Did YOU sign the MUFON “background check” form?

The Committee to Reform MUFON is submitting this piece for consideration for
publication in UFO Digest. If you want to use it, let’s put this header on
it:

This communication was mailed March 25, 2011 to all members of the Mutual
UFO Network. The analysis was conducted by the Committee to Reform MUFON for
the benefit of the Members. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy
and sound judgment in this analysis.

Did YOU sign the MUFON “background check” form?

By the Committee to Reform MUFON at [email protected] and
[email protected]

       About 3 years ago, MUFON introduced the “background check” form. It
is one of two forms would-be field investigators are required to sign and
turn in with the FI exam.  It is our impression most Members believe the
purpose of the background check for field investigators is so MUFON can
identify and reject anyone who has a felony conviction.

The Committee to Reform MUFON (CRM) has carefully considered the background
check form and consulted with attorneys, private investigators and criminal
justice experts to get their opinion on it.  The results were not
reassuring. “I wouldn’t sign it,” is what two attorneys told CRM about the
MUFON background check form.

Here is what the form says

I understand that a thorough and complete background investigation may be
conducted to determine my fitness and desirability as a MUFON Field
Investigator.

I understand that a background investigation is conducted by gathering and
recording information about my past conduct and any criminal offenses from
any and all sources that MUFON, in its sole discretion, may deem
appropriate, including, but not limited to, criminal courts, other
governmental files and records, and any other public record sources of
information available.

I hereby release from liability and agree to indemnify and hold MUFON
harmless, under any and all possible causes of legal action, including
negligence, for any negligent or wrongful statements, acts, or omissions
made or recorded in the course of my back ground investigation.

I hereby release from liability and agree to hold harmless under any and all
possible causes of legal action, including negligence, any person or entity
which furnishes information or opinions to MUFON as a part of my background
investigation.

I authorize any person or entity contacted by MUFON during the course of my
background investigation to furnish any information or opinions such person
or entity may have regarding myself, or my conduct, regardless of any
statutory or other privilege I may have.

I understand the need for confidentiality of sources and information in my
background investigation, and I expressly agree that I will never attempt to
obtain access to any part of the background investigation designated as
confidential by MUFON.

What does the background check form really mean?

       When you, as a member of MUFON, sign this form, you are granting
MUFON permission to collect information on you from any person or any
records which MUFON “at its sole discretion, may deem appropriate.” You are
promising to “never attempt” to find out what information MUFON has
collected about you.  And you are acknowledging that if any harm comes to
you because of MUFON mistakes or “acts” in connection with the background
check, there will be nothing you can do to require MUFON to remedy the
problem. The same goes for the people who provide information or “opinions”
about you to MUFON. If what they say or do causes you harm, there will be
nothing you can do to compel a remedy.

       For example, if someone MUFON interviews tells lies about you, if
MUFON gets you mixed up with someone who has the same name as you, if
someone rifles through MUFON’s files and steals your identity-well, for one
thing MUFON has no obligation to tell you any of this, and if you do find
out about it, there is no remedy you can require of MUFON or anyone else
because you signed the background check form.

       The form requires you to hold everyone associated with investigating
you “harmless” for “any and all. . .acts.”  That seems to mean if someone
who had a grudge against you got access to your “file” and published true or
false information about you gathered in the course of a “background check,”
you wouldn’t have any remedy for that  either if you’ve signed this form.

Read the form over again and you will see MUFON doesn’t promise to keep your
information confidential.  The “confidentiality” spoken of refers to the
people who give information about you, and it refers to information MUFON
may choose to keep confidential from you.  In truth, we don’t see anything
in the form that constrains MUFON in any way, and we don’t see anything in
the form that protects you.

The background check form is required

       Did YOU sign this form? If you did, why in the world would you put
your name to such a thing? If you did, probably the reason is MUFON demands
that you sign the background check form or you cannot become a field
investigator.  According to an email written last fall by Chuck Reever, then
MUFON Director of Investigations, there are “no exceptions.”  Everyone who
wants to be an FI must sign the background check form.

