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 [click below] 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 record in 34 years in Simpson’s seminary called A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary.
Your supervisor, Provost Clark, features your unprecedented success in a full-page article in Simpson’s Gateway magazine that is published in early June 2012.
Three weeks later on June 22, 2012 you blow the whistle internally to Simpson leaders because two different board members have tipped you in to the truth about the “lie” that top people at SU are covering up. Your boss has known about it since January 2012; he was so scandalized that he told you to look into it and find out for yourself, so you did.
For five months you have tried to persuade the current board chair to make things right by informing the community of the truth. In fact, on March 27, 2012 you wrote a whistle-blowing email to five or six people, including Provost Clark, the current board chair, and Dr. Dummer. But your email was met with silence. Not one person wrote you back or even acknowledged the existence of your communique.
So in June 2012 when you blew the whistle again, you decided to make it harder to ignore.
Well, guess what? This time you aren’t ignored.
Instead, you are framed. You are outrageously scapegoated. Alone you stand accused of twelve different counts of “insubordination.”
You notice right away that your accuser, Dr. Dummer, apparently does not realize that after nine of those alleged violations, Simpson University rewarded you a renewed “continuous contract” (Cf. Faculty Handbook p. 11 B.4.5.) and also a salary raise.
In the accusatory letter of July 18, 2012 that threatens you to “sign on” in agreement to nonnegotiable terms that contradict the terms of your negotiated contracts or else be fired, Dr. Dummer indicts you for your March 27, 2012 email that under oath he admits he never read.
You are falsely accused of having been “insubordinate” in Spring 2012 on Feb 5, Feb 21, March 4, March 15, March 17, March 18, March 22, March 23, and March 27. Yet nobody accuses you of “insubordination” until Dr. Dummer does suddenly on July 18, 2012.
Vividly you remember that evidence shows that none other than Robin Dummer signed your continuous contract on behalf of Provost Clark who is your boss.
You yourself signed the contract on March 30, 2012.
As Providence would have it, you yourself took the initiative to attach an addendum to your contract. In it, Dr. Dummer confirms on April 2, 2012 that “contracts belong to Dr. Clark as authorized by the Board of Trustees.”
Your supervisor, Dr. Clark, returns to work after in April 2012 as planned. He tells you on May 23, 2012 “not to believe it” if anyone tries to tell you that he is no longer your boss. Dr. Clark expresses worry about Simpson not paying his health bill. He tells you that President McKinney and the H.R. Director came to his house to talk to him about his health insurance.
You know that your boss is facing his own squeeze. He is a tormented man.
You also see that University officials do not defer to evidence or truth. That is precisely why you blew the whistle.
So now you face a choice. It’s July 2012: your boss is not in the picture although he is still employed and still carrying the title of “Provost of Simpson University.” You are on your own, relying on God.
Here’s your situation:
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 email Dr. Dummer to acknowledge receipt of the letter as he asked you to, you have “arguably” just “conversed” with him and thereby violated 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 ask God to expose Simpson’s decision to deprive you of due process. Due process, at the minimum, requires Simpson University to give you a meaningful opportunity to respond to these unfounded allegations, but you are not afforded any such opportunity at all.
You are, in effect, institutionally gagged.
Only by way of this letter does Dr. Dummer accuse you. Facelessly he operates online.
On July 27, 2012, you are fired via email by faceless Dr. Dummer who says he is “Acting Provost.” It’s true that Provost Clark is out-of-the-office on sick leave, trying to recover at home from major surgery due to cancer. Provost Clark says he got cancer from all the stress of all these lies. But it is not true that Dr. Dummer has the authority of Provost Clark. Provost Clark does not retire until December 2012. Under oath two Simpson officials verify that undeniable fact.
To say the least, it seems surreal that this firing is your second termination. Two summers in a row you were falsely accused and fired in conspicuous disregard of your contractually spelled out provision of “due process” found on p. 25 of the Faculty Handbook.
Your Reinstatement Contract was violated too, especially with regard to #4.
