By Gary Kopycinski
Note: I first met Annabel Park and Eric Byler at Netroots Nation in 2009 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA. The following is reprinted with Annabel’s permission.
A letter from Annabel Park, founder of the Coffee Party, a wonderful organization that is now run by a group full of self-interest.
The original motto of the Coffee Party? Incite Civility! She wrote the following commentary on CNN in 2010. She and Eric Byler gave their hearts and souls to the Coffee Party, a group counter to the Tea Party and their shouting, embodied with the notion that civil discussion could advance great ideas.
The Coffee Party deserves better than the current board, refusing to hold open elections for a few years now, contrary to the organization’s bylaws, contrary to any notion of good faith, contrary to common sense.
Please read the following, read the lawsuit, and sign on.
Dear Members of the Coffee Party Community,
I’m writing on behalf of concerned Members of the organization who have taken an extraordinary step of filing a lawsuit against the Board of Directors for financial self-dealing, misuse of Membership’s personal data, and other abuses of power. Here is a link to the lawsuit filed last December in Washington DC. And, here is a more colloquial explanation of what has taken place behind closed doors.
When I left Coffee Party leadership in 2011, we hired consultants to oversee the creation of a governing board of directors accountable to, and elected by you, the Members. Sadly that is not what happened.
In the fallout from multi-level marketing scheme scandal, this Board of Directors has disqualified all candidates nominated to challenge them, and run themselves unopposed in elections to avoid oversight, transparency, and debate about their conduct.
They prefer to appoint new Directors rather than allowing you to elect them, thus, the Coffee Party’s resources and energy seem to go toward fighting the Membership’s lawsuit and suppressing dissent through censorship, and the purging of dozens of founding and long-time Members, rather than toward campaigns and actions that might impact the real world.
In the interest of moving forward as a community, I would like to invite you to an informal Coffee Party community meeting that you can participate in online and in person.
WHEN: August 22, 2015, 3pm-5pm ET
WHERE In-Person: 1101 Hamilton Street, Suite 158A, Allentown, PA 18102
WHERE Online: Original Coffee Party Facebook Group
WHERE By Phone: Register for the Maestro call here.
This meeting is at the end of a day-long conference, Awaken We the People, organized by some original Coffee Party founders, including me, about creating a national network of local organizers. Leaders of other networks and organizations including Occupy Wall Street will be participating. The conference is free and open to the public, from 9am to 3pm. I urge you to attend this as well. Please RSVP.
Along with the future of the lawsuit, the agenda for the Coffee Party community meeting (3pm-5pm) will include a number of action ideas about how we can advance the principles of the original vision.
The Members’ lawsuit asks the court to force the Board of Directors to hold legitimate and fair elections, as prescribed by the bylaws, where no candidate can be disqualified arbitrarily. The Defendants’ and their lawyers say they intend to fight this, and currently the Members are seeking more people to sign on in order to refile the complaint with the requisite number of plaintiffs (about 20 more plaintiffs are needed).
The plaintiffs have recently secured a lawyer in DC who has agreed to take on our case pro bono. This is a big opportunity in terms of seeking a legal remedy.
Unless the plaintiffs see the lawsuit through, it’s very likely that this democracy movement we started in order to fight corruption will continue to thwart democracy and embody corruption. But restoring the integrity and renewing the mission of the Coffee Party will require us all to work for it. At this meeting we’ll decide whether it’s worth it. We would like to make the discussion an open and civil one in the original Coffee Party tradition.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the lawsuit, we will conduct several informational calls prior to the August 22nd meeting with plenty of time for you to ask questions. Or, you can join and participate in the The Original Coffee Party Facebook group where many of us have gathered for the time being.
On a personal note, starting in October, I will be embarking on a year-long road trip across the country, Coffee with Friends Across America. Although inspired by John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America, my dream has a contemporary twist to it. I hope to meet many of my 5000 facebook friends and 3000 followers including all of you.
During the trip, I hope we can share authentic stories from Main St and search for real solutions together. I hope that videos and content that we make together can impact the national conversation leading up to the 2016 election. To get updates on this, please follow me on my facebook page.
Thanks again for your interest in the aims of the original Coffee Party. Don’t hesitate to contact me on Facebook or by replying to this email to discuss any of this.
PS – Please sign this “Step Down Now” petition already signed by 590 people.
Gary Kopycinski is editor and publisher of eNews Park Forest. Follow him on Twitter at @GaryKopycinski and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FrodoJRR, or email him at [email protected]. He served as a village trustee in Park Forest from 2003-2006, and then again from 2007-2015. eNews Park Forest, Inc. is an independent media company and is not affiliated with the Village of Park Forest in any way.