Imagine yourself receiving this letter dated July 18, 2012. It is not from your boss. It arrives to you strictly via email.
The letter refers to a “list of protocols” that you have never seen. You are going to be fired if you do not sign this letter within nine days.
The letter breaches your double employment contract. You do not tell Dr. Dummer because his letter says he instructs you not to converse with him or correspond with Provost Clark. The letter says you are asked to sign “without any contrary indication.”
Here you are, the only woman theologian perhaps in U.S. history to be hired to serve as dean of a conservative seminary. You are the first female to graduate with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1996). This is not your first time to be framed. You were fired on-the-spot on June 22, 2011 by SU President Larry McKinney right after you led a team that broke three all-time-high records in 34 years in Simpson’s seminary called A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary.
Now you are set up to be fired once again because on June 22, 2012 you prayerfully blew the whistle internally at SU on account of the foul play you encountered firsthand in the Simpson University Board.
Alone you stand accused of twelve different counts of “insubordination,” although nine of those alleged violations are said by Dr. Dummer to have occurred already by March 27, 2012, after which Simpson rewarded you a renewed “continuous contract” (Cf. Faculty Handbook p. 11 B.4.5.) and a salary raise on March 30, 2012. After your reinstatement, nobody accused you of “insubordination” until Dr. Dummer did on July 18, 2012.
If you sign the July 18, 2012 Catch-22 letter from Dr. Dummer, you lose your contractual rights. If you don’t, you lose your job for not signing.
If you merely email Dr. Dummer to acknowledge receipt of the letter, you have “arguably” just “conversed” with him and thereby violated his Stipulation 7 and also his instruction not to respond to him before signing. If you do not email Dr. Dummer back to acknowledge receipt of the letter, you have violated his instructions as well.
With the help of “legal counsel,” Dr. Dummer has you trapped in a Catch-22.
You decide not to sign. You decide you would rather be deprived of due process without signing than be deprived of due process by signing. No matter what, you are deprived of due process. Due process requires Simpson University to give you an opportunity to respond to allegations, but you are not afforded any such opportunity. You remember you are a woman. You are silenced.
On July 27, 2012, you are fired via email by Dr. Dummer who says he is “Acting Provost,” though his email signature block says “Associate Provost” in his other communiques that do not pertain to this adverse action. Even so, Provost Clark is still officially the provost. Provost Clark is out-of-the-office, trying to recover at home from major surgery due to cancer. Provost Clark does not retire until December 2012.
As Providence would have it, Dr. Dummer months ago confirmed on April 2, 2012 in the attached letter below that “contracts belong to Dr. Clark as authorized by the Board of Trustees.” As Providence would also have it, Provost Clark came back to work sometime later in April.
It may seem surreal given your sterling past, but this firing is your second termination. Two summers in a row you were falsely accused and fired without due process from Simpson University in blatant violation of your “continuous” employment contract as spelled out in the Faculty Handbook p. 11 B.4 and p. 25.
Your Reinstatement Contract was violated too, especially with regard to #4.
You ask Dr. Dummer for a Matthew 18:15-17 conversation, but he defers you to H.R. The H.R. Director tells you Matthew 18:15-17 cannot be used in the workplace. You remember that Provost Clark in a meeting months ago likewise told about twenty-eight Simpson faculty and staff that Matthew 18:15-17 does “not” apply “to the workplace” at Simpson University because Simpson “is not a church.” You find this disconcerting because the Simpson Faculty Handbook says on page 27 to use Matthew 18:15-17 as a first step in the Faculty Grievances Policy.
After you are fired, you do all four rounds of Matthew 18:15-17 with eight Simpson officials, none of whom will engage you, and you feel the weighty pain of Jesus’ wise teaching to treat the other party as unbelievers.
You study I Corinthians 6 regarding lawsuits, a passage about brothers and sisters in Christ not suing one another over “trivial” claims. You and your spouse both realize I Corinthians 6 does not address the subject of suing a corporation. Eventually you find out from Simpson’s lawyer that Simpson’s insurance company is the controlling entity, not the religious University.
You write each of the twenty or so members of the SU board, asking them for governance integrity. Only two write back: 1) SU President McKinney asks you to tell “your lawyer” to talk to Simpson’s lawyer, even though Dr. McKinney does not check to see if you have hired a lawyer or not; 2) The Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination president (who serves on the SU board ex-officio) informs you that “Simpson University” is “subject to its Board of Trustees, not to the C&MA.”
SU faculty and staff members are urging you to sue. More than once you hear the cry, “Your lawsuit is the only hope for Simpson.” How else can the school be delivered from a board that allows the president to violate faculty contracts in total disregard for SU Values?
On Oct 2, 2012 you file a lawsuit.