       The information the form requires, apart from your name, address and
phone, includes your date of birth, maiden name and aliases, previous
addresses, the branch of the military you may have served in and when, “any
Public Service” and when, and information on misdemeanor and felony
convictions.

In Part 2 of the background check form (not shown above) you provide the
names of “concerned persons or authorized representatives of any
organization, institution or repository of records.”  You give these people
permission to speak to MUFON about you, and you release these persons “from
any and all liability.” Part 2 must be notarized.

       We note the form does not ask for your social security number, your
current or former employers, or the names and birthplaces of your parents.
More about that below.

Obscure legal language

What is the meaning of the phrase “regardless of any statutory or other
privilege I may have”? The attorneys we spoke with say that refers to
attorney-client, priest-penitent, doctor-patient and spousal privileges. In
other words, when you sign the form you are authorizing MUFON to question
your attorney, your doctor, your priest and your spouse.  And you are saying
that even though the information such persons have about you is universally
regarded as not-to-be-disclosed, you waive that normal right. You authorize
MUFON to ask your priest what you said in the confessional, and you
authorize the priest to answer.

Of course, most MUFON members signing the form would not know the meaning of
“any statutory or other privilege,” and MUFON could have used plain English
words to inform you of what right you were waiving, but they didn’t.

       According to one of the attorneys CRM consulted, the MUFON
background check form may be in violation of federal law, specifically the
US Fair Credit Reporting Act. That is because any decent background check
will include a credit report, and the law requires you to be able to see
your credit information. So if MUFON withheld that information from you,
MUFON would probably be breaking the law.

       Think about it. MUFON is an all-volunteer organization except for a
couple of paid staff. The turnover is very high (except on the Board of
Directors). Every time you turn around, someone has either quit or been
fired. The organization is full of intrigue and back-biting. And MUFON has
very little money. Even if MUFON promised to safeguard your personal,
private information, do you think MUFON has the capability to do that? In
particular, do you think MUFON can protect your information from identity
theft?

What is the purpose of the background check form?

       As the Committee to Reform MUFON went about considering the
background check form and its implications, and speaking to experts about
it, we found what we learned rather shocking. But as we continued to think
about it, something else dawned on us:  We don’t believe MUFON has any
intention of actually doing background checks on the members of MUFON.

Why is that? The cost.  At $200 or more per background check, for MUFON to
do checks on the approximately 500 FIs in the organization would cost
$100,000. Does anyone reading this believe MUFON is going to put out that
kind of money, or any money at all, to do background checks?

Another reason for doubting that MUFON actually intends to do background
checks is that the form does not ask for the precise information necessary
to do a background check. The form does not ask for employment information,
the names of your parents, and in particular it does not ask for your social
security number. Without your social security number it is virtually
impossible to do a background check since there are so many people in
society with the same name.

       Therefore, we had to ask ourselves, since MUFON apparently does not
intend to do background checks, what is the purpose of forcing FIs to fill
out and sign the background check form?

The background check form – an attitude filter

We can’t say for sure, but it occurs to us the background check form is a
very good tool of intimidation.  As you pass through the entry door to
becoming a FI, you are required to abjectly surrender your rights so MUFON
can determine your “fitness and desirability.”  We find this condescending
language amazing.  It sounds like you are going to be judged and MUFON has
set itself up as the judge. It seems to us the real purpose of the
background check form is a kind of filter. Anyone who won’t sign the form,
who won’t surrender their rights, who won’t give MUFON the right to judge
them, well, apparently MUFON doesn’t want them as a field investigator. It
seems MUFON wants a different kind of person-an obedient person.

       Some people would say that is an unwarranted characterization, but
if intimidating you is not the purpose of the background check form, then
what is its purpose? Without your social security number, the form is
virtually useless. And don’t forget that at the same time you sign the
background check form, you must also sign the “At-will” form.

