Forum Replies Created
I feel compassion toward anyone dealing with cancer. Especially so, because I have spent almost two years taking care of my mom pretty much every day, multiple hours a day, who was diagnosed with stage four cancer in June of 2022. She is very disabled as a result and has been receiving chemo treatments since September, last year.
As much pain and misery as she is in, the worst she’s done to me out of anger & frustration is throw half a hamburger at the floor, or tell me my chicken lunch sucks. Not a single death threat so far, even when she’s in excruciating pain. 🙌🏻
We have people in our lives who have cancer, and I’ve never heard any of them threaten another person’s life. One of them happens to be a new pilot at AJX who is one of the nicest people I know!
Sure, we can try to blame the cancer and chemo on some of these outbursts, but if Gene can’t control his anger and emotions due to “chemo brain”, then should he be driving loads of people up the mountain at all? Should our pilots and visitors continue to have to be harassed by him? Visitors don’t know what he’s dealing with, so all they’re going to see is angry Gene in their faces, threatening them with physical harm.
Also, his ban is related to him disregarding our rules numerous times. Nicole is aware of those directives, so she could have helped him and herself to follow them. Easy enough.
Unfortunately when you don’t respect the board or the club and you believe you “own” the place, following someone else’s directives might just not seem all that important, regardless of health issues. What will they do? Kick me out???
By the way, those of you asking us to lift the ban or saying “Gene’s nice to me!” you’re disregarding his very illegal & jail-worthy activity at the club, his multiple violations after having been given multiple chances to comply, and you’re basically saying that as long as he’s nice to YOU, you don’t care how his verbal and physical assault victims feel.
Gene has been very nice to me, but I’ve also paid him a lot of money in rides. He’s nice to his customers. I have witnessed him doling out death threats to other people right in front of me! I can choose to keep turning a blind eye like the rest of you lucky people, because he’s never screamed at me before, but that’s not the right thing to do in my humble opinion.
Oh! And one more thing! If a customer calls you to come give him a ride and he then jumps into someone else’s buggy (someone who is not aware of your deal with that customer), shouldn’t you be directing your anger toward the customer?
There’s no way in hell that Sandy would try to talk anyone into her buggy, if she knew that person had called Gene for a ride. If anyone should have been screamed at, it’s the customer who wasted Gene’s time, calling him to come out when he was just going to jump into the nearest buggy after all.
Nobody should be screamed at of course, but Gene wildly misdirected his anger at Sandy. He should have had a polite conversation with that customer, explaining that his time and efforts were wasted as a result.
Also, it’s not like something similar hasn’t happened to Sandy with her customers. People who sign up for her van and then jump on the Gene buggy, that’s happened multiple times. She never lost it on Gene or customer over $20.00.
Dear club members,
Based on the amount of votes I have received during the past three elections in which I’ve participated, I’m led to believe that many of you must trust me enough to believe that I would do a good job as one of your elected officers. If you know me any significant amount of time and if you’ve talked to me about running for one of the positions, you know I put my name on these ballots very reluctantly. I’m usually talked into running for the board.
I’ve been coming to the LZ since the beginning of 2017 and in that time managed to maintain positive relationships with most members. I’ve never been in a screaming match with anyone, I’ve tried to be as fair as possible based on facts, I’ve been very forthcoming with you all about the inner board going-ons, and any time the discussion of a ban came up, I always tried to argue for a second or third chance on the individual’s behalf.
This is the first time in my memory where arguably every current board member is on the same page about this particular issue. The only minor disagreement between us is the severity/length of the punishment. We are basing our decisions on evidence and witness accounts. Many of us are also first hand witnesses to some of the past and present transgressions, so we do understand the history and current status of the individual in question. We are not basing our decision to ban Gene for a year on past behavior. We are basing it on recent and current events only, which put the club’s existence in very serious jeopardy, even moving forward.
When Gene suggests that he believes his contributions have enhanced our air park’s safety and enjoyment for “everyone”, I have to point out that a lot of people do not feel safe or joyful in his presence.
When people e-mail us about the importance of rides up to the 750 and Regionals (or lack thereof if Gene is banned, which is untrue, because he can freely continue to operate his ride business outside of AJX property), it takes me back to a time when Gene exhibited unacceptable behavior toward other drivers, which caused at least one of them to fear for her life. She became so fearful to be alone at the LZ, she would make sure someone was there with her.
If you’ve met Sandy, you know she is by far the sweetest and most kind person at Andy Jackson Airpark. She’s had her van driving business for many years. If anything, it’s Gene who began cutting into her business! She didn’t complain, she shared, and at first things seemed to work in harmony. We the pilots tried to support both of them, never picking sides.
