Donors call for investigation into trustee handling of seminary president’s firing

"[T]he donors said trustees should publicly apologize to Patterson and restore him to the financial position he held at the conclusion of the full board meeting on May 22." - BNG

Related: Executive Committee Should Rescind Paige Patterson's Firing

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Bert Perry's picture

Here's a link to the letter they sent.  For my part, I think Patterson could have survived the "built" comment, the mishandling of domestic abuse, and the mishandling of sexual assault cases if he'd given a real apology and stated what he'd learned from the kerfuffle.  However, if you read the letter the donors sent, it's quite apparent that Patterson is feeding them documentation from his files that belongs to SEBTS and SWBTS.  

I really don't think that his supporters understand the significance of the fact that those files do indeed belong to his former employers.  Absent some of them, both seminaries could get in a lot of trouble with Title IX compliance and any civil litigation regarding those issues.  Releasing them without the permission of the owners and others involved basically forced the board of trustees to fire him, in my view. 

One final note; here's Rachael Denhollander's comment about the letter.  I don't know exactly what the motivations of the letter writers were, but suffice it to say that among those who have actually been sexually abused, a very clear message has been sent.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

When all evidence is fairly considered, Paige Patterson properly handled abuse. 

In the 2003 case, how can Patterson report a rape, when he has no knowledge of a rape?  At least four people contradict what this woman now says happened in 2003; and they say she did not say anything about rape at the time.  She later, still in 2003, sent a couple of letters of affirmation to Patterson. 

From Baptist Press

"No reasonable reading of” correspondence from Patterson's personal archives suggested Lively "reported a rape to Dr. Patterson" in 2003 when he was Southeastern's president "and certainly not that he ignored" such a report, "as is alleged."

"Dr. Patterson first learned of the charges that he allegedly did not report a rape at SEBTS during the May 22 board meeting" of Southwestern's trustees. "Dr. Patterson's response was that he had no recollection of a rape being reported to him."

Sharpe told BP Patterson didn't "remember a lady reporting a rape" while he was at Southeastern, so he called Allan Moseley, Southeastern's dean of students in 2003. "Dr. Moseley said, 'I don't recall the lady telling me that.' And then the lady who became [Lively's] accountability partner" said, when she was queried May 22, "I don't ever remember this student telling me that."

http://bpnews.net/51010/patterson-attorney-claims-misrepresentation

In the 2015 case, whether you believe the woman was truly raped or not, Patterson properly reported it.  And, there are serious questions to her story.  My first question when I heard of this incident was, did she win her case in court?  I later found out, she has never pressed charges.

Paige Patterson, however, is innocent in both cases.  He has been incredibly, unfairly smeared by more extreme elements in the MeToo movement and social media.  We are in a feeding frenzy and more people need to consider the evidence and say stop. 

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

David, the simple fact of the matter is that at least two times as President of SEBTS and SWBTS, he was approached by women who said they had been sexually assaulted.  In such cases, all documentation of the interaction with the complainant is a Title IX record that (a) belongs to the school and (b) can not be released without proper legal authorization.

Even if I believed everything you said otherwise, Paige Patterson wrote his own death warrant by retaining and releasing documentation relevant to Title IX investigations.  The SWBTS Board of Trustees had an ugly choice; fire him, or risk legal action from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, not to mention the women who made the allegations.  

It is really that simple.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

No, Bert, you’re missing it. 

According to four witnesses, the woman never charged rape in 2003.  She has apparently changed her story since then. 

Paige Patterson dealt properly with abuse, despite false accusations. 

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

David, again, if the contents of the letter you cite are true, the documents upon which they are based are Title IX documents that should never have been stolen by Patterson in the first place, nor should they be released without proper legal authorization.  It is really that simple.   Unless SWBTS wanted to deal with the feds in court, they had no choice after what Patterson did.  

You can argue "but there isn't evidence of sexual assault in those documents" until the cows come home, but that means absolutely nothing given that we know they were mishandled by someone who definitely had the power to destroy incriminating documents and may have had the motivation to do so as well.

Plus, witnesses saying "I never heard her say that" don't mean much in any investigation, but it means especially little in an investigation of sexual assault, where it's well known that (due to shame and other factors involved) victims don't just tell everybody in the world about it.  That is, after all, why there was so much of an explosion with #MeToo.  Suddenly it was safe to describe what had happened.

