Tuesday, October 20, 2015

TeMPO's end, and Telling's new beginning

As was reported by the media several months ago, the Telling Mansion Preservation Organization disbanded early this year.  It has been over a year since I posted about the Telling Mansion, and I was reluctant to reenter the fray.  But after careful consideration, I have decided to speak now and henceforth hold my peace – at least for the foreseeable future.  As one of the founding members of TeMPO, I believe I have earned this right and that my opinions are founded on facts, not suppositions.

Let me make it plain, the disbanding of TeMPO was the direct result of two disruptive members who poisoned the atmosphere and refused to depart gracefully from the group, abetted by a third member who was unwilling to stand up to their inappropriate behavior.  When TeMPO’s bylaws were written, there was no provision for terminating a membership.  It simply never occurred to us that such a provision would be necessary.

When TeMPO was formed in late 2012, there was no notion of who might purchase the Telling site – although it was becoming increasingly clear that it would be sold and the library moved, despite the efforts of the Save the Mansion Library Group.  TeMPO formed to, hopefully, demonstrate that there were those who were concerned about the Telling Mansion and, while not necessarily supporting the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s decision to move, were willing to work with them to ensure the building and property were preserved.  As one member put it, we were the “sane” alternative to the Mansion Library group.  But how well can sanity work when we live in insane times – when a sizeable portion of the country believes the President is an illegal alien, that teachers ought to carry guns, and that Chem-Trails are the cause of many of our troubles? 

Upon the formation of TeMPO, I accepted the position of Vice President.  During that first year, TeMPO formally incorporated, created an action plan, raised initial funds, applied for 501(c)(3) status, and reached out to the library board and, eventually, the prospective owner.  All of us at TeMPO, particularly the board, put our hearts into the effort, but never let our passion devolve into the hyperbole and inappropriate behavior that characterized the Save the Mansion Library group which has, to date, accomplished nothing positive.

Upon the election of new officers in April 2014, I resigned as Vice President of TeMPO.  I did not offer my own name for consideration.  At the time, I announced my decision to scale back my activities in TeMPO due to career and personal considerations.  I did my best to ensure an orderly transition by turning over all materials I had in relation to TeMPO to the new President and Vice President.

Unfortunately, the new President and Vice President were met with hostility by a few other members – despite the lack of alternative candidates.   The new leadership’s efforts to get TeMPO moving, to apply for grants to renovate the gatekeeper’s lodge, to establish a fundraising apparatus, and for public outreach were stymied at every turn.   Between April, 2014 and March, 2015, I did not attend any TeMPO meetings - although I received updates from several group members.  I kept in contact with the group’s new communications director, who had come over from the Save the Mansion Library group, and about whom I felt wary.  Despite my concerns regarding her intentions, I assisted her in putting together a press release – which was never issued.  After receiving conflicting information from multiple parties with differing viewpoints, I was persuaded to attend TeMPO’s March 2015 meeting.  The tension was so thick I could barely stand to remain in the room.  It became obvious that the group’s new secretary did not have the mental stability needed to do the job.  Particularly galling was the demeanor of the very person I assisted with the press release.  Upon the expiration of TeMPO’s webdomain, she purchased it, and in a process known as “cybersquatting”, initially pointed it to her own personal website, then for use by the Save the Mansion library group – a nonsensical idea as the new library was already under construction with no chance the move would be prevented.  As it turned out, my suspicions about this woman, which I had made known to the former President of our group and others, proved exactly correct – she had originated as a leading member of the Save the Mansion Library group and her intentions were anything but benign.  On top of all this, one of TeMPO’s most influential members,  who ran for mayor several years ago, was unwilling or unable to stand up to the misbehaving members.  In my opinion, while a competent CPA, he has all the fortitude of a spineless jellyfish. 

There are probably many such groups that start with high hopes and enthusiasm for the hard work necessary to keep the vision going – only to dissipate due to internal squabbling.  But this is the only case I know of where a group such as ours was deliberately infiltrated by someone with a destructive agenda and sabotaged from within. 

As I have stated before, the notion that Richard Barone’s motive in purchasing the Telling Site is merely a ruse to flip the land is nonsensical on its face.  The very limited return on investment he would receive for the rather small portion of land would simply not be worth the time he’s put into the effort.  As a seasoned investor, Mr. Barone could easily make that money with a few clicks of his computer mouse over the course of a lazy afternoon – and save himself the trouble of dealing with the hysterical ire of a few self-appointed community guardians.  I have no doubt that Mr. Barone’s decision to purchase the Mansion and grounds was made with the best intentions.  This is demonstrated by the work he’s already done to hire a permanent, live-in custodian; the replacement of the failing gutters with historically accurate copper gutters; and his work with the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Historical Society to renovate and expand their space.  It’s true that part of his purchase agreement called for the Library to repave the driveway – and why shouldn’t they?  CCPL’s neglect of the property has led to so many issues with this Library that I stopped using it as such well before they closed.  Mr. Barone recently purchased a New Jersey porcelain art manufacturer, which certainly gives the lie to the ridiculous accusations hurled by the Save the Mansion Library Group – which recently filed another lawsuit in a desperate grasp for relevance.  Indeed, a former member of that very group told me that their “leader”, a Cleveland Heights based activist with a knack for garnering publicity for herself, admitted that she didn’t really care about the Telling Mansion, and was just trying to stick it to the CCPL.

I’m certain Mr. Barone knows that decisions are not made, nor public opinion particularly swayed, by online click-baiting or by comments made at Cleveland.com and other sites – especially when many of the comments obviously come from the same person posting under multiple sock-puppet accounts.  Decisions are made and actions are undertaken by those who show up and do the hard work.  I was and remain proud of my work for TeMPO.  My only regret is that others were more interested in getting themselves publicity than in moving forward with positive action.  

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