Gene was the one who began to create a rift between them. Many people have witnessed him getting into a yelling match with Sandy and Dale over who gets to drive more people up the mountain. Gene is doing the yelling and even admits on video he shouldn’t be talking to Sandy that way! The reason the videos were shot, is because at that point this harassment had reached a level that begged to be captured on video as evidence. How did the person know to start filming? Because this was just another example of multiple incidents.
Why does Gene feel entitled to my, or anyone else’s ride money? Unless I call him and ask him to be there, I have no obligation to get in his Ranger, and it’s not because Sandy convinced me not to. If anything, the opposite was true, because she did not want to trigger him in any way.
I hated the tension that Gene created between them, because I desperately wanted to be on good terms with both of them. I didn’t want to have to choose sides. If the board at the time wasn’t going to handle the threatening behavior issue, I felt like there wasn’t anything I could do to resolve it myself. I could have refused to use Gene’s driving services and never speak to him again after the way he treated the sweetest lady in the LZ, I probably should have if I had stood for what I believed in, but I didn’t. It was easier to just try to get along and hope it would resolve itself.
Gene (or whoever the person writing these replies on his behalf is), stated that the student pushed Nicole, and that is why Gene reacted the way he did. The video clips are complete and have not been edited to misinform. They appear in their true, full length. I put them together into one video for easier viewing, but did not cut short any part of them.
The claim that the student pushed Nicole, does not add up to me whatsoever. Nicole’s name never came up that day, or thereafter, until now to justify the bad behavior in the videos. Gene was asked by the student and by the bystanders what the student had done to deserve this over-the-top confrontation and Gene never told the witnesses on site that the student was guilty of putting his hands on Nicole. That was not part of the narrative back then. I can only speak for myself, but if I had been in a similar situation, I would immediately inform the witnesses on site that Nicole was assaulted, and that this was my reason for having said reaction. That would have been the end of the student’s lessons. It wasn’t.
It is frustrating that every shred of evidence of bad, negligent and deliberate behavior is met with stubborn resistance. How are we supposed to do our jobs of protecting the club, if we are being threatened with lawsuits when we do so? I feel like I’m in the twilight zone, where two and two equals five. A huge part of me wants to give up, because I have enough turmoil in my life, I don’t need to be punished for volunteering my valuable time for free, trying to help the club continue to exist. I’m tempted to launch and land anywhere else except AJX and let it devolve to whatever it will. Maybe I should stop caring, but it’s hard to let the offenders prevail. I can’t fight this on my own and we are only eight people that the membership has elected and trusted to help the club.
I’m not quitting this term, but unless I feel supported by the rest of the membership that elected me, I’m not going to run again. This is insane. It makes no sense for us to endure this kind of abuse. I did my part, I helped the club to continue its relationship with the XC Ranch when it was most dire, and if that’s my only accomplishment this year, that’s fine.
Gene, you can spin the reasons for your unacceptable behavior any way you want, but don’t expect me to fall for it. I’m not drinking the cool-aid anymore.
The spite and revenge within our club are tearing apart the fabric of this wonderful group. I urge everyone to consider forgiveness, as it is far more damaging to carry this hostility than to find common ground and move forward together.
This is a true statement.
I believe my contributions have enhanced our air park’s safety and enjoyment for everyone.
If some of you are wondering why Sandy doesn’t drive her Ranger up to the 750 or Regionals anymore:
Here’s Gene being a positive influence on the school business at AJX, giving a visiting PG student lessons on forgiveness & respect:
These videos are not evidence of current issues which prompted the ban, but at least one of them explains why Gene and Nicole are the only people driving pilots up to Regionals these days. Sandy’s brand new Ranger is collecting dust in storage, because she fears for her physical safety after being threatened by Gene on multiple occasions.
This unacceptable behavior has continued for years and hasn’t been properly corrected or addressed by past board members, because they feared that they could then be at the receiving end of this frightening situation. One or two board members had a conversation with him about his behavior, but no paper trail was created.
I was on the board in 2020 when the above incident with the student occurred. I tried to bring attention to it then and attempted to at least get a letter out warning Gene that this behavior cannot be tolerated. Unfortunately I couldn’t get enough support for action and I had the same fears as everyone else. I needed back-up and didn’t feel like I had it. I dropped the issue and we moved on.
In my opinion, Gene needs to publicly apologize to Sandy and Dale for trying to push them out via intimidation and threats of violence on multiple occasions. If he means it, he will do his utmost to treat both Sandy and Dale with complete respect henceforth. He will allow them to travel to Regionals unimpeded and unthreatened.
