Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Before we get started...

Before I kick off our series next week, I think it's important to lay down some groundwork.

Some of what I will share with you, starting Monday, I haven't really discussed with anyone. Other things, I've only discussed with another person or two.

Why is that? Well, it could have been fear, frankly. Or, it could have been respect for the institution.

Maybe I was just walking in love.

It's vital before I start sharing the things that happened to me in Galveston (and after I left, unfortunately), that you know what type of employee I was while I was there.

A good one. I don't say that to pat myself on the back, but you do need to know a few things as a backdrop to what I experienced there. I'm not some goof-off disgruntled employee that hates Galveston and UTMB and left in a bad mood for no reason.

First, let's establish the time. I started at UTMB in December, 1999.

After only a short time at UTMB as a low-level media relations person, I was invited to a meeting with Dr. Kathy Shingleton, Human Resources VP, and Jennifer Raeke, the executive assistant to the president of the university.

The meeting was to inform me that my job performance and professionalism on campus had been noticed by the university president, Dr. John Stobo. As a result, he wanted me to not only join his Professionalism Board, but to also write his professionalism columns for distribution to the campus' students, faculty and staff.

A great honor to be sure. If my memory serves me correctly, I was one of the only members of that board initially without an M.D. or a doctorate. And I was certainly the only member in my age group or level of responsibility in the institution.

Secondly, I once received a 20 percent raise to my salary when I told them things were too tight financially, and I needed it to stay in that position. Try that at work tomorrow. Most employers, especially those with budgets as tight as UTMB, don't hand out a 20 percent raise on request unless they feel like they've got someone worth hanging on to.

Months after that raise, I was promoted to the title of President's Writer. Instead of just the writing and media relations duties I had been responsible for, I now was the president's "go-to guy" (Jennifer Raeke's words, not mine) for all his correspondence, talking points, columns, etc.

Oh, and it also came with another 10 percent raise or so.

Sounds like someone was doing some things right on campus, friends.

During the interview for that position, Chris Comer, who was then Communications Director, made this remark to me:

"John, you sure have had your fair share of problems with difficult employees."

Well, that was an understatement.

Incidentally, just for the record, I received a very good reference for my next job when I left the institution in 2002.

What is my point with this blog post? I just feel that it is important to put the things I will share, starting next week, into the proper perspective. Was I a perfect employee? Of course not, that person doesn't exist. I was not in the same place spiritually that I am today, either.

All of that aside, I obviously was a darn good one.

On one hand, you have what many would call a star employee. On the other hand, you've got some of the nuttiest and nastiest office politics I've ever heard of in my life. I think you'll agree pretty quickly into our series.

And let me point something else out. I LOVED GALVESTON AND UTMB!

I used to think my kids would graduate from Ball High School some day. I bought Glenn Campbell's Greatest Hits on CD and would play "Galveston" in the office -- someone put velcro on the back of the CD and hung it up above my desk.

I wore UTMB t-shirts all the time (someone once asked if I owned anything else) and even put a UTMB window sticker on my car. And I hate window and bumper stickers, they're tacky. I was a very proud UTMB employee, to say the least.

I submit to you, that the problems I had at UTMB were not a result of a lack of commitment or love for the institution or Galveston or my work, or anything else.

My problems came because of that love and passion.

Your enthusiasm, ambitions and upward mobility with often make some of those around you uncomfortable, my friends. And in the case of some of these folks we'll discuss, they'll do or say "whatever it takes" to slow you down (or stop you completely) if they have to. You're not going to believe some of it.

But I promise to tell the truth.

This is a story about the abuse of authority. This is a story about lies that, for whatever reason, continually go unchallenged. This is about the trashing of one good and honest man (though admittedly flawed liked everyone else) to protect the reputation of an institution and a group of others.

If you happen to be a journalist reading this post, I challenge you to do something very important. I promise it will make you a better reporter. Stop asking "What?" so much, and start asking "Why?"

By the way, despite my personal struggles years ago with the sin I will discuss here (which was completely unrelated to my job performance and falls squarely into the category of none of UTMB's business), I am the righteousness of God is Christ Jesus today. And I am free today.

I'm not talking about weeks or even months free...I'm talking about years free from that garbage. It's so far under the blood Jesus has even forgot about it.

However, to be truthful in the telling of this story, I will have to discuss my mistakes and my journey to becoming like more like Christ. I would be dishonest not to do that here. What I will not do, however, is admit to something I didn't do just because someone benefits from that horse manure still being passed around as truth.

So, dear reader, I want you to watch for the following theme that will reoccur in my story from time to time as I tell it here.

This message was stated to me several times, in different ways, both during my time in that office and after I left. I've decided to ignore the message, and discuss this openly here.

They want me to keep my mouth shut. And if I don't, there will be consequences.

It exists even to this day, doesn't it? If you share the truth, John, it'll cost you something. Maybe everything.

That's alright. At least I'll be remembered as a person of integrity. At least I can look myself in the mirror.

I'm looking forward to seeing if a fantastic institution that claims "integrity" as one of its core values will let integrity win out in this situation. Make no mistake, at its core UTMB is an excellent institution that I believe in firmly. However, the human element seems to have failed us here, temporarily.

Talking about integrity sounds great sitting around that big table on the 6th floor. In theory, integrity sounds fantastic in board rooms, in speeches, and even when politicians use the term from time to time.

Integrity becomes more difficult when we have to walk it out and reputations are at stake. Things can get a bit more challenging then, huh?

We get started Monday. I appreciate your readership.

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