Why was Colorado State Director Leslie Varnicle fired?

To the Members of Colorado MUFON— 

            The mystery of why Colorado State Director Leslie Varnicle was fired has been solved. For starters, it had to do with James Carrion and whether he was to blame for MUFON losing its contract with Robert Bigelow. James resigned in January 2010, and after that the view circulated in MUFON was that James’ “mismanagement of the funds” had been the cause for Bigelow terminating the contract after $334,000 of the promised $672,000 had been paid. 

            It was in November 2009 that Bigelow descended on MUFON demanding an accounting of the money. This threw the MUFON Board of Directors into a panic and they gave up the books of MUFON, and the books of the Bigelow project, to Bigelow to audit. It didn’t mollify him. He terminated the arrangement which had been in effect the previous ten months—the arrangement in which Bigelow paid wages and expenses to MUFON’s Star Team investigators and administrators, and in which Bigelow had unrestricted real time access to MUFON CMS (computer Case Management System). 

            The MUFON Board didn’t tell James, the International Director, what it was doing to try to appease Bigelow, and when James found out, he resigned. After that, people got the idea James was incompetent or even that he might have stolen money from the project. 

Leslie Varnicle asked too many questions

            In an interview, Leslie Varnicle says at first she went along with the idea it had all been James’s fault, but then, “I started looking and checking and researching,” she says, “and talking with James. I have learned over the years to follow my senses, and initially my senses were telling me No, it hadn’t been James’s fault, but I went along with what I was being fed [by the Board]; I was drinking the Kool-Aide.”

She says she started asking Cliff and other Board members questions, such as: “If James did all these things wrong, why didn’t the Board know it? Didn’t you watch him?” she wanted to know. And “Didn’t you have an accountant looking at the books?”    

“The idea James had stolen money was implied, but when it come down to the facts hitting the floor, I found that No, he hadn’t. As a matter of fact, the $30,000 salary James was supposed to get he contributed back to MUFON.  Eventually,” Leslie says, “I came to the realization James had been thrown under the bus.”

She didn’t believe much of what the Board of Directors said

            Leslie Varnicle had become disillusioned with MUFON. And the scape-goating of James Carrion wasn’t the only reason. Leslie didn’t like that “the states are not part of MUFON” and have no say in how MUFON is run. She pushed to get Colorado MUFON incorporated into International but the Board of Directors wanted no part of that. Leslie says the Board was eager to get money from the states but hesitated because that might entitle the states to a greater say in MUFON’s affairs. 

            She tried to get MUFON to purchase an insurance policy to cover investigators, but the Board would have none of that. Leslie, who is in the insurance business, says the policy would have been “inexpensive” to purchase.           

Leslie tried to become a member of the Board of Directors but the Board wanted no part of her. They claimed she didn’t make enough money to pay for all the travel involved. Her response was to develop Webinar for MUFON use and she advocated electronic internet teleconferencing to permit the Board to meet without travel, and that idea went nowhere. 

            Leslie definitely did not like the marginalizing of the states after the Star Team came in and the states got only the “lights in the sky” cases, and she didn’t like the secrecy surrounding the Star Team investigations. She didn’t like the “background checks” of MUFON investigators that began to be required and she didn’t like the Star Team administrators barking out orders and their rudeness. She felt she was a competent investigator, after 41 years in MUFON, and she believed her regular team in Colorado was qualified to carry out any investigation in MUFON. 

She didn’t like the secrecy and the background checks

            As for the background checks, she felt MUFON did not have procedures in place to safeguard the information demanded—“date of birth, social security number, maiden name, military records,” she says—from identity theft. Nor did she care for the “non-disclosure” forms in Star Team. “That really got my goat,” she says. “What do you mean I can never talk about anything?” she says referring to the terms of the non-disclosure. “You can never talk, never write about anything you see or do. What? I thought we were here to keep this stuff open to the public and be a thorn in the side of those who want to keep UFOs secret. But apparently MUFON wants to keep secrets too!” she says.

 Leslie was suspicious of the confidentiality procedures surrounding the Star Team and she claims the information in CMS is manipulated. Leslie is adamant that cases sent to Colorado showed up in her email but were not in CMS when she went to look for them. She says global searches for the case number did not produce the case. On inquiry to CMS administrators she was told the cases had been “deleted for bad language,” and she did not believe that. 

Leslie also says Colorado ASD Cheryl Gantz reported that Clifford Clift had told her (Cheryl) not to have any speakers on abductions—“That’s not what we do; that’s not what MUFON is about,” Cliff is reported to have said—and Leslie didn’t like that.  In a hostile interview, Gantz at first told the Committee: “Cliff never said that” and later Gantz said, “I’m not going to get into that.”    