The club has nothing to do with the business of driving. Drivers are members like anyone else who choose to provide a service. How they do it, how much they charge for it, this is none of CSS business. We should, however, address this kind of behavior as soon as it happens on our land, to make sure we have a positive atmosphere at AJX for all. We should not stand for anyone who will use these tactics on other members in order to protect their profits.
Thank you for your support and understanding. You are exactly right. I don’t want to have to run in the next election, unless I have to (for whatever reason).
Volunteering is beginning to feel more like a form of masochism. 😵💫
Hey guys, you should try it! 😂
Thank you for taking the time to respond to this issue and for your service as vice president. I know personally how much work and headache it can be as I have been the president of many clubs and organizations and led a large recreation department with over 400 employees and multiple customer advisory boards. You and the entire board have a very difficult yet extremely important job to do. I hear your frustration with this situation and the points you detailed in your response yet you have a responsibility to be fair and do what is good for the overall organization and I understand that is not easy.”
Thank you for recognizing that this is indeed a difficult responsibility to undertake, especially when it is a volunteer position for a non-profit, for which we do not get paid. These duties are piled on top of our full-time jobs and hectic daily family & home life. We don’t do it because we enjoy being in charge, we do it because we love flying and we would hate to see this place get shut down due to inaction. I always strive to do my best to hold back my personal biases and let the truth and facts speak for themselves. Those who have never served on the board before, I tend to warn them that they may lose a friendship or two as a result. It’s the ugly side of trying to run a club. Some people may support you in the beginning, thinking this is their way of getting away with certain actions that may have a negative impact on the club. When you have to come down on them for said actions, they may turn against you and make you feel as though you’re the baddie.
“But the way I see it the problems that CSS has are far greater than a dog peeing. This could be a world-class flying site but it currently could only be described as where east LA goes to hang and get high. It has become a group of four gangs that can be identified by who their instructor was and the rest fall into the old folks who just hang out at the LZ and complain about everyone else.”
You are correct. This goes way beyond a specific dog repeatedly urinating on pilot gear, or someone’s horses getting in the way of a pilot’s landing pattern at the most critical point in time, when it could be most consequential to their physical well-being.
While I do see that new pilots tend to stick to their specific instructor group, in my opinion it’s not because they’ve formed a gang, it’s because they are new to the sport, they don’t have relationships outside of that group at first, and they trust their instructors of choice for most of the information they think they need. They’ve paid their money and they feel obligated to stick with that group. They are not familiar with the sport or community just yet.
Once they’ve spent more time around the LZ and get to see the regulars on a more consistent basis, they may start to form friendships outside of the instructor group. I have friends in all of these groups, even though I am not part of any of the prominent instructor-specific chat groups.
If you feel like you’re isolated from the other students outside of your particular group, all you have to do is say hello, introduce yourself and share your passion for flying with them. You can ask to join them in their XC adventure, or flying trip. You don’t have to stay bound to any one group if you so choose. These pilots are far more welcoming than some might imagine. Anyone trying to tell you otherwise is being less than honest.
“The rest of the members just try to stay in the background invisible so they don’t have to bear the wrath of one of the gangs.”
I personally have never felt this way about any of the groups, but my experience could be different from others. I’ve witnessed Stephen, Marcello and Jerome offer help to students outside of their groups, free of charge. In fact many times they’re happy to do it. All one has to do is ask.
I’ve only seen one instructor get upset with their students for listening to the advice of another instructor, and upset with the instructor giving the free advice. Instead of seeing it as trying to help someone be a better & safer kiter or pilot, it is viewed as a personal attack on their ego. As they say, it takes a village, so I’m not sure why any student should be permanently bound to one instructor for the rest of their flying journey. They all have different specialties, styles of teaching and experience to offer. Long story short, after that, the other instructors became more hesitant (unless approached) to come near students outside of their immediate circle.
“If efforts were successful in unifying this group the possibilities are endless. These factions fighting against each other continue to make the place an uncomfortable and now, inconvenient place to fly.”
I agree with you! I wish we could have all the members join one massive chat group where new pilots get the benefit of being exposed to the rest of the club. As it is now, we have multiple echo chambers. I have tried to unify everyone in a single chat group by inviting them to the CSS Telegram group, and the Marshall/Crestline Facebook page group chat. If anyone would like a link to either of these, please ask. It would be great to make club announcements and request volunteer help in a group that everyone is a part of, not just a few. I know that instructors need to have their own chat channel for school purposes, but it would be nice if we could all unite in one place.
“My reasons for writing to you are only to right an injustice to an individual who should be honored by this organization instead of as I see it, vilified.”
This organization did not set out to vilify the person in question. If anything, we made multiple attempts to help that person become compliant in private. As the board of directors, we happen to be privileged to irrefutable evidence. We reviewed the evidence and made a conscious decision not to air someone’s dirty laundry, in order to protect not only the person in question from further embarrassment, but also those who were willing to come forth with irrefutable evidence of misconduct and egregious behavior.