The At-will form – another attitude filter

       The At-will form-also known as “the ice water form” because it
throws a bucket of cold water in your face just as you are becoming a field
investigator-the At-will form is the other document you must sign.  It
states:  “I understand. . .that MUFON may terminate my. . .volunteer service
at any time with or without cause or notice.”

As it turns out, the “without cause” language violates the MUFON corporate
By-Laws, which can be seen on www.mufon.com under “About” and “Our
organization.” Article 2 states: “Membership privileges may be terminated
for failure to remit annual dues and/or for unlawful, unethical or abusive
behavior”-in other words, for cause.

The At-will form disregards MFUON own legally-established corporate
documents and instead admits the reality that MUFON does not use due process
(fair procedures) in personnel matters.  It is a document in which MUFON
tells you point blank that its personnel policies are arbitrary and
capricious-“we can fire you without cause”-and that opens the door to the
political firings and purges we have seen so much of lately.

In truth, the At-will agreement legally void and it is impossible to find a
legitimate purpose for it anyway.  The At-will informs you that you can be
fired from your volunteer position. Does anyone doubt that? MUFON then goes
out of its way to inform you-“you are free to end your relationship with
MUFON at any time”!  Did you doubt that? Did you need to be told you can
quit? Did you need to sign a piece of paper saying you understand you can
quit MUFON?

So what is the real purpose of the At-will form? The only purpose we can see
is it gets you to agree in advance it is ok for MUFON to dismiss you
“without cause.” Like the background check form, the purpose of the At-will
form appears to be to see if you are the kind of person who will waive their
rights, permit themselves to be “investigated” and judged by MUFON, and
agree to unfair terms in order to become a field investigator in MUFON.

Why has the MUFON Board rejected good alternatives to a background check?

       No one we spoke with knows who in MUFON wrote the background check
form. And we have not seen any policy statement from Headquarters explaining
the form to Members. The form just appeared out of nowhere and became a
requirement.

The form doesn’t say exactly what information MUFON is looking for.  It
speaks only of a “thorough and complete” background investigation, which
sounds like a fishing expedition. And the idea MUFON is using a background
check to look for felons, and that felons will be rejected as FIs, is only a
supposition. Nor has MUFON stated what background factors will cause a
Member to be rejected as an FI.

It may be nothing more than a convenience for MUFON that Members believe
MUFON is using the background check to ferret out felons.  Some members are
convinced MUFON does need to know if any FIs have a criminal record because
they might commit a crime against a witness and the witness might sue
someone in MUFON. So finding felons is what many Members assume MUFON is
using the background check for. However, as discussed, MUFON’s background
check form (which doesn’t ask for a SS number) is simply a background check
form without a background check, and MUFON is not using the form for the
purpose the Members assume.

And there’s more. If MUFON is truly hunting felons why has MUFON rejected 3
good alternatives to the background check? These are alternatives which
would do just as good a job ferreting out felons or protecting against
lawsuits as a background check-IF MUFON were actually doing background
checks (which we don’t think they are).

The first alternative is an insurance policy. If the Board of Directors is
worried about witnesses suing MUFON, then why don’t they purchase an
insurance policy to cover everyone in the organization? That idea has been
proposed numerous times and each time the Board has refused to purchase an
insurance policy other than the policy they already have which covers the 9
members of the Board.

A $10 solution

       Another solution was proposed in 2009 by the MUFON Advocacy Group.
The Advocacy Group, headed by then SD of Texas Ken Cherry, was a committee
of MUFON Members which recommended changes in MUFON’s operations. On the
question of felons, the Group suggested that any individual applying to be a
MUFON FI could obtain a document from their local police department
certifying they have no felony convictions. That would cost the individual
about $10.

       This was only one of a number of recommendations for change made by
the Advocacy Group, all of which were rejected. According to persons who
participated in the Group, the Group’s written report submitted to the MUFON
Board of Directors was ignored.  Then, in July 2009, James Carrion dissolved
the Advocacy Group and soon afterward Ken Cherry was fired from MUFON.

