knew, our group of 200+ people was down to about 10. At least most of the early contributors have moved on to other groups and now have a broader impact across the area.

  5. BPT*

    I can’t believe he wasn’t banned permanently. A short term ban seems way lenient. Sorry you had to deal with this at all, OP!

    1. Kyrielle*

      This! Even if he can’t take over the group again, adding him back in is taking the step of letting someone who was willing to threaten the privacy of group members *see the group members and their words again*.

      He doesn’t have to change the group status. Screenshots are sufficient. Changing the group status is maybe more effective / more complete, but screenshots are sufficient.

      I would perma-ban someone who had showed such disregard for the/safety (and mental/emotional well-being also) of the other group members.

      1. MMDD*

        I was thinking the same thing. If I were a member of the group and saw that Reginald was still there, I’d be gone. Not out of pettiness, but for my own safety. He sounds completely unhinged.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I totally agree.

        Let’s say a bank manager finds out a teller is stealing. The manager never says, “Oh we need to keep him here to cure him of his stealing/allow him to redeem himself/ etc.”

        If the manager did that, then the manager would get fired also. It’s called bad judgement.

    2. Bonky*

      My organisation has a very large forum for users and fans (I will never get used to being in an organisation with fans). We moderate very hard – and honestly, I can’t get my head around why you chose a short-term ban. I remember reading your first letter and thinking at the time that some of the behaviors you described would have led to him been banned permanently from our community.

      For what it’s worth, you might find it valuable to spend some time discussing with your fellow admins the disproportionate impact one dedicated crazy/bad person can have on a community. As admins you get to choose the tone and character the community has. And quite frankly, I don’t think I would want to be a member of a community that allowed someone who threatened to violate people’s privacy, acted in such an unsettling way and behaved so very disruptively – you may well lose members over this.

      There is nothing stopping you from issuing a permanent ban, even though you’ve said it would be temporary. You can say you’ve discussed it among yourselves and decided your previous decision wasn’t best for the community. You can redraft the community rules. But I’d really, strongly encourage you to look at getting rid of him. He’ll likely sockpuppet you in the period after you’ve done it, and you’ll need to be alert to his style (which it sounds like you are already: you all thought he was Lord Byron), so be prepared to ban those accounts too and wait for him to run out of steam.

  6. asteramella*

    The implicit threat to our LGBTQ group members took my breath away.

    I have witnessed people getting outed via other people’s FB carelessness with violent consequences.

    Very glad that Reginald no longer has access to the group and that there is more of a formal control structure in your group now.

    1. .Emi.*

      Self-centeredness? Check. Attention-seekingness? Check. Total disregard for other humans’ well-being? Check.

  7. CM*

    “the decision that was made was to ban Reginald for a short amount of time and permanently bar him from having admin or moderator access.”

    Why would you ever let this person back into your community?

    1. OP/Antti*

      Oh believe me, if the decision were solely mine, it would be a perma-ban, if for nothing else besides what he did here. But, because this group is prone to subscribing to the above-mentioned Geek Fallacy and I think everyone’s inclination was to avert as much additional drama as possible, the overall decision became a temporary ban.

      That said…if and when he comes back and starts something again (because knowing this person as many of us have for years, he will), I’m pushing for less leniency.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        Serious question: have you explained or asked them to read about the geek fallacies? To understand why they’re fallacies?

        1. Emi.*

          I second this. There may even be people among them who feel kind of weird about the No Exclusion policy, and if they see it explained so explicitly, it will click and they’ll hop on the banhammer train.

        2. Alice B. Toklas*

          It’d probably be inappropriate to have them read these comments, but demanding a formal session to discuss the geek’s fallacy would seem indispensible. Do it now, OP, before he sneaks up on you and a bad decision is made hastily.. you need time to talk these things through and convince people that their forgiveness impulses will only lead to more trouble.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Just to be clear: the day I realized he would be let back in would be the day I left the group. After searching the group for my name and deleting all my posts and comments.

        If I knew it was coming in advance, I would do this in a measured fashion. If I realized it after he was re-admitted, I would do it in a total freakout, I would send a very unhappy message privately to the admins, I would privately tell all my friends one-by-one who were in the group about what I had done and why, I would advise any friends *not* in the group to avoid it like the plague, and if I had friended any admins but had only a casual acquaintance-level relationship with them, I would defriend them.