“The dogs and horses in the LZ were interesting, but seriously; this is an outdoor sport. I have flown at over 40 sites in more than a dozen countries and trust me this is not unusual.”
It is unusual at Andy Jackson Airpark. We have deer, bears, cougars and coyotes in these mountains, but I have never seen any of them come down to graze at the LZ, impeding pilots during their kiting lesson or landing approach.
Would the club allow me to bring my goats or cows down to the LZ to graze while flying and learning activity is in progress? I don’t have goats or cows, but my point is, this would be unacceptable and dangerous. What’s more important? Pilot safety, or me trying to graze my (imaginary) animals, because I can’t afford to keep them any other way?
Personally I would have been smarter about it. I would have brought them out in the early morning before anyone shows up (or during North days when nobody is flying) and lead them back to their paddock as soon as pilots start arriving. I would also pick up after them, so as not to leave a trace. Traces were left. Frequently.
“It is my responsibility to look after my gear. I expect wildlife to have visited the LZ many times and have tried to mark their territory on that very recliner, which; I also have to ask, why someone thought that they could dump their old discarded furniture there in the first place. It is not outdoor furniture and will and probably has already, become infested with who knows what.”
There should be a reasonable amount of time in which I can walk away from my gear to quickly use the restroom after landing, or wash my hands. If in that time my gear is soiled by someone’s dog, I’m not going to be happy about it.
Members often donate to the club, because we are a non-profit and our budget for upkeep is small. The recliner in question is in good shape, comfortable, and I personally don’t see a problem with it. Nobody has complained to us about the recliner having been dropped off, until now.
People like myself will take the time to clean it if it ever becomes a problem. I don’t use the refrigerator, but I have cleaned it out on at least a couple of occasions. If more people were willing to take a few minutes of their time to sweep, pick up trash, stomp out a few gopher holes, stack chairs at the end of the day, or mow the lawn, we would not have to worry about the place deteriorating. We don’t have employees and we don’t have money to hire anyone to take care of it. Everything you see at the LZ was paid for and built by pilots like yourself. We can’t afford nicer things and the lease doesn’t allow us to do any more than we have already done.
“But to have this as a reason to suspend a member for a year seems a bit out of place.”
Hypothetical situation: If we ask you to please stop doing donuts in the parking lot every week and you refuse to stop this behavior, because you claim you “own the place”, what is the correct way to react to your actions?
To someone who’s never seen you do donuts, or never seen you do them more than once or twice, it may at first glance seem silly to suspend you for doing donuts in the parking lot. To those whose cars were damaged, or nearly damaged during your donut spree, they will have different feelings about it. We have to address the real and potential danger of your actions, even if every member of the club hasn’t witnessed you doing something with a negative impact on the other club members.
Just because you personally were not harmed by an individual and have a positive relationship with them, this does not mean that they did not harm someone else. Just because you were not affected by their negative actions, does not mean others haven’t been.
“Here is where the perception of the board’s actions is so out of place. Discipline should have the only purpose of correcting unwanted behavior and not be vindictive. Documentation should not be to CYA but instead to explain and clearly identify the issue at hand and the desired outcome.”
The issues were addressed with the individual in question in private multiple times by different officers at different times, and when that did not work, a paper trail was created in case we needed to take legal action. We have busy lives and none of us want to spend hours and hours dealing with one or two members who just won’t listen, let alone place a target on our backs as a result.
“I have seen many supervisors who just don’t like a person and use the process to set up the person for failure with the hope they could use that as documentation to get rid of the person.”
That’s not the case here. There are eight of us on the board and we have to have a majority vote on the action we’re going to take. No one person’s biases are going to overrule facts and evidence. I’ve defended persons with whom I did not have a positive relationship with at the time and the opposite is also true. We keep each other in check.
They are usually sloppy with the documentation and unrealistic in either their expectations or do not fairly and uniformly hold others accountable and their punishment is out of place for the offence. These cases rarely hold up in court.
Others have been held accountable in the past, and recently. I’m not going to name names, but Gene is not the first, nor the last to be admonished for wrongful actions. As member volunteers, we do the best we can with the time and knowledge we have. To expect perfection of any of us is unrealistic.
The pool of members willing to volunteer is so small, that we can’t always have our pick of the most perfectly qualified people running the show. If you feel better qualified to be on the board and you believe you can be completely impartial, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to put your name down on the upcoming ballot. We need more impartial, fair and caring people to be at the helm. Especially people who don’t have anything to gain financially by being on the board.