The Feb. 12 Colorado state meeting

            Leslie says she is not surprised Clifford Clift did not tell the truth when he spoke to the Colorado members on Feb. 12th.  Leslie was fired, Cliff told the members, because she “said on a radio program that she recorded a state directors’ meeting and gave the recording to James and he is going to use it in a defamation suit against MUFON.” [An accurate quote, confirmed with Cliff.]  

            Actually, Leslie said no such thing on any radio program. James, however, did. On the Pippin program Feb. 7, James stated he had received the tape and that Cliff thought he got it from Leslie. Of course, James saying that on the radio Feb. 7 could not have been the reason Leslie was fired Jan. 25th

            Two emails to Clifford Cliff from the Committee to Reform MUFON asking him for the name of the radio program on which Leslie made the remark he attributed to her went unanswered. 

She didn’t see any “ethics” in MUFON

            So the Committee to Reform MUFON went to Leslie and asked: Did you give a tape of the 2010 symposium state directors’ meeting to James Carrion?  “Yes,” she said. When James asked you for the tape, why didn’t you go to Clifford Clift and ask him what to do? “I didn’t do that because I don’t see any ethics in MUFON.”  What do you mean by that? “In my job I have to abide by codes of ethics for the licenses I have, everything from federal to state licenses. Every two years I am required to take ethics classes. And one of the things I don’t see in MUFON is ethics. I see no ethics whatsoever.”

Is there was something unethical about the way James was treated?  “Yes there is. I gathered enough information to realize James was not the bad guy I was led to believe he was. There was no ethical behavior from the Board of MUFON and there still is none.”

            In other words, in the period before she was fired Leslie became disillusioned by what she observed in MUFON, and she expressed it by giving James a tape to defend himself against libel. 

            She didn’t like the contract with Bigelow and what it brought to MUFON. She didn’t like the marginalization of the states and she didn’t like the secrecy regime. She felt she and her investigators were exposed to liability and that MUFON didn’t care, and she worried that information provided in “background checks” would not be safeguarded from identity theft. She didn’t like the “self-perpetuating” Board of Directors and how “the states weren’t part of MUFON.”  She didn’t understand why Clifford Clift said abductions should not be discussed in MUFON, and she couldn’t see why secrecy was enforced on the Star Team when she thought the Mission of MUFON was to provide all information to the public, and she saw evidence CMS was manipulated. 

She tried to keep faith and hold on to her job

            She tried to change MUFON from within, but nothing she tried worked. She tried to get on the Board of Directors, she tried to get the Board to adopt electronic communications, and she tried to merge the Colorado chapter into MUFON. She suggested to the Board they needed better accounting procedures and she tried to get the Board to insure the field investigators. In other ways she tried to accommodate to and put up with the practices within the organization. For example, she tried to believe James Carrion was incompetent and had caused the loss of the contract with Bigelow. She tried to keep faith and hold on to her job in the organization she had worked in for 41 years. 

            As for the MUFON Board of Directors, we suppose that over time the Board became aware of Leslie Varnicle’s misgivings. They knew she did not buy into the new, James Carrion-Robert Bigelow era ways of doing things in MUFON. And she is capable, experienced, and observant.  Accordingly, they fired her and in the process even stripped away Leslie Varnicle’s field investigator status after 41 years in MUFON. 

Telling the truth would open the door to too many questions

            Seeing this, it becomes clear why the MUFON Board cannot tell the truth as to why Leslie was fired. It becomes clear why the International Director cannot tell the truth about the firing even when speaking before the members of Colorado MUFON. It becomes clear why he cannot speak for MUFON, but instead resorts to taking words from the mouth of James Carrion, putting them in the mouth of Leslie Varnicle, and using those words, not MUFON’s words, to “explain” the firing of Leslie Varnicle. 

If the story was told truthfully, it would open a window on a host of embarrassing, controversial and possibly libelous issues. It would lead to a discussion of the nature of Leslie Varnicle’s critique of MUFON and whether indeed there are any “ethics” in MUFON— and that is not a discussion Clifford Clift and the MUFON Board intend to have with the members of Colorado MUFON. So in the end, Leslie herself was scapegoated. 

            And that, in the view of the Committee to Reform MUFON, is a good part of the story as to why Leslie Varnicle was fired in January as the State Director of Colorado.      

Submitted by The Committee to Reform MUFON:

Marilyn Carlson                                               Elaine Douglass

Steve Bass                                                     Marlee Spendlove

Bill McNeff                                                       Dean DeHarpporte

 

 

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