        The folks running the “safe space” don’t care if the **** who threatened to out everyone comes back in? Then it’s not a safe space, and they do not care about any of the *other* members or their safety. Not given the type of group it is.

        (Would I have the same reaction if it were a group dedicated to something innocuous, such as customizing My Little Ponies? Nope! Not a safe space, if he won’t have any more permissions than a regular member and will be ejected as soon as he acts poorly, I don’t care. But when it’s a safe/secret space and the dude having access means he can see my involvement? Yep. Gone. Burning down that bridge, and will never join another “safe space” run by any of the people involved.)

      3. Marisol*

        Geek fallacy #1 sounds like another way of saying bad boundaries to me. In my opinion providing a model of self-advocacy is one of the most important ways to empower someone. As a woman, I benefit simply by witnessing another woman stand up for herself. That is a powerful message–a “teachable moment–in itself. I would be concerned that, in a group made of members who are marginalized in society, abuse and victimization have become normalized, and acceptance of abuse rationalized as “being inclusive”.

      4. Student*

        You have ample evidence that your social group will forgive extreme transgressions against social norms.

        That’s your permission to ban this guy even if part of your users/committee/whatever are hemming and hawing and advocating for another chance. If you personally have admin rights, just ban him quietly and ask forgiveness if anyone notices. You already know they will fold to you.

        Let Reginald take his second chance elsewhere; you guys aren’t the only support group on the whole internet, and surely he’d be more likely to earn real redemption (if he is actually so inclined) with a fresh slate elsewhere.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        What’s amazing to me is that the group somehow thinks that letting him back will “avert drama.” He is a walking, talking drama creator! It sounds like your group is using the cover of “drama” to avoid doing what they need to do—revoking this guy’s accEs.

    2. neverjaunty*

      This. LW, bluntly, if your group cannot agree on expelling Reginald permanently after all this, then you have a group so dysfunctional that it cannot be saved.

      I mean, what’s the point in making the ban temporary? Denial that Reginald is always going to be this way, and a need to believe that he’ll somehow change his ways? An inability for some members of the group to actually see his behavior as unacceptable? Geek Social Fallacies that exclusion and conflict are wrongity wrong wrong?

      1. Salsa Dancer*

        Yup. Frankly, after this, there’s no way I’d feel safe being a member of this group as long as he’s around. The group is taking a huge risk and I fear it’s going to end up with a member/members being seriously hurt by this guy. What a mess.

      2. Not So NewReader*


        A group I belonged to at one point had a member say, “Either Other Person goes or I go!” My response was “I will miss you.”

        Threats of any sort cannot be tolerated in a group. Ever.

        Yeah, I would leave a group like this that cannot stand up for itself. How is this group going to stand up against the outside world when they can’t even stand up inside their own ranks?
        They can’t, they don’t know how.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      I used to be a paid Admin for a DISNEY fan group. There was such a huge incident and hacking, that there was an actual somewhat credible death threat against a member, and both the local PD of where he lived and the FBI were involved. I, personally, was interviewed by an FBI cybersecurity agent. A lot of people, at the time, doubted that the FBI was involved, and I can’t say they seemed at all serious about it, but they were legitimately involved.

      Then those groups split into other forums, where they carried on until someone hacked into PM boxes and was trying to publicly shame anyone having private conversations.

      The other huge hullabaloo with its own Lord Byron type was at a pair of gaming fan forums. For THE SIMS. I think the people playing FPS get their aggressions out in the games. Drowning a Sim doesn’t seem to be enough.

      Honestly, in my experience, the middle aged groups are the absolute worst for this kind of thing.

      1. MMDD*

        Oh my gosh I can’t believe you had to deal with that! The mom group I was in just had a whole lot of mom-shaming and I just have no patience for it. One minute they’d be telling someone they were selfish for not breastfeeding past a year, then in the next breath wailing “stop the mommy wars”. I could never roll my eyes hard enough. I always got the impression that those women felt like they had very little control over their lives, and I suspect Reginald feels this way about his own life. Oh, and add that to his being deranged, then you’ve got a recipe for the mess OP described.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        We had someone hacking into our music chat room long ago; they traced it back to a member’s computer at work. They were coming in and commenting as other members, making it look like they were posting really rude and filthy comments, and just being a nuisance–like requesting a 20-minute track and then leaving before it played. On purpose. That person got a permanent ban.