“So let’s take this one step at a time. First, why would you hand deliver a back-dated letter? If it was a simple mistake or you simply didn’t have the time to deliver it earlier that is on you. You should have corrected the date on the letter and made sure that you clearly communicated that to Gene and Nichole at the time you gave it to them.”
Both Gene and Nicole received the same letter with the same instructions. The letter clearly spells out that the ban goes into effect from date of delivery. If they chose not to read the letter and look at a calendar out of curiosity as to how much longer the ban was in effect, that is on them, not the board. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think most people, if they were handed such a letter, they would probably want to read it thoroughly. If they had questions, they were more than welcome to ask. Gene has direct contact for me, for Ed, Luke and Jamie, maybe others as well.
“And if you didn’t notice it then shame on you, you should have known and respected the severity of this situation and taken the time and effort to ensure it was clear. That is the responsibility we have placed on you as VP.”
I recognized the severity of the situation. Taking these actions against Gene were risky in more ways than one. We truly could not have been more clear about the reasons and the time frame. We spoke to Gene about these issues ad nauseam.
“Remember that the part about documentation is to be clear and not have any ambiguity. It could have been fixed with a simple pen stroke, the new date, and your initials.”
There was no ambiguity. I encourage you to read the letter, if you haven’t already.
“Second, it was clear to me during my visits to the site during the past several weeks that Gene was making an honest effort to comply with the request to keep the dogs and horses off the LZ.”
We received photos and videos of the infractions during each warning and ban period. I witnessed the infractions myself and someone even took a photo of me trying to handle Gene and Nicole’s repeat-offender dog, who was able to run down to the LZ, because he was not on a leash.
Gene felt he could not retrieve the dog himself due to the ban, so I attempted to help him by trying to lead the dog back to him. It’s a big dog, he didn’t want to leave with me, and pulling him by his collar wasn’t working out for me at all. I didn’t want the dog to turn on me. Eventually Tom was able to drag him back to Gene. Had Gene put the dog on a leash, the dog would not have been able to run away from him, creating that situation for himself.
“He should have been commended for that by yourself and other board members if indeed their only motivation was to fix the problem. This small gesture would have gone a long way toward mending fences and achieving the goal of corrected behavior that should have been your only objective”
Jamie, our Secretary, did reach out to Gene and she did commend him on his efforts to comply, while he was still complying. She let us know she did that and for a brief moment we were relieved.
“Myself and many other club members had to hike outside the property line to get a ride so we all know that he was also trying to comply with the disciplinary action. So when you say he violated the ban and thought the ban ended on the 10th I have to go back to that clarity issue. You need to take some responsibility. Otherwise, it looks like you never had the intention of assisting them in fixing the problem but instead just set up a little trap, and the instant he fell into it you banned him for a year.”
There’s no argument that Gene was trying to comply sometimes. He mainly complied when board officers were also around. On lighter days when fewer people showed up, sadly his compliance waned. I don’t see how the board is responsible for him coming on the property when we’re not around to see it. We have photos and video proving he violated his ban on such days. Unless you spend at least 8 hours a day every day at the LZ, you may not get to see him violate the ban.
“It could have been handled with an honest conversation that went “Look we understand there is some confusion because of the date on the letter but this is a 30-day ban and you can either accept that and stay out for the extra 9 days or the board will have to consider this breaking of the ban and will take further action”.
I can’t stress enough how many conversations we’ve had with Gene about this already. He has received an incredible amount of passes at this point. Giving him yet another pass did not seem productive in the slightest.
“And even then, progressive discipline should have a reasonable progression. i.e. one month then two months etc. not 30 days to a year. Again, the purpose should be to correct the behavior and not get rid of the person.”
We made multiple attempts to keep this from escalating to a one month ban and eventually a one year ban. We do not take this decision lightly and it is not from our lack of trying to make Gene understand why certain behaviors cannot continue.
“Third, are you as a board enforcing the rules uniformly or are you only enforcing the rules that this person breaks? I have to ask this because I noticed a couple of months ago that suddenly everyone has to wear helmets in the UTVs going up to Regionals and thought that was a great safety point then got into a van going to Marshal and no one was wearing their seatbelts. To me that shows Gene and Nichole trying to follow the rules but similar safety rules are not being enforced with other club members who are favored by the board. There was even a board member in the van that day and nothing was said”
The club has no authority or business association with any of the driver operations. We do not make rules about who can drive, when they can drive, what they can drive, how much or how little they charge. We make $0 profit from the drivers operating on site. Literally anyone could pull up into the parking lot and offer rides up to launch if they wanted, and unless that person caused damage to club property or behaved dangerously toward our members, we have no authority or desire to get involved with these private enterprises.