       The third alternative is a warning. MUFON could just say, ‘If you
are a felon, don’t apply to be an FI.’  That wouldn’t be a complete
solution, because people could lie, but it would help, and it would have the
added virtue of making MUFON fair and honest in telling members “up front”
what are the grounds for rejection as an FI.  As for lying, people can lie
now and deny a criminal history on the current background check form which
doesn’t ask for an SS number.

Here is what is true about all these rejected solutions. Here’s what they
have in common: none of them requires you to give MUFON permission to
investigate you, and none of them gives MUFON any information about you.
MUFON wouldn’t get any information about Members by buying an insurance
policy, wouldn’t get any information by requiring a $10 certificate from the
police, and wouldn’t get any information by warning you, ‘If you’re a felon,
stay away.’

These are solutions would solve the problem.  However, these solutions would
not require you to surrender your rights or agree to capricious and
arbitrary personnel policies, and would not filter your attitudes in the
manner we have described.

By contrast, when you sign the background check and the At-will forms, that
proves to MUFON you are the kind of person they want.  Furthermore, the
background check form gives MUFON considerable information about you without
MUFON even having to do a background check.

For example, the form asks for complete information on all your misdemeanor
and felony convictions along with your drug and alcohol history. What is
this for? So MUFON can get the information first and then reject you?

So what the Board has done is take the worry some Members have about felons
in our midst and turn that into an opportunity to filter the attitudes of
prospective field investigators. That is where we come to rest with this.
The liability remains. And the felons remain if they choose to lie on the
background check form.  Nothing has happened except that MUFON International
now has your signed permission to investigate you and fire you “without
cause.”

If you signed these forms, get them back!

       Don’t sign these forms! Don’t sign the background check form or the
At-will form! The Committee to Reform MUFON advises you in the strongest
possible terms, and lawyers agree with us, that you should not sign either
the At-will or the background check form. If you have already signed these
forms, we suggest you notify the International Director in writing that you
rescind your signatures and you want the original signed forms returned to
you immediately.  The At-will form is void in any case since it violates
MUFON’s corporate By-Laws.

       As a member of MUFON, why should you sign something saying it’s ok
with you for MUFON to fire you “without cause”?  Without cause? Surely we
can all agree that if MUFON is going to fire you, after all your years of
dedicated work for the organization, it will have to be with cause. Why
should we grant MUFON permission to continue its arbitrary and capricious
practices, including political firings where experience shows you will never
be told the real reason you were fired? Why should we sign a form which
gives MUFON the green light to continue these practices?

       As for the background check form, it introduces a host of problems,
but the main one is it encourages the idea it is all right for MUFON to
investigate Members. It normalizes that idea along with the idea MUFON
doesn’t have to tell you what they think they found out about you, and the
idea you don’t even have a right to ask.  Based on the forms MUFON is
requiring us to sign, you’d think it was perfectly normal and natural for
Americans to go around waiving their rights.

       Is that what we believe? Do we expect to waive our rights in order
to function in an all-volunteer non-profit 501(C)3 tax-exempt charitable
organization “dedicated to the betterment of mankind”?  No, that is not what
we believe! And that is why the Committee to Reform MUFON advises you in the
strongest possible terms to Stop Signing these forms!

       The MUFON background check form is a license for abuse. And if you
think that is far-fetched, there are already two separate allegations that
someone within MUFON posted on the internet defamatory statements about
Members of MUFON.  In both cases, the postings seem to have been done to
discredit individuals who were complaining about MUFON.

       The point is that once certain ideas are established in MUFON-ideas
of investigating Members, secrecy of investigated information, and impunity
from “negligence”-if these become normal practice in MUFON that encourages
abuse.  Increasingly MUFON may try to personally discredit critics of the
organization instead of dealing straightforwardly with the substance of the
criticisms.

