by Billy Manes
As expected, this morning the Metropolitan Business Association and Come Out With Pride issued a joint statement this morning regarding the Nov. 4 termination of executive director Mikael Audebert. There's a lot to infer between the lines here, but sources who attended (yet another) emergency meeting on the topic last night confirm that the groups are coalescing behind the notion that Audebert exhibited "gross mismanagement" in his role and, in breaking the bylaws while trying to separate COWP from the MBA (taking the former with him on the way out the door), he behaved "illegally." This story just gets deeper and deeper; you can read a previous account here that also includes some excellent reporting by the Watermark staff. We've been speaking to several former MBA board members about problems with Audebert that may have led to his dismissal, and one resounding suggestion has been that we should "just Google him." We did, somewhat creatively (as he has operated under numerous aliases), and found a pretty remarkable rap sheet.
Organized Fraud? Grand Theft? According to the Seminole County Clerk of Courts, there is a hearing scheduled for this week on the matter, and the charges are Grand Theft of over $100,000 and Organized Fraud of over $50,000 (allegedly in connection with a travel company he operated). According to Audebert, at least via his Wordpress blog from 2009, it's all a big lie.
Today, my name is dragged in mud. Mostly because one individual was able to convince others I was this mastermind criminal who was determined to ruin them and flee with their money. One is to wonder how bad of a criminal I would be for ending a 10 year run worst off than when I started! One is to wonder if maybe, maybe that individual has been watching too much CNN, bernie Madoff reports and other daytime soap operas. There is NOTHING MORE to this whole closing than the simple failure of a business to make it through hard economic times. For god sakes, it’s happening right here, right now, daily. By the hour small businesses are closing. I can understand the anger, I can understand people being upset when they lose money. I am not without having my own experiences with closed business owing me money. My now closed business was owed over $20,000 from different customers and suppliers. But there are legal avenues, there are legal processes in place. Destroying someone’s reputation with hearsay IS NOT the way to go. Unless one has all the facts and one is absolutely certain of what one is stating, one should simply shut up and let the legal processes (small claims court, bankruptcy court, etc..) take their course. On top of wasting taxpayers money in endless investigations brought forward based on hearsay and anger, individuals who decide to make revenge a priority over finding a solution destroy lives and reputations in the process that could often lead to diar consequences. And just a thought
how does a destractor reconcile sending someone to jail with collecting on what is owed to them? Wouldn’t it make more sense to come up with a settlement agreement which could be paid off quickly so long the business’ reputation is not ruined instead of ruining the reputation first, making that business loose over $140,000 in new contracts and be forced to close? Wait, that’s it! That would have been the PERFECT solution. Well I bet you that destractor feels a bit less smart now
I say it here, I say it now. If I was a criminal as stated on various websites, I would be back in my home country by now rather than fearing day in and day out for my life, my reputation and my freedom. Europe is an amazing continent and living there would make my life right now so much easier. If I was a criminal as stated on various website, I would not be counting pennies to pay bills, I would be sipping on a cocktail in the caribbean or Africa.
Regardless, the LGBT community is severely divided on the Audebert issue, with all the slurs you might expect showing up on social media (we expect we'll find some when this blog is published, natch). Audebert has maintained a low public profile, but occasionally has posted messages, again, declaring his innocence and his taking of the "high road." We'll see. Expect more reporting as we go through the financials and talk to the principals over the coming weeks. For now, sheesh! Here's the press release in full:
MEMBER STATEMENT - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 18, 2014, Orlando, FL – The Boards of the Metropolitan Business Association (“MBA Orlando”) and its subsidiary Come Out With Pride (“COWP”), together with nearly two dozen community members, have met several times over the last two weeks. Focus continues to be primarily on checks and balances, financial stewardship, and communication between the organizations.
MBA Orlando also wishes to directly address the November 4 termination of then COWP Executive Director Mikael Audebert (also former MBA Orlando President), for gross mismanagement, serious violations of his COWP contract, and making unauthorized changes to COWP bylaws in an unsuccessful attempt to illegally separate the organizations. Both Boards agree that this termination was necessary to prevent significant damage to the organizations, their members, and the community. The boards will continue investigating irregularities in the financial records and working towards an audit, as well as correcting the numerous attempts to disrupt COWP and MBA regular operations.
While carrying out this termination, MBA Orlando temporarily suspended the board of COWP, and apologizes for any negative connotation this protective action may have unintentionally implied.
Both MBA Orlando and the Come Out With Pride are dedicated to moving forward together to make both better and stronger than ever before.
“We take seriously our responsibility to our members and our community. These have been difficult decisions and important changes are needed to move forward,” said MBA Orlando Board President, Nayte Carrick, who was, last week, confirmed in his new position.
“We grow the most in hard times, and with unbelievable community support, it strengthens our commitment to our missions,” commented PRIDE Board President, Brian Smith.
MBA Orlando was founded 22 years ago as a 501(c)6 membership organization, with the mission to “lead the way for development, advocacy and growth of the LGBT business community and its allies.” It then founded Come Out With Pride in 2005 as a signature fundraising and community event under then President, Ms. Debbie Simmons, and later registered COWP as a 501(c)3 under then President, Dr. David Baker-Hargrove. This was followed a few years later by the formation of a board and team dedicated solely to carrying out this mission under then President, Ms. Gina Duncan.
The Boards of MBA Orlando and Come Out With Pride continue working diligently to move forward collectively.