Eastside Romance Writers Association, Eastside RWA

Eastside Romance Writers
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Letter to RWA Board

January 13, 2020

Open letter from Eastside Romance Writers (in Washington State) to the National RWA Board.
 
First, we’d like to state that our reply was delayed by the life-threatening health crisis of our former president, who had to step down in the midst of this situation. We weren’t able to recruit and select a new president until January 8th. 
 
We know that in replying this late, much has already been said and some actions taken. While we are heartened to hear that Damon Suede and Carol Ritter are leaving RWA, both should have been removed at the same time the Board rescinded its decision in the ethics case against Courtney Milan. It had to have been clear to the Board by then that serious misbehavior had occurred. The damage caused by this delay is enormous and has furthered the growing distrust toward RWA from its members.

The handling of this entire matter exposes failures of leadership at multiple levels. The Board is not powerless, and yet again and again chapter leaders have been told that many of the failures lie with staff and the Executive Director. While this appears to be true, it’s also true that the Board has a fiduciary duty to make sure that the staff and the ED are working in the best interests of the membership, and clearly that has not been the case for some time. 

Beverly Jenkins said it best: “And in my perfect RWA world everyone in HQ would [be] replaced by new employees from top to bottom, and the new board would make it clear that the staff serves under direction of the membership. Not the other way around.”

It is crucial that the audit being conducted by Pillsbury be expanded in scope to cover how ethics complaints have been handled (or not handled) for the past three years, and it’s also crucial that Carol Ritter be removed from any influence on the audit. She has a clear conflict of interest, and no one will trust the results of the audit as long as she has a hand in it. The board will again be failing its membership if this situation is not attended to immediately. 

None of us can (or should) hope that this matter will blow over and we can go back to business as usual. Business as usual has proven to be detrimental to our marginalized writing communities. As a whole we need to unequivocally stand against racism and discrimination of any kind. We understand that many people find conflict ugly and unsettling, and not everyone is comfortable with Courtney Milan's choice of words or her approach to the problems she saw with Glenfinnan Press. Women in particular are taught not to rock the boat, not to get angry, not to demand justice. Given everything that’s transpired, we should all be speaking up. We should all be furious, and we should all be demanding change and accountability. That’s the only way this organization will survive and serve ALL its members.

Dana Delamar, President
Shelli Stevens, Vice President
Genie McFate, Secretary

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