      3. Aging Fangirl*

        Probably the craziest online skulduggery I ever heard of was the saga of Msscribe, a user who trolled Harry Potter fan groups under various names for years. This also involved the police and multiple sockpuppet accounts! I only know about it because of this bizarrely novelistic retelling: http://charlottelennox.livejournal.com/887.html

        1. anonderella*

          can I just say thank you for linking this? this is genuinely one of the most fanatical, frivolous-yet-entertaining things I have read online lately. holy. crap.

    2. Moonsaults*

      Never be shocked by how serious the internet groups can be, no matter what platform is hosting them.

      I was deep into Y! clubs at a young age, it was ridiculous AF even almost two decades ago. On top of all the general catfish kind of garbage, a lot of things happen that end up involving the police in the end.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        I’ve been around since the Usenet days. *sigh*

        I was thinking earlier that the Outsider nature of the OP’s group makes them especially vulnerable to catfishers with Munchausen by Internet – especially of the type who do it to scam kind people out of money to help them, instead of only for the attention. I hope they are watching for that kind of thing.

      2. Alice B. Toklas*

        Really, any sort of group can bring intense drama, online or not. And the quilting group in the early 90s, oy veh!
        Remember what they say about academia, “the lower the stakes, the more vicious the politics”?

  8. Jeanne*

    What a complete jerk. I’m not sure I would have lasted through all of that. My tolerance for that sort of crap has gone way down as I age. Boundaries are a good thing. Don’t let this ass in charge of anything.

  9. TeaCozy*

    Okay so I know normally we aren’t supposed to say “I know what this is” but… I think I know exactly what this is. If it isn’t, then the similarities are extremely spooky.

    Without giving away any identifying details whatsoever, I’m an admin for a sort of “sister” group to the one I think this is, and a friend of mine is an admin for both groups.

    1. OP/Antti*

      If you’re right, then sweet, more of us! While I’m stoked that more of us read AAM than I thought, though, I’d appreciate if you don’t speculate any further.

  10. Gene*

    So. Much. Drama!

    I run a work-related Y!Group with over 2500 members. The moderators have zero ability to change anything beyond approving new members and moderated posts, I’m termed The Benevolent (mostly) Dictator. Anyone who attempts DramaLlama gets moderated and any further drama post gets deleted before posting, warned once more, then banned if it doesn’t stop. And they never come off moderation.

    Your admin team needs to all be on the same page: Reggie gets ONE chance. And tell him so before he comes off the temporary ban. One inch out of line and so long, permaban. Period.

  11. OP/Antti*

    Hi everyone! Just some clarifying points.

    – Part of why I believe the decision to go with a temporary ban was taken (other than managing blowback) was because as an LGBTQ person himself, he would have as much to lose as the rest of us if he were to screencap everything and post the images. There would be ways to take himself out of that if he were to do that, but that wouldn’t address how he would even be able to get that information in the first place.

    – I really can’t get too far into why exactly to avoid revealing exactly what this group is, but part of the negative reaction to banning Reginald at all is rooted in ideas of forgiveness/non-exclusion that a lot of people do have. Couple this with the fact that this is over Facebook (so it feels less disconnected as on, say, a phpBB forum) and that a very large number of us have met each other in person and do keep up with each other outside of the group, and I can at least see how someone would feel uncomfortable with banning. I don’t agree with that perspective, but I see it.

    I’m at my job right now and responding where I can, but just want to say thanks again to everyone–I really am taking stock of your feedback, our actions, and our system and thinking of where we need to change things.

    1. Beezus*

      I didn’t understand the temp ban, but your explanation makes some sense. Kinda like how my circle of friends won’t kick Josh out, because Josh is partnered with Sara, so she would go too, and while many of us can live without Sara, but without Sara we’d also lose Andrew, and without Andrew, we’d see much less of Dan, and that’s half the group gone, and nothing would be the same. So most of us are just chilly with Josh, and we call him out on individual transgressions, but we’re nowhere near ditching him completely. I still think it makes sense to be less lenient, but I understand.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      I don’t think it takes identifying details- or any details at all- to explain why people who have been bullied and excluded all their lives would be reluctant to exclude someone else, even in the face of cause this obvious.