I wasn't sure of whether to believe Megan Lively until I saw this nonsense out of so-called "supporters" of Mr. Patterson.  Now I do.  Scorched earth attack tactics are very often a dead giveaway that the accused is guilty, and that's precisely what Patterson is doing.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

I wasn't sure of whether to believe Megan Lively until I saw this nonsense out of so-called "supporters" of Mr. Patterson.  Now I do.  Scorched earth attack tactics are very often a dead giveaway that the accused is guilty, and that's precisely what Patterson is doing.  

Feel free to believe what you want.  That doesn't count for much in court or anywhere else evidence is required.  A strong denial, even if accompanied by improper actions (which can happen to accused innocent people as well) does not mean guilty, even if it convinces you.  And just trusting that a Title IX investigation will be fair is foolhardy, given what we read today about many such investigations.

I have no dog in this fight.  I know neither the alleged victim, alleged perpetrator, or the circumstances.  But if asked to evaluate a case like this, I would need to see some strong evidence to know who or what to believe.  This isn't it.  It's probably a good thing that Patterson is out, given the need to be above board in all things (the biblical standard of "blameless" comes to mind, even though this isn't a pastor position).  That in no way means he must be guilty of covering up an assault or is even likely to be.

Dave Barnhart

Jay's picture

To have a conversation about this topic since Aaron has said that there is too much "speculation".  So before we go any further, maybe someone can enlighten me as to what is and is not going to be 'speculation'?  Or are we all just wasting our time?

I expected a move like this, honestly.  It happened when Al Mohler took over at SBTS (with the liberals pulling their gifts), and it happens at other non-profits (even churches) all the time.  It's up to the donor what they do with their money unless there's a legally binding document / contract.  I personally think that SWBTS was right in what they did - but that leads us back to the 'speculation' discussion again.

 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

About that. Just a heads-up. This thread probably won't be open very long. I wanted to get an update on what's happening up on the site, but most likely the discussion will quickly stake out the usual positions and objections and go in circles pretty fast. 

There's not much point in continuing that.

For my part, I find it very hard to tell who is telling me the truth when people I know personally have conflicting versions of events. How in the world could I decide who has the story straight from thousands of miles away in reference to people I've never met? (How could anyone? I get that some of you think you can do it. Maybe you can. If you can, I'm somewhat in awe of you! ... but I can't help but be skeptical. For those who know some of the people involved personally, I respect that you are in a better position to judge than I am. I'm not going to judge at all. Thankfully, I don't have to!)

AndyE's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

David, the simple fact of the matter is that at least two times as President of SEBTS and SWBTS, he was approached by women who said they had been sexually assaulted.  In such cases, all documentation of the interaction with the complainant is a Title IX record that (a) belongs to the school and (b) can not be released without proper legal authorization.

I work for a university and have had to take Title 9 training. I don't recall anything from that course about these two points. Is it Title 9 that specifies this or something else.  Also, from what I recall, these documents were mostly personal letters to/from Dr. Patterson.  Is he not allowed to own copies of these?  If he, or someone in a similar situation, is innocent (and I don't know either way), how would he make use of this evidence in a legal way?  How could he clear his name?

Bert Perry's picture

Andy, for your reading pleasure, a review of MSU's Title IX documentation.  You were trained in reporting, I'd guess; unless you're in the compliance office, there would have been no need to train you in document retention, no?  At any rate, "school must retain documentation of all proceedings" is on page 26. 

And even if it were not in the federal law, exactly how does a school address issues (defend itself as necessary) if they don't have relevant records?  That's why it was (and remains) such a big issue that Patterson had them, and SEBTS did not.  

In a case where an accused person needs such records, that's part of the legal process called "discovery" where subpoena power is used to get exculpatory evidence.  You would also have procedures for obtaining records (within limits) for discussions outside of the courts.

We can debate exactly what is said in the documents; what doesn't appear to be in dispute is that Paige Patterson and his friends possess, and are releasing, documents they agree are related to investigations of sexual assault allegations.  That is extremely troubling.

(side note; sometimes there is an implicit admission in public statements that is, ironically, far more authoritative than the statement itself.  This release from Paige Patterson's friends is one such example.)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

AndyE's picture

What about the "cannot be released without proper legal authorization" part?

So if Patterson just made copies for himself and left copies for the school, that would be OK?

Of course, this isn't a trial, it's a public firing, so there is no discovery available at this point.  

Seems like an innocent person could be in a pickle here if what you say is correct. 

Bert Perry's picture

 here's an article about John Engler getting himself in trouble over inappropriately releasing information regarding that information. (I'm an MSU grad; this is significant to me)  Federal privacy law, not to mention state law regarding allegations of sexual assault.  Given the incredible shame many victims feel, it would be just plain cruel to spread information all over.  You get to share that information at the trial, and certain information about an accuser's sexual past (like that on page 5 of the letter) is barred in most states.