Outside of informing members of the most common ride options, we have nothing to do with helmets or seatbelts in driver vehicles. The only helmet rule the club does enforce, is on the grass. If you are kiting or flying, you must wear a helmet for your safety.
“And we have a rule that acro is not permitted below 700 feet AGL and yet I have witnessed on several occasions an instructor doing swoop landings into the LZ. Now that is far more dangerous than the pissing contest that is currently going on.”
If you have witnessed an instance in which said instructor clearly endangered the lives of pilots in the sky or on the ground during such a landing, then you are welcome to provide evidence of this and write a formal complaint.
As unpaid volunteers who cannot be in the LZ every day to see rule-breaking, we can’t possibly enforce every infraction every time it happens. Most infractions are minor enough and they don’t usually generate formal complaints.
Should you be warned or punished every time you drive slightly over the speed limit? Would you like to be the one to tell Gene that there’s been a no smoking policy at AJX for years? He’s been around a long time, he’s said so himself, and the no smoking signs were posted on the former shade structure before it was damaged by catastrophic winds. Did that stop smokers from smoking anyway? Should we put the signs back up and start to hand out warnings? Will Gene comply with the no smoking policy?
“You said in your forum post “Painting the current board as some vindictive organization that’s out to get people, is a bit reckless.” But we are not doing the painting. It is the actions of the board that are painting the picture and we as members are just telling you what our perceptions are.”
When your actions are perceived a certain way you should first take an honest look in the mirror and then either change your actions or do a better job of managing those perceptions.”
I am trying to help you see the bigger picture. I can try harder, but that would also involve airing a lot of dirty laundry in public. Many of you are only privy to the tip of the iceberg. Why? Because despite all the violations and misconduct, we don’t have a vested interest in embarrassing or exposing anyone, even if it were to help our case.
I’m glad that people are asking questions! I’m happy to see that some members are willing to investigate the situation and not simply go along with whatever happens. All I ask is that you reserve full judgement until you have spoken to both sides.
I find it interesting that the few of you who e-mailed us, demanded the ban be reversed before asking us why the ban had to be put into place. The common assumption was that the board is out of line on this decision. Who made you believe that?
I apologize for this very long post ahead of time, I just want to make sure I get most of it out.
The CSS board has recently received a few e-mails from member pilots who are asking that the Gene and Nicole one-year ban decision be reversed. I would like to address this. My opinion may or may not align with the other board members, so please see this as me speaking for myself.
First I’d like to explain (from my limited three year experience on the board) how a ban from the club may come into effect. It doesn’t happen often, in fact almost never, but when it does, drastic actions had to take place for drastic solutions to come into place.
The board receives confidential complaints against a member via e-mail or in person for whatever reason you can imagine. Maybe they feel they have been harassed, or they witnessed an incident that prompted them to write to one or more of the officers to make us aware of the situation. We investigate the complaint. Video and audio recordings are obviously our best form of evidence, but if we have multiple witnesses describing the same event, we take it more seriously. We then try to talk to the individual causing the problem and hope we can get it resolved privately. If that individual receives multiple warnings and continues the unacceptable behavior which is witnessed & substantiated by others, we have to take it a step further.
Like I mentioned in the above post, we’re just volunteers, none of us want to police any of our fellow pilots (let alone the man/woman that drives us up the mountain), but unfortunately sometimes we have to for the sake of the club as a whole. It’s part of being a club officer, whether we want it or not. If you knew for a fact that someone was putting the club in danger, or if you were harassed by someone repeatedly, you too would want us to take actions against that person, so that you may continue to fly at AJX without having to feel anxious about the presence of that individual. We would prefer you work it out with each other between yourselves, but sometimes we may have to step in and mediate.
Most CSS members who are relatively new to the club, or who have never served on the board, are not aware of the nitty-gritty details of club drama. We have board and general member meetings to address club needs, but we are not out to embarrass or make public certain complaints against our members. You’ll never hear us outing members for misconduct, unless it’s already become public knowledge in other ways. We definitely take into account that some complaints may be biased, or bogus. That leads me to the Gene and Nicole one-year ban.
We tried to address the issues with Gene and Nicole verbally in a private manner for months. None of us wanted it to come to this. Unfortunately it became public after Gene and Nicole may have complained to their regulars about this “unfair” treatment.
I can’t stress enough how hopeful and fair we tried to be with them prior to the one month ban. Luke and I hand-delivered the first warning letter to Gene and we had a nice conversation with him outside his trailer about what changes needed to take place. Gene sounded very receptive, he seemed to understand, he promised he’d do his best, and we left with our fingers crossed. I felt good about it at the time!
Gene and Nicole had clear and written instructions on how to avoid the one month ban, and after they violated the warning and the one month ban, they received clear written instructions on how to avoid a lifetime ban from the club. Violations were still made. I witnessed it myself multiple times at the LZ.