It is now mid-November 2012. You sit in your lawyer’s office, and he shows you what Simpson produces as “evidence” of the “list of protocols” that Dr. Dummer says you were given by Provost Clark. You shake your head in disbelief. The document underlying the false accusations is not dated, not signed, not addressed to you, not emailed to you; nor does it mention you or Provost Clark; nor is it presented on Simpson letterhead. You personally believe it was marked on in July 2012 when Dr. Dummer said he met with Provost Clark. By the way, Provost Clark had an enormous hospital bill and health insurance through Simpson University.
Your new lawyer asks the court to compel Simpson University to apply its own religious grievances policy. Simpson argues that the policy leaves “a huge escape hatch” and that it does not apply to violations of state law.
As a religious corporation, Simpson University disregards its own religious policy.
In early 2013, in order to evade accountability in the lawsuit, Simpson University appeals to Religious Defenses, citing First Amendment religious freedom. When the faculty finds out, they exercise faculty governance and officially vote “No Confidence” in President McKinney saying this:
We, the faculty, wish to express to the Board Of Trustees that we have no confidence in President Larry McKinney to fulfill the University’s contractual agreements with us, including our Handbook, a document we consider morally binding on all parties who approved it. We also express herewith our resolute belief that, aside from any and all legal arguments adduced to justify it, a breach of contract amounts to a breach of covenantal trust between the University and its faculty, posing in turn an extreme danger to the moral character and confidence of the entire university community.
After the faculty votes “No Confidence” in him, President McKinney suddenly retires, and Board Chair Betty Dean is careful to tell the community that he was not asked by the board to retire. Dr. McKinney leaves Redding, CA right away. He disappears. The SU board replaces him by naming Dr. Dummer as Interim President (2013-2015), then appointing President Dummer after that.
On May 2, 2013, under oath, Dr. Dummer admits he never bothered to confirm if you ever received the “list of protocols.” At least twice in his deposition, Dr. Dummer explains that he fired you for “not signing” in agreement to obey the stipulations that he said “legal counsel” helped him write.
It is pertinent to point out that Dr. Dummer’s stated reason for firing you (he says the insubordination provided the grounds for the stipulations, but you were fired for not signing on in agreement to “obey” his stipulations) is not listed as a “cause” in the Faculty Handbook which is part of your express, continuous contract.
To the testing of your faith, the court in Shasta County does not judge the case with regard to all the breaches wrought in your two contracts by Simpson University because in June 2014, Simpson wins the lawsuit in Shasta Superior Court on account of Religious Defenses.
In September 2014, you appeal.
In 2016, the SU faculty votes “No Confidence” in Dr. Dummer approximately ten months into his presidency. The faculty also votes “No Confidence” in the Executive Committee of the Simpson University Board. But nothing seems to change. The status quo reigns.
In 2017, Simpson’s accrediting agency, WASC, puts Simpson University on probation status.
On September 18, 2018, it is finally time for you to stand before three justices in the lofty, wooden room of the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento. You argue your case yourself and prevail on your contract claim.
On September 25, 2018, the Court of Appeal in Sacramento overturns the district court’s ruling and sends the case back to trial at the district level in Redding since Simpson’s appeal to Religious Defenses was rejected at the appellate level with regard to your contract. The Published Appellate Opinion narrows the contract case down to the question of whether or not you received that “list of protocols.”
Never once does Simpson offer any settlement. On the contrary, over the span of 7+ years, Simpson University (SU) has rejected or disregarded all your offers to stay the lawsuit or settle or attempt to reach resolution by sitting down to visit together in person.
When Simpson hires a new president in 2018, he declines the opportunity to attempt to work things out in a Christian way by talking face to face in a conversation that cannot be used in the lawsuit.
You think back to August 2011 when Simpson’s Board Chair, Mr. Dyk, admitted that the SU board failed to follow the special grievance process that the SU board chose to “use” after your first firing. You feel like you’re in a Kafka novel because the SU Board of 2011 added more breaches and further deprived you of due process. You feel especially disillusioned by Chairman Dyk’s unabashed remark: “Sometimes you have to put money above God.”
Mr. Dyk was the Chairman who uttered what Provost Clark called “the biggest lie in this story.” That was the lie of the Simpson University Board’s Ad Hoc Grievance vote when five persons from the SU board processed the July 2011 grievance filed against President McKinney after he fired the first woman dean of Simpson’s seminary in blatant violation of SU policy and SU contracts and SU Values. Whereas the Ad Hoc grievance committee vote was 5-0 to “reinstate,” the vote was announced to the SU community personally by Chairman Dyk and repeatedly by President McKinney as 5-0 to “uphold the termination.”