      This isn’t even exclusive to LGBTQ people or small subsets within the community. Very unfortunately, people are bullied or made to feel Less for every small and stupid reason under the sun, and once you are one of those people, and find a group that “gets” who you are, and accepts you, it’s incredibly painful to face the need to oust one of the family.

      Unfortunately, I’ve also seen someone who was let back in, totally destroy the group in his second chance. I don’t have any advice to how to prevent that, except to be aware of the possibility.

    3. animaniactoo*

      I would suggest that as admins you consider that this decision matters too much to the overall safety and comfort of the group members not to consult them about their opinions.

      You can run it as a poll:

      If Reginald returns to the group, would you continue to feel that this is a safe space to talk and share and receive support? Y/N

      Do you think that prioritizing inclusiveness is more important than feeling safe yourself, or your fellow community members feeling safe in their presence here, in the face of actions which have threatened the safety of the group and/or its members ? Y/N

      Then you’ll have that feedback to take into account when you debate how to serve the group as a whole and how much to accommodate aka “include” one individual who is creating the issues that he has.

    4. The IT Manager*

      I do think Reginald should get a life-time ban, but I don’t think he, as Lord Byron, threatened to out anyone. The possibility existed that the unknown Lord Byron might have more malicious intent than just being a benevolent dictator but looking back outing was never his intent. Doesn’t make the feeling of the loss of safety go away, but this was an insider job. With the right controls and not giving admin rights to an unreasonable troublemakers in the future, this shouldn’t happen again. Those admins need to make sure that they have strong passwords and two factor authentication though.

      The only reason we didn’t immediately pursue this further was because we realized that this rogue profile, who we knew nothing about, had the power to change the group’s privacy settings so that the group wasn’t secret anymore.

      1. Emi.*

        I tend to think dictatorship is inherently malevolent, though. Just the fact of Reginald’s taking power over other people by fraud or force seems like plenty of reason to stop trusting him, even if he never used that power “for evil”–wanting it is sketchy in and of itself.

    5. Marisol*

      This seems like a vicious cycle of victimhood to me though. The community in question is targeted for abuse by society at large. Their victimization has become normalized to a certain extent, because it’s impossible to be bombarded by a message without internalizing it, and community members are thus prone to rationalizing abuse. In this case they are rationalizing accepting abuse (i.e. keeping Reginald) as “being inclusive.”

    6. Binominal*

      He doesn’t need to explain how he got it. There are plenty of places he can anonymously post that info.

      He is a constant threat as long as you moderators are unwilling to deal with him. I really hope you’ve been upfront with the members about all of this, and let them make an informed decision about continued involvement. If I was in that group and found out the mods had acted this way, I’d be furious. And I’d make sure everyone knew your group was not a safe forum.

      1. Anion*

        I hope they realize that he could still be active there right now, under yet another profile that they don’t realize is him.

        It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find he is.

        1. Anon for this*

          +1, this happened repeatedly on several websites I used. Drama -> ban -> sockpuppet -> ban -> new sockpuppet. Be very careful about any new members you add to the group. Perhaps only add people that at least one admin or mod has spoken to personally?

    7. neverjaunty*

      A short-tr ban is the same as doing nothing. You might as well straight up tell Reginald “the worst that we will ever do to you is a time-out”.

    8. Student*

      Every single member of your community now knows they have to do something worse than Reginald to get kicked out. Reginald now knows he can do a lot of horrible unpleasant things, and you can’t muster the will to kick him for this very terrible thing, so any subsequent punishment for a different transgression will look disproportional and “unfair” as long as it doesn’t quite amount to holding the entire group hostage.

      If not this, then what would you kick someone out for? Do you want to waste your time and effort on a group that has such an incredibly low opinion of itself? Can you actually do any good as a support group when you collectively think you deserve to be treated like this? Because frankly, I find this incredibly undermining for a support group to tolerate someone treating its members so badly. Looks less like a support group and more like an easy fishing zone for abusers.