Although the one-month ban listed a lifetime ban as a consequence to violating it, the board eventually agreed to make it a one-year ban instead of a lifetime ban. Just another example of us trying to be lenient with both Gene and Nicole, something that wouldn’t be a consideration for about 95% of current club members with the same disregard for our attempt at protecting the club from harm.
Maybe some of you believe that your right to not have to walk a couple hundred feet to get a ride up is more important. We are not out to stop Gene and Nicole from offering rides, they simply cannot do so from AJX property at this time. If they violate the one year ban, it may become a lifetime ban. I hope it doesn’t, but this is up to them to prove that they care about the club enough to respect certain stipulations they were given.
Saying things like; “but I thought the ban ended on the 10th!” when the letter clearly states that the ban begins on the day of delivery of letter, is a poor excuse. Allowing the specific dog that has soiled multiple pilots gear to run free, also inexcusable. The dog literally urinated on the reclining chair that’s located under the shade structure while I was sitting in it. If I hadn’t pointed it out to Gene, he would have never known and never been able to clean it. I did get a “sorry”, but the dog continued to be off-leash the following days. If the dog was on a leash, it would have never been an issue.
If you know you have a dog that repeatedly urinates on gear and you have to give multiple people multiple sorries, at what point does it become unacceptable to see this dog off-leash at the LZ? It’s not the dog’s fault, it’s the owner who’s responsible for either training, or restraining that particular pet. Most of us love dogs, many of us like seeing them have free reign, but not when the dog causes damage to expensive equipment. This is an air-park first and foremost, something both Gene and Nicole should understand.
Nobody has the right to treat the airpark as their personal horse pasture or their dog’s bathroom as they please. This is a landing field for pilots. They pay good money to be able to lay their gear in the packing area without fear of destruction. We don’t enforce leashed dogs, because most dog owners are able to keep an eye on their dogs to make sure they don’t damage equipment. They also pick up after their dogs. If that were to ever change and official complaints are made to the board about a specific dog, we will definitely have a conversation with that pet owner and will make the same demands of them as we have made of Gene and Nicole. It wasn’t personal, it was necessary.
The current CSS board is only trying to address a problem that has existed for a long time. Please keep in mind, this is not just about the dogs and horses. Much more serious issues were at hand, things that could still cause major problems for the club down the line. If it did come to that, it would put an end to the LZ for good, and it would put an end to every business on site.
Some people may believe that because they’ve volunteered their labor over the years, they deserve a pass to do as they please. Wrong! Yes, they have gotten away with it for a long time, because nobody wanted to put a target on their back and create a toxic situation at the LZ for themselves, but enough is enough.
Painting the current board as some vindictive organization that’s out to get people, is a bit reckless. We made the decisions we made based on the actions (or inactions) of the individuals in question, not based on how we feel about them personally. Like I said, I thought we were friends. If you had to deal with the insurance woes, paperwork and day to day runnings of the club, you too would have very likely come to the same conclusion in spite of your personal feelings about a person, or based on what they’ve contributed to the club in the past.
Being on the board is a volunteer position that comes with certain responsibilities. We get to see and experience the club in a much different light compared to those who simply come and fly. We get to see & deal with the good, the bad and the ugly. None of us want to create a toxic environment for anyone, including ourselves. We’re pilots like you, we’re there to have a good time and we want the place to keep going. This is supposed to be our happy place as much as anyone else’s. If some of you think we’ve dealt with this particular issue inappropriately, we encourage you to volunteer and experience it for yourselves.
Our goal is to adhere to our land lease and to make sure our insurance needs are met, so that the club can continue to exist for many years to come. My personal desire for an easy ride up does not overrule the safety of other pilots, safety of their gear, or the well-being of the club as a whole. I’ve taken countless rides up with Gene, known him for a few years now and have a soft spot for him. I appreciate him being nearby when it’s a slow week day and I badly want to go up. As much as I would LOVE to keep that going, unfortunately he did not take any of our very valid concerns seriously.
To be perfectly honest, I feel somewhat disrespected by him at this point, because I thought we were friends. When I was elected, he said to me something along the line of; “Don’t let those guys push you around. You just ask me and I’ll help you out.” Quite ironic now. I thought if we explained our position nicely, he’d understand. Sadly I was wrong.
We tried asking nicely several times, we tried asking sternly, and when that didn’t work, we tried to get a paper trail going to make it more official. We hand-delivered a detailed warning letter, which was completely disregarded only days later. We thought that if we spelled out some of the documented issues, it would be taken to heart and an attempt at compliance would be made. We were hopeful, but we were wrong. Taking his volunteer contributions and his driving services into account, he received countless passes on many past offenses. Nobody else would have been afforded this much flexibility. We are at the end of our rope and this is what that looks like.