Yes, that’s right. The SU Board Chair and the SU President announced the exact opposite of the truth of the Ad Hoc grievance vote of July 2011. See why Provost Clark called that “the biggest lie in this story”? It certainly wasn’t the only lie. It was the biggest.
But it was also a secret lie. The Simpson University faculty had no idea of it when they produced the Faculty Report on October 14, 2011.
The truth of the “biggest lie” was leaked to you at a coffee shop by Simpson’s new Board Chair Betty Dean who replaced Chairman Dyk. But the truth about Dyk’s lie was never formerly announced to the full SU community who heard the opposite of the truth told to them by him in his official capacity. On the contrary, the SU community heard Dyk’s lie echoed repeatedly by President McKinney in Fall 2011.
How can Simpson flourish when a lie like that is allowed to kill the soul of the University?
A lie that big has to be propped up. And the thing that props up lies is other lies. Lies are weaklings; they can’t stand up on their own. Once a great big lie is told, the only way to get rid of it is to confess it and tell the truth and be cleansed by God’s grace that was paid for with Jesus’ blood. If the lie is not displaced by truth, that lie will require more lies to be told so that lies and lies and lies can cover it up.
So in January 2012 Provost Clark tells you to “ask Betty Dean” about the Ad Hoc grievance vote. You do, and you are shocked by her reply.
From February 2012 into June 2012, you ask for the truth to be told at SU by SU officials. During these five months, you wait for the SU Board to clean up the mess of all the many lies.
But the mess is not cleaned up.
In attempt to inspire a clean up plan, you decide to share the truth yourself to a number of SU leaders internally. You do this via email because it’s the only venue that you have. You send your email on June 22, 2012. In other words, you decide to blow the whistle. You pray that all will repent and that the mess will give way to revival at SU.
But what happens instead is that “the biggest lie in this story” is a lie so allergic to the light of gospel truth that apparently it prompted an SU official to prod Dr. Dummer, who was not in charge, to take charge, even though he, Dr. Dummer, was not properly informed of the matter he agreed to take charge of.
Under oath Dr. Dummer said he knew nothing about the terms of Dr. Sumner’s reinstatement, and nothing about the Faculty Report, and nothing about the list of provisions from Provost Clark called “ACTION ITEMS.”
Imagine this being you. Let’s back up again. It’s November 2011. You’re still reeling from having been fired in violation of your contract. Upon your reinstatement, presumably as consolation, you receive a list of provisions from your “exclusive supervisor,” Provost Clark. Provost Clark cannot bear to hear your testimony. When you try to tell him, he interrupts you and says he knows you’ve been “through hell.” Provost Clark apologizes to you for failing to stand up for truth. Provost Clark confesses that he is not a man of confrontation. That was late 2011.
Now it’s July 2012. Now Dr. Dummer is accusing you of violating a “list of protocols.” You were given provisions, not protocols. But Dr. Dummer isn’t open to hearing you tell him that. He offers you no venue to show him the truth so he himself can see it.
So in October 2012, you sue.
Now it is 2019. The lawsuit continues and you work assiduously as a pro per litigant (doing your own lawyering yourself). You reach for the stars and try to move the court in Shasta County to decide the case beforehand (through summary judgment) and end the case without going to trial. But Simpson’s legal strategy of defense is to craft a new version of described events and barb it with accusations that distract the court’s attention away from Dr. Dummer’s “list of protocols.” On November 4, 2019, you lose your long-shot motion in court.
However, you do not lose the case. Nor are you alone now because four faculty members from Simpson University–all men of moral courage–stand with you in the lawsuit in support of the integrity of Simpson employment contracts. All four vie for justice unto God.
You ache, but you take heart, knowing that the Appellate Court saw that the “list of protocols” lies at the base of this dispute. The temporary problem is that the Appellate Court’s knowledge has not been effectively transferred yet to the trial court in Shasta County.
Providentially it seems that God Himself is making it known that God is your Only Hope.
You are pressed like an olive being crushed for its oil. So you humble yourself again because you keep finding pride in your heart. Through this near-decade-long process of being olive-smashed, you have finally learned to see yourself as a Luke 18 tax collector.
You forfeit your self-righteous defense. You realize all you have is God’s mercy.
God’s mercy is exceedingly great.
You stand on the precipice. The trial is currently set for January 14, 2020 in Shasta County in Redding, CA.
You know it is a risk to hope that God will use the Romans 13 trial court jury to bring accountability to Simpson.
You do not bet on the jury. You bet on God.
You ask everyone who reads this to bet on God. Psalm 34:4 and II Timothy 3:11 are just waiting to become our testimony:
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them ALL.
II Timothy 3:11
What persecutions I endured, and out of them ALL, the Lord delivered me!