    9. Jacob*

      I get it. I do. I’m a bisexual trans man, and I’ve participated in and actually run a number of LGBT support groups, both offline and online. And I’ve had to swallow a lot of cow manure, put up with a lot of annoying, infuriating, and/or outright toxic people because I was acutely aware that if I kicked people out, or even just made them feel unwelcome, I had the power to cut the off from literally life-saving resources. I have only ended up banning one person during the more than 15 years I’ve been involved in this work and the dozens of groups I’ve been involved in, and that was a person who was intercepting everyone entering a meeting to say, “Did you know So-and-So has HIV?” All those years, just one person banned.

      I would permanently ban Reginald in a second. Yesterday, if possible.

      This is not a mistake or a hot-tempered one-off. This is an intentionally malicious set of actions that violates the safety of the group and the well-being of every single member there. Reginald is a dangerous person, and the group does not have to martyr itself to him to appease the gods of “forgiveness.” Please do try to bring the other admins around on banning him.

      Also, if you don’t already have a set of rules of conduct for the group, please consider drafting some. Every group I’ve been involved with has had rules of conduct–and these can be drafted with the entire group’s input, so they’re not seen as a dictate from on high–and every set of rules I’ve seen has included a provision about the confidentiality of what is said in the group. What Reginald has done would be a very serious, very ban-worthy violation in literally every group I’ve been involved in.

      1. Candi*

        That HIV thing disgusts me. I grew up in the era of “AIDS is here! It will become a horrible epidemic and KILL US ALL!! We have to isolate children and shun the homeless!”

        Even as a kid that struck me as disgusting. Especially when it continued after the ‘bodily fluids transmission’ was publicized.

        As for Reggie -he’s going to drive people off. Full stop. Toxic people being allowed to remain does that. A temp ban and a user account is being allowed to remain.

        There was a small fan site I deeply enjoyed several years ago. There was one owner/admin, no mods, and a very vague TOS.

        When two people working together made it toxic for a half dozen people who’d disagreed with them on a variety of toxics, the admin sided with them because they ‘contributed value’. A yearly Christmas-themed fanfic challenge for one, and the other I never could figure out what he was talking about.

        People left, and the people who remained are contributing far less last I checked -about four years ago.

        (It’s an older anime, so there’s little influx of new blood; most new fans are introduced to it by other fans. The drastic failure of the live action movie-reboot some years ago didn’t help things.)

  12. Brett*

    I do not know the current intrusion laws that well, but I am pretty certain what Reginald did was a crime, possibly a felony. It definitely violated several parts of Facebook’s TOS.

    In a face to face volunteer group, I think most groups would permanently ban a member who committed a serious crime against the group regardless of how inclusive the group was meant to be.
    (I also wonder what kind of liability, if any, is involved for the organization if Reginald uses his membership to commit something damaging against group members in the future, e.g. publicly publishing a list of group members or contacting the friends of certain group members to out them.)

    1. One Handed Typist*

      This! If any of the former admins had simply notified Facebook, they would have restored the admins access and not only banned Reginald/Lord Byron, but removed his entire profile!

      1. Hrovitnir*

        Have you ever contacted Facebook? They’re notorious for not acting on things like this, and it’s a big assumption no one did contact them.

  13. INTP*

    And then Lord Byron, who had been dodging any attempts at contact, finally spoke up and presented himself as a benevolent dictator of sorts.

    That’s a sentence that I never thought I would read, but I’m glad that I have. Thank you for not only providing an update but writing it in a way that made me giggle at my desk.

  14. Moonsaults*

    This kind of thing happened to a football group earlier this year and that was obnoxious, there was so much drama everywhere. I was just over here all “suddenly feeling suffocated by Cowboys fans, must not puke all over myself.”

    In that case, the jackass who overthrew the group started adding people so we had a flood of more jackasses everywhere. At very least Reginald was acting alone, he sounds very lonely and distressed to pull a stunt like that.

    This is still so much worse because it put lives at risk instead of just an overwhelmingly exhausting day of bad memes and general rudeness :( I’m glad that the safe place is back and hope that you didn’t lose many members who now fear for their safety having been jeopardized during that period of time.