The last letter (30 day/1 month ban) which was hand-delivered to both Gene and Nicole, was delivered not on the 10th, but on the 19th of October. We have proof of delivery. The letter clearly states that the ban goes into effect from date of delivery, not date of letter written. The letter also clearly spells out the consequences of violating that ban. How many warnings, conversations and letters does it take for someone to understand that certain actions are unacceptable and cannot continue?
I LOVE horses! They’ve been my favorite animal since childhood. I loved seeing them enjoy the grass when nobody was around. Unfortunately these big animals leave a mess, the owners did not come clean that mess up in a timely manner even after being asked and warned, and they were at the LZ unattended, chased by their dog, during busy landing times when students are just learning obstacle avoidance. It’s a huge air park insurance liability. If you can’t see that, you’re choosing to be blind.
We want the club to keep getting better for everyone, and to make sure that pilots feel safe not only landing on the field, but also being able to leave their gear in the packing area without the danger of an unattended repeat-offender pet peeing on their expensive gliders and harnesses. “Sorry” after the fact doesn’t really do it for some of them. How sorry can you really be if you keep letting it happen?
We get complaints from multiple members. When we get enough of them, we are then forced to take it more seriously and address it with the owner of that pet. When that owner is asked to please keep that specific pet leashed at all times at the LZ and the owner ignores the request, it’s disheartening. What does that say to you? It says to me that the owner doesn’t care how many gliders and harnesses get destroyed, because it’s more important to them to not have to control that pet. If the pet doesn’t respond to its name when it is called, a leash is the only other option.
Also, if the pet is running around completely unattended by its owner and it defecates in the landing zone, the owner can’t see it to pick it up. How many of you enjoy stepping into, or putting your gliders down into fresh poo, whether it comes from horses or dogs? If our dogs are running around, I keep an eye on them. I pick up a shovel and I’ll shovel other people’s dog poo in addition to whatever our dogs left behind, because I’m a pilot with expensive gear and I wouldn’t want that for anyone, including myself.
A very long story short, the documented repeat-offenses and complete disregard for club safety and harmony have reached a boiling point. That boiling point (at least for me) is far more serious than getting a ride up. As much as I wish that it didn’t have to go this way, how many offenses should any club member be afforded before a drastic measure has to take place? Is that member more important than the safety of other pilots, their gear, or the existence of the club?
I don’t think the current CSS board is making any unreasonable demands that simply couldn’t be followed. I think this person(s) chose not to follow them, because it’s easier not to. I think they believed they were above any consequence to their actions. It’s easier to blame the board for the ban than it is to take personal responsibility for their actions.
You can see the lease document and map here: Club Library
You have to be signed in to be able to open the link. In the club library click on “Member Documents”, scroll down and then click on “DWR Lease for AJX”.
Here’s the map of the leased AJX property and XC Ranch property divided by the bold yellow line. Gene & Nicole are allowed on the XC ranch property, but not AJX/CSS property at this time.
Big THANK YOU to everyone who showed up to help with this project! Luke’s update is that the project is very close to completion now, just before the weather turned.
Luke, Daniel, Albert, Owen & Jeff spent Saturday and Sunday sanding and painting the outer beams to protect them from bad winter weather. We still need to get paint on the south side, but that should not take too long. We still have supplies left for that and we’ll be using a 24 foot extension ladder to get the remaining work done.October 18, 2023 at 5:14 PM in reply to: Monday Oct 16, 2023 – October is the new September #19091
Stranger danger!!! 🔪🩸😂
Jelly of all your nice weekday flights. I had to work, so I just enjoyed my late afternoon local 52 minute sledder. 😑😄
Jerome, thank you so much for leading the way! I wasn’t sure if I’d join you guys, but after I got that one big thermal in front of Crestline and saw you heading towards Marshall, I decided I’d try to follow along as far as I could. Turns out I was able to stick uncomfortably close to you almost the whole way! 😂
Good news everyone! Luke, Tim and Owen got Gracie running again! 🤘😎 Thanks guys!!!
John & Iaroslav, thank you for volunteering your help. We may need it in the future. If any of you have any expertise in repairing and driving heavy machinery and you’re willing to volunteer your time once in a while, please get in touch with Luke. He posted his phone number in this thread. We really do need more people who know what they’re doing, volunteering to fix the roads. 🙏🏻
No worries Billie. I know you haven’t been here for that. Not many people are aware of everything that happens around the LZ behind the scenes. I don’t know what the previous board allowed or condoned, but I bet a lot of it wasn’t discussed, voted on and approved like we thought.