Now is an innocent person in a pickle?  Nope; they can still request the data, and Title IX does give the right to hearings.  If that fails, many have sued to get their cases reheard in courts of law, where ordinary rules of discovery apply.  Nothing is pretty in this part of the law, but it's not worse than anything else, really.  

And public firing?  Well, can you fire Patterson privately?  I just read a comment today from one of the BOT where it was noted that Patterson was refusing to meet with them.  So one side of the story is "the evidence I took from SEBTS hasn't been heard" (well, duh), the other side is "he refused to meet with us".  

It strikes me that most of the kerfuffle could be cleared up if the 2003 report that the BOT says indicates a report of sexual assault were released along with the police "no reports found" when asked for a police report.  I do not know whether that would require just the accuser and SEBTS to sign off, or whether that might require Patterson to sign off on it, too.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

I believe HIPAA rules come into play as well if medical records or patient confidentiality is breached by someone like Patterson has "allegedly" done.  I seem to recall reading that shortly in a news story after Mrs. Colter released / leaked the internal SWBTS documentation a few weeks ago for Ms. Lively.

I trust the Trustees of SWBTS far more than I trust Patterson's statements and defenses.  I also have zero problems with "unjustly" firing someone in the middle of the night if the report made by Bart Barber (one of the SWBTS Trustees) at the SBC Annual Meeting is even half true.  There is a reason why we have the term "at-will" employees and morals clauses in legal employment agreements and contracts.

But apparently my tolerance for abusers and those who cover up crimes is apparently a lot lower than some.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

It strikes me that most of the kerfuffle could be cleared up if the 2003 report that the BOT says indicates a report of sexual assault were released along with the police "no reports found" when asked for a police report.  I do not know whether that would require just the accuser and SEBTS to sign off, or whether that might require Patterson to sign off on it, too.

I don't think that it's possible to do this legally, but the records in question, as Bert noted, belong to the institution and to the affected person.  They do not belong to Dr. Patterson even though they concern and involve him. 

Furthermore, there are at least two specific allegations in play.  One from 2003, which is what Bert is discussing.  The second is from 2015, and is discussed in the statement by the Chairman of the Board:

We confirmed this week through a student record, made available to me with permission, that an allegation of rape was indeed made by a female student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003. This information contradicts a statement previously provided by Dr. Patterson in response to a direct question by a Board member regarding the incident referenced in our May 30 statement. The 2003 rape allegation was never reported to local law enforcement. SWBTS will not release the student record to the public without additional appropriate permissions. 

In addition, as previously disclosed, a female student at SWBTS reported to Dr. Patterson that she had been raped in 2015.  Police were notified of that report. But in connection with that allegation of rape, Dr. Patterson sent an email (the contents of which were shared with the Board on May 22) to the Chief of Campus Security in which Dr. Patterson discussed meeting with the student alone so that he could “break her down” and that he preferred no officials be present.

It is on this basis that I have - zero - problems with Patterson's termination.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

From the link to the firing documents, the stated reason for the firing was that the BOT believed that Patterson had lied about how the 2003 allegations were handled, among other things also involving the 2015 allegations.  The response of Patterson's friends is, more or less, " our investigations found that no rapes occurred."

We must infer that (a) Patterson and those around him did indeed conduct internal investigations in both 2003 and 2015, (b) the results of those investigations were retained by Patterson and disseminated to his friends for whatever reason,  (c) Patterson did indeed prevent a police investigation in 2003 by failing to report, and (d) conducting an internal investigation in 2015 may have inhibited whatever police investigation that was conducted.

In other words, the letter Patterson's friends provided proves almost precisely what the SWBTS BOT accused him of doing.   Word to the wise; when you're accused, you are free to deal with the allegations through proper channels, but if you start attacking the accuser in public media, five will get you ten that things will not go well for you.  Someone will see through it.

Final note; what Patterson and his friends have done here is one of the cruelest things you can do to a sexual assault victim; every foolish thing the person has ever been accused of is put in the papers, whether or not they actually did it.  It's why most states, including Texas, have rape shield laws preventing a complainant's sexual history from being used as evidence.  So what Patterson's friends are doing by trying to try the case in the media has a lot of similarity to what some of the scummiest defense lawyers out there are doing.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Assuming your reading of the BOT's document is accurate, you are inferring more from it than it can prove.

But it has been pretty obvious from the start that you believed the accusations as fact and Patterson et al. were all engaged in a coverup.

Well, you have your opinion, others have a different one, and most of us have no need or reason to form an opinion either way.

Closing.