  15. A.C. Stefano*

    Not to nitpick, but should it be “function” in the letter? Tho “fuction” is hilarious for all the wrong reasons.

    That being said, but what the hell, Reginald. My mother dealt with someone subversive like this, and tolerated it for FAR TOO LONG. We all held a party when the proverbial shenanigans hit the fan.

  16. LQ*

    As long as Reginald still has access to the group he can still take all the screen shots and out all the people he wants. Your group isn’t safe if that is his intention. Just because he can’t do it with one click doesn’t mean he can’t and won’t do it any of the other ways.

  17. starsaphire*

    Bless you. I have been waiting for this update.

    Let’s hope he finds another group to troll and pick on during his (hopefully lengthy) ban.

  18. Alice B. Toklas*

    OP, thank you so much for the update, I’ve been wondering about you and feeling like -I- owe you an update too :-). You see, your question came at a crucial time for my organization, and the wave of comments was so helpful in my taking decisive action that I can’t express how grateful I am to both you and the whole AAM crew. So THANKS Y’ALL!

    Mine went like this: another small LGBT organization (!!?!), all volunteer. We had lost a couple board members due to moving away/graduations etc, only 5 of us were left and we were feeling the pinch. A couple of new women moved into town, they were -very- charming, very energetic, one was even unemployed so had a lot of time to give. A vet and a social worker/shrink, what could be nicer :-)? They brought homemade food to meetings.. So we naturally invited them to join our board.

    The first thing that happened was a horrible incident where Radcliffe Hall got into a screaming episode with our president, who was having a lot of work and awful personal/health challenges at the same time and had wished to postpone a Friday evening dump-your-brain meeting. While we had a special meeting about the incident and told them in no uncertain terms that they were to treat her respectfully, this led to our president pretty much withdrawing from the organization for several months. So, now down by 20-30% in the workload and missing a lot of info, we were then subjected to meetings where we were still fed homemade goodies (y’all are so untogether you can’t even feed yourselves properly) but we were systematically berated for Not Doing Enough. Each one of us was subjected to long (unscheduled) phone calls where we were pumped for information but berated even more. Naturally, this led to even less happening, and several events where we wished to participate but let them be the face of the organization while personally slinking away at every opportunity.

    Radcliffe and Una had an additional trait, a well-practiced good-cop-bad-cop routine where one of them would metaphorically rip you up with her dachshund teeth you while the other pretended to try to hold her back. So you never knew which one was going to do you in that time, adding to the general feeling of insecurity. They were however doing a really good job of gathering information about everything that made our organization tick, as we were all trying to get them up to speed as well and quickly as possible.

    I was ready to resign. I had moved and now lived nearly an hour’s drive away, and felt zero motivation to continue this obviously futile endeavor. But your original post was published :-). So I called the president to talk things over. And then we talked to most of the other board members, and found out that 4 out of 5 were ready to quit too, solely because of the Evil Couple.

    Then there was the Weekend Horribilis. On the Friday I attended an informational meeting at our local foundation, where R&U introduced themselves as our board members, asked a lot of pointed questions, and then proceeded to badmouth us to an ally on the sidewalk for over 20mn (I left after attempting to derail them). Over the next couple days, at a Pride event (!!) I personally witnessed R&U badmouthing us badly (and exaggerating our failings greatly) to members, major volunteers, community allies, and even our fiscal sponsor.

    So by the time the Tuesday board meeting rolled around we were totally determined to get rid of them. We knew they’d be spreading horrors about us all over town, but we figured we had nothing to lose since they were already doing that, at least they could no longer do it while officially representing us. I’ll spare you the details, but let me just say that we had several things going for us: one was that we knew going into it that we had the solid votes to get rid of them. I was designated to speak, because it seemed better to not have the president do it so it would seem less personal. I actually -rehearsed- a speech for the first time in my life, aloud even, carefully memorized the main few points I wanted to make. That was incredibly helpful to keep going and stay calm and on topic under the onslaught of abuse that started as soon as I got going, all the way to the final door-kicking.