In submission to advice, you wait. You also look for a lawyer to represent your case. Finding the right lawyer is not easy. This is employment case, yet you do not have an employment lawyer. The one lawyer in town you had hoped to hire who is a Christian is said to be unavailable because that lawyer has instead become a judge.
Contractually there is no hurry, so approximately six weeks later you decide to act. You do all four rounds of Matthew 18:15-17 with eight Simpson officials, none of whom will engage you. For the first time in your life, you feel the weighty pain that comes with Jesus’ instruction to treat the other party as unbelievers.
It’s September 2012. You ask Dr. Dummer for a Matthew 18:15-17 conversation who defers you to H.R. as if Christianity were corporate. The H.R. Director has already said that 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 (28) 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.
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 that I Corinthians 6 does not address the subject of suing an IRS-designated “religious corporation” or individuals who are playing a corporate role.
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 Larry McKinney does not check to see if you have yet hired a lawyer to represent you 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 violates some of its own employment contracts?
On Oct 2, 2012 you file a lawsuit. Repeatedly you have been told that Simpson University has violated other contracts and also been sued before, but the Minutes of a Faculty Meeting in late 2012 say that President McKinney reported in his official role that this lawsuit is the “first.”
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 so-called document underlying the false accusations is neither addressed to you nor emailed to you. Moreover, it is not dated and not signed. Nor is it presented on Simpson letterhead. You personally believe it was marked on sometime around July 2012 when Dr. Dummer said he met with Provost Clark. By the way, quite relevant to the story is that Provost Clark had an enormous hospital bill that you assume was paid by Simpson’s health insurance.
Below is the “smoking gun” evidence that Simpson pretends to have (as Simpson spends eight years so far trying to keep the evidence away from the eyes of the judge):
In attempt to resolve the matter, you offer to settle for less than half of what you believe Simpson owes you with regard to the full value of your contracts. Simpson declines.
Around Christmas time you offer to settle for less than 10% of what you believe is owed you given the longevity of your “continuous” contract. You keep the offer on the table for seven weeks. Simpson gives your lawyer the silent treatment.
It’s January 2013. You ask the court to compel Simpson University to use its own religious grievances policy. The court does not find a way to do so legally.
Simpson University, as a religious corporation, disregards its own religious policy.
In Feb 2013 Simpson appeals to Religious Defenses, citing First Amendment religious freedom as a way to shield Defendants from accountability. When the faculty finds out about this tactic, 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.
Soon after the “No Confidence” vote, President McKinney suddenly “retires.” Board Chair Betty Dean is careful to tell the community at Simpson that the former president was not asked by the board to retire. Larry McKinney moves away. He disappears. The SU board replaces him by naming Dr. Dummer as Interim President.
On May 2, 2013, under oath, Interim President Dummer admits that he never even asked if you ever received the “list of protocols.” He admits a number of things that confirm that Simpson breached both of your contracts.
Pertinent is the point that Dr. Dummer repeatedly states that “the insubordination” provided “the grounds” for the “stipulations,” but that the termination happened because you did not agree to sign on to “obey” his stipulations. (See Dummer Deposition.)
Not signing on to “proposed stipulations” is not a contractual cause for termination.
Despite the obvious breaches, Simpson wins in June 2014 in Shasta Superior Court on account of its appeal to Religious Defenses.
In September 2014, you appeal the district court’s ruling because you want Shasta County to weigh the evidence that the judge has never seen because Simpson is winning so far by covering up the evidence. Religious Defenses are being used to hide the shameful story of what happened.
Around August 2015, the Simpson Board names Dr. Dummer as the new president.
In June 2016, the SU faculty votes “No Confidence” in President Dummer. The faculty also votes “No Confidence” in the Executive Committee of the Simpson Board led by Board Chair Betty Dean.
In 2017, Simpson’s accrediting agency, WASC, puts Simpson University on probation status.
All this time you have been waiting to appeal your case in Sacramento.
On September 18, 2018, you argue your case yourself before three justices in the lofty, wooden room of the Third District Court of Appeal in state court in California. You are not a lawyer, but by God’s grace, you come up with a formidable argument and prepare, prepare, prepare your presentation.