The climate of fear in MUFON

       The background check form and the At-will form are not isolated,
aberrant manifestations in MUFON. These forms are simply concrete examples
of a strangely authoritarian climate that has grown up in MUFON over the
last several years. This climate set in before the Bigelow contract was
signed in Feb. 2009, it accelerated while the contract was in force, and it
has persisted in the period since Bigelow allegedly left MUFON in November
2009.

       In this new regime in MUFON we got bureaucracy, elaborate chains of
command, directors of this and directors of that, forms to sign, books of
rules, and a great emphasis on rank in MUFON. We got a pretentious
hierarchy, monumental rudeness and order-barking. We got political firings
and we got secrecy. Today we have a Star Team that is gagged for life and
threatened with “immediate disciplinary action” for any breach of the
required absolute confidentiality.  Increasingly, we are getting people
bumped off CMS-your CMS access code stops working, and if you try to find
out why, no one can tell you. We got former police officers and former FBI
agents “investigating” members for the slightest infraction and it seems
there is no infraction too small to escape the searching gaze of the MUFON
hierarchy. Unsurprisingly, there is a climate of fear in MUFON where many
are afraid they will be fired if they question anything. It seems as though
someone wants us all lined up in neat little rows, rights waived, and ready
to take orders from the unelected MUFON Board of Directors.

       The Committee to Reform MUFON is aware journal subscribers are
generally not exposed to these practices. Nonetheless, the practices we
describe are flourishing within MUFON and we find them highly disturbing.
That is why the Committee to Reform MUFON believes MUFON is urgently in need
of reform. To that end we wrote the Petition shown below and we are asking
all Members of MUFON to sign it.

If you agree, Sign the Petition

       Read the Petition and consider it carefully. If you agree with the
reforms the Petition calls for-including democratic election of the MUFON
Board of Directors-we urge you to sign the Petition.  CRM will not release
the names of the signers of the Petition to the public.  To obtain a
signable copy of the Petition, contact CRM at [email protected].

The Committee to Reform MUFON (CRM):
Steve Bass                           Marilyn Carlson     Dean DeHarpporte
 Elaine Douglass                 Bill McNeff               Marlee Spendlove
Ron Spicer

Petition from the Members of MUFON
To the Board of Directors of MUFON and
The International Director

1.      WHEREAS the Mission of MUFON is of the utmost importance to all
humankind, whereas MUFON is the largest and best known international
ufological investigative organization, whereas the duties of the Members of
MUFON require a significant commitment, the current undemocratic governance
structure of MUFON is unsatisfactory as a vehicle for the expression of the
aspirations of the Members. THEREFORE, we the undersigned Members of MUFON
call upon the 9 Members of the Board of Directors of MUFON to terminate the
current legal corporate structure of MUFON (in which the Board is
self-appointing) and replace the corporate structure with a new legal
incorporation in which the Members of the Board of Directors will be chosen
by vote of the Members of MUFON having the rank of Field Investigator and
above.

       2.      WHEREAS the arbitrary dismissal of MUFON officers by the
International Director is harmful to MUFON in many ways, THEREFORE we the
undersigned Members of MUFON call upon the International Director to
institute, publish and follow  due process procedures in connection with the
dismissal of any officer of MUFON having the rank of Field Investigator and
above.

       3.      WHEREAS Life Membership in exchange for a financial
contribution (Benefactor status) represents a contract between MUFON and the
Member, THEREFORE the contract shall not be broken except in extremis.

       4.      WHEREAS MUFON cannot fulfill its mission without adequate
funding, THEREFORE we the undersigned Members of MUFON call upon the Board
of Directors of MUFON to pursue a program of professional-level fund raising
to obtain sources of funding among foundations, wealthy individuals and the
like, with the stipulation that all sources of funding to MUFON embrace
MUFON’s mission of publication and transparency of all data collected by the
Members of MUFON.

Those eligible to sign this Petition include all current dues-paid Members
of Mufon.
 

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