    It was also very helpful that Radcliffe had waved a copy of the bylaws in the air the previous board meeting, sneering about how we were not even familiar with them. So that allowed me to comb through them, and check that a simple board majority was enough to get rid of them. They were disqualified by conflict of interest to vote on their own expulsion, but we still had a 4-3 majority without even disputing that. My main argument was that they were failing at the first defined duty ‘be an advocate for the organization’, and I kept up my sleeve the second one ‘be respectful toward other members’. Let me urge all of you out there to amend your own bylaws to include these things, which most bullies will be failing at.

    Don’t get me wrong, it was a -horrible- meeting, and a horrible experience in general. I had to screw up every last bit of courage I had. We all ended up having a drink at the president’s house afterwards, feeling totally charred. We lost a much-valued board member, and 2 important volunteers, friends, possibly permanently. There’s still no telling how much long-term damage we’ve suffered.

    One thing we did right was handling the techno-stuff, I’m sure in part because 2 of us are professional techies, and I’ve had 25 years of experience moderating contentious net-groups. At some point we noticed that our president was mysteriously dropped from the admin list of our main means of communication, the facebook page. Since Radclyffe had made some posting bloop recently, and excused herself by saying she didn’t know what she was doing, I seized the opportunity to demote her from admin to editor. But we were connected and ready during the final meeting, and revoking every privilege as they were driving away. The main vulnerable item was the mailchimp password, and mercifully Radcliffe in her rage threw at me the sheets of signup names we had collected that last weekend.

    But getting rid of them was all -so- worth it. It’s been several months now, we appreciate each other so much :-). We’re putting on one of our major annual fundraising events this weekend, and it already looks to be even more of a smashing success than usual. Our president is back and totally functional, we’ve recruited a couple other board members who’re totally fine. In short, we’ve saved the organization. If someone out there is hesitating in a similar situation, do it!! And thanks again to all of you for your thoughts and good advice on the topic :-).

  19. Sadiemae*

    I agree that there are people who take advantage of liberal, progressive organizations because those organizations are less likely to lay down the law and say, “You’ve been repeatedly abusive and threatening – get out and stay out.”

    I used to work for a very liberal church, and we had a huge church schism because one guy (I’ll call him John), a sociopath if there ever were one, basically hijacked the church. To make a (very) long story short, he was new to the church and quickly became head of one of our church groups. He was charming and manipulative, and the people in that group (many of whom were vulnerable people) adored him. Then the church leadership found out he was a registered sex offender. And not in that “I was 16 and my girlfriend was 14” or “I was drunk at a party and flashed someone” way. At the age of 29, he had gotten a 13-year-old girl pregnant. Moreover, after leaving prison he had not complied with the terms of his probation, resulting in several more stints in jail. And though he insisted when confronted that he was always careful since the original incident to be appropriate with young girls, we discovered he had been establishing a close relationship with an 11-year-old girl in the church, perhaps “grooming” her.

    When church leadership found all this out, we told him not to attend until a plan could be made to ensure the safety of the church’s children. His followers went *ballistic.* He had told them it was a “we were both teenagers” situation, and they thought we were lying when we said otherwise. We even showed them the court paperwork and they said, “John said that was a typo, he wasn’t really 29!” It was just crazy.

    After finding out about not only the statutory rape conviction but the many, many subsequent lies, including lies to us when we confronted him, many in the church leadership wanted to tell John he simply wasn’t welcome. But a lot of people, even people who knew all that had happened, supported his right to attend. We offered a plan where an adult would be with him at all times, and they balked at that, saying “Everyone deserves a second chance in life!” and “It’s not fair to single him out – people change!” Those in church leadership were also verbally abused for “judging” him. And the ridiculous behavior of his friends – calling the leaders “Nazis,” “cockroaches,” etc. – was not denounced by most of the church because those people were just “expressing their frustration.”

    In the end, John refused to follow the rules and left. A lot of his friends left with him. But a lot of those who opposed him, including me, left too, because we felt the safety of that space had been violated by those who wouldn’t enforce a basic boundary with someone who had repeatedly demonstrated he was a dangerous, dishonest person.

    OP, even if they don’t say so, I expect there are people in your group who will drift away if Reginald is allowed to return. I feel for Reginald, who seems like a damaged person, but why should his right to group membership supersede theirs? I think you should remove him permanently. As it happens, that might be the best thing for him, too – to know he needs to follow basic rules of decency if he wants to be part of a caring community.

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