Arguing in court against Simpson’s lawyer who used to be in-house counsel for Stanford University is an experience you never dreamed you’d have. But it is now part of your testimony.
On September 25, 2018, the Court of Appeal in Sacramento announces that you prevailed regarding your contract. The Published Appellate Opinion narrows the contract case down to the question of whether or not you received that “list of protocols.”
Simpson University (SU) hires another new president. In January 2019, you reach out to him to see if he might be open to settle and work things out outside of court. He defers instead to Simpson’s lawyer. The fact is now on the table that Simpson’s insurance company is “the controlling entity.” A secular insurance company is making the decisions for the religious entity.
You ponder and think way back to August 2011 when Simpson’s former Board Chair, Mr. Dyk, admitted that the Simpson board failed to follow the special grievance process that it chose to use after your first firing. You feel like you’re in a Kafka novel because the SU Board of 2011 further breached by depriving you of due process even more. You feel especially disillusioned by Chairman Dyk’s 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 your July 2011 grievance filed against President McKinney. Whereas the Ad Hoc grievance committee vote was 5-0 to reinstate you, the vote was falsely announced to the Simpson University 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 just the biggest.
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 at a coffee shop by Simpson’s Board Chair Betty Dean who replaced Chairman Dyk.
How can Simpson flourish when a lie like that is allowed to kill the soul of the University?
In order to stand, a lie that big must 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 big lie is told, the only way to get rid of it is to confess it and tell the truth. If the lie is not displaced by truth, that lie will require countless more lies or perhaps Religious Defenses to cover it up.
Now you recall January 2012. This was when Provost Clark adamantly urges you to “ask Betty Dean” about the Ad Hoc grievance vote. You do, and you are shocked by her reply. The two pastors flanking you are equally dumbfounded.
From February 2012 into June 2012, you ask for the truth to be announced. During these five months, you wait for the SU Board to clean up the mess they made.
But the mess is not cleaned up.
On June 22, 2012, the anniversary of your first firing, you decide to share the truth to SU leaders internally. You do this via email because it’s the only venue that you have. You pray with all your heart that all will repent. You long for revival at Simpson University. You yearn for renewal in Christian higher education.
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 Board Chair Betty Dean to bypass President McKinney and directly prod Dr. Dummer to do what he did that led to the lawsuit itself.
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.” See below:
Imagine this being you. Let’s back up again. It’s November 2011. You’re still reeling from having been fired in the summer of 2011 by Simpson’s president who blatantly breached 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 describe what you have suffered, he interrupts you and says that he knows you’ve been “through hell.”
With a surge of resolve to “do better,” Provost Clark apologizes to you in person for having failed to stand up for truth in 2011.
Fast-forward once again to July 2012. Now Dr. Dummer is falsely 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. Dr. Dummer is on his way to becoming the next SU president; he does not have time to deal with truth.
So in October 2012, you sue.
Fast-forward seven years to July 2019. Simpson’s lawyer deposes you with disrespectful questions one after the other. In total, you have been deposed for 28.5 hours (not counting breaks).
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 ever going to trial. Simpson’s defense is to craft a revision of the story that is so crafty that you can hardly stop praying for them.
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 God. You also remember that the Appellate Court rightly recognized that the “list of protocols” lies at the base of this dispute. The temporary problem is that the Appellate Court’s knowledge is not yet shared by the trial court in Shasta County — because the trial has been delayed for so long.
Now it’s 2020.
Guess what Simpson does once again? They bifurcate the trial and try yet again to throw it out of court — despite the Appellate Court ruling — by appealing yet again to Religious Defenses.
It occurs to you that Simpson is trying to tucker you out, deplete you of all your money, basically do anything other than tell the truth. You realize that your Lord is disciplining your character again and again and again, teaching you to be humble, afflicting you with the gift of being more truthful yourself, so that you do not too highly of yourself.
Layer after layer of repentance in your heart has been happening for all these years.
You hire a lawyer again in late 2019.
Now Covid-19 sets in.
The trial is delayed three times.
On August 3, 2020, the court plans to set a new trial date.
God is your Only Hope. So you bet on God.