Monday, June 23, 2008

taking a stand.

I guess I'm ready to sit down and write about this now. I was thinking that maybe I wouldn't, maybe I would just let it go and move on, but now I am hearing that my good name is being drug through the mud, so here I am.

It's coming out, ALL OF IT:

I have been a loyal, dedicated employee of the Laff Stop for almost 4 years now. I was hired on as the "Office Manager" in 2004 under Pete Prelli. Pete as you all know, had his issues, but that's another story entirely. I came on to work under him and within 6 months had taken over the operational aspects of everything in that business so that he would be free to come and go as he please, or be there at night, or whatever excuses were made as to why I was doing all the work all the time.

THEN late in 2006, as has happened with so many others, I got into it with Pete and I quit. While I was nice enough to stay on for a couple of months to ease the transition, I was gone by October of 2006. In December of 2006, I got a call from Jeff McFerrin (the silent partner in the Laff Stop) begging me to come back on, offering me a raise, and letting me know that he was getting ready to out Pete from the club completely, and that he needed me to take over fully when Pete was gone. So of course, out of obligation to the Laff Stop, the comedy scene, and the sheer magnitude of the opportunity itself, I said "yes".

I came back, suffered through 6 more months of tyranny with Pete, keeping Jeff's little secret, and waiting for my turn. Finally the time came, Jeff cut the cord with Pete. Jerry and I lost friends, we had to have security around at all times due to the dangerous situation Jeff put us in, but we powered through. Jeff did not send Pete to jail for embezzling over $300,000.00 over the course of 3 years, nor did he seek ANY punitive damages from him. In fact, he PAID Pete an additional $10,000.00 just to shut up and walk away. Does that make sense to anyone??

The next 3 months were indescribable. I lived in fear for my life, I screened ALL of my calls, and I never went anywhere alone at night. I was too afraid. Jeff had left too many loose ends with Pete, and I knew that I was the 1 target. But guess what? I kept moving forward. I had to. The comedy scene needed me, the Laff Stop needed me, and Jeff McFerrin needed me. So I kept booking shows, I kept trying to come up with new ways to cultivate the comedy scene, and I always entertained ideas from the local comics to help get them involved in "their" club. I worked nights, I worked weekends, all in addition to my daytime 9-5, just to get the club moving on the right track again.

At the beginning of 2008, after I had been giving my heart, my soul, and my LIFE to the Laff Stop and to Jeff, I was told it was being considered for sale. Honestly, I didn't worry much. The Laff Stop has been "in the red" for about 3 years now, and only an idiot would sign on to take that kind of financial obligation over. I mean, the rent is $15,000/month alone. Then factor in comic fees, taxes, payroll, and all the other bills and expenses, and you're looking at needing $70,000.00 a month in INCOME just to BREAK EVEN. We've been averaging about $15,000 a month in income, so you can see where this is going...

In another attempt to ease my nerves, Jeff promised me that he would make sure that no matter what "he could still shut down and pay rent & severance of a few months' salary to me and still be in a better situation." So I felt pretty good... even if the club couldn't make it, at least I wouldn't walk away empty handed. So I carried on, business as usual. He kept me posted on what was going on, but nothing was happening and we weren't getting any bites. Then Don Learned shows up. Don and Jeff start having all these meetings, and all of a sudden I'm getting a really bad feeling about things.

Next, they come to me and reveal the plan. Don's pretty much broke, so he can't BUY the Laff Stop outright as planned. What Jeff has decided to do is bring Don on (like another "Pete" arrangement) where he would be running the club and Jeff is still the owner. They start talking about downsizing, closing the office, firing everyone and "starting fresh". They talked about closing down Open Mic, canceling the contest forever, and kuput to all the showcase shows. I lost it. They weren't even going to let me tell my 20 some-odd employees, they wouldn't let me give them ANY notice OR compensation at all, and then they pulled MY severance package. That was the last straw.

I laid it down to Jeff in an incredibly unflattering email. (Unflattering for him... if you wanna read that too, let me know I'll be happy to share it.) Sure, it was harsh, it was pointed, and it was every "civil" attempt at chopping him off at the knees that I could come up with. I reminded him of what he would be facing if I left, reminded him that the staff is going to lynch him, and and reminded him of his "promises" that, coming from Jeff McFerrin mean absolutely squat.

He didn't even bother calling me back before he changed the locks on the club.

So, I was "fired" for standing up for what I believed in. For trying to get some severance to spread meagerly around to my employees, and for trying to get this "Loyal, Fair AGGIE" who supposedly lives by the credo of "AGGIE integrity" (maybe he should look that word up...) to stand by his word as a MAN, and as a leader. Sucks huh?

So yeah, I fell on the sword... in hopes that others would be saved, and even more would be educated. It has been nothing but detrimental to me, I mean, come on, I'm jobless, I've got a wedding to pay for in 2 months, we definitely won't be taking a honeymoon now, and on top of that my name is being smeared by someone who doesn't even deserve to speak it. So yeah, I'm speaking up to anyone who will listen. And when I go to bed each night I PRAY that nothing but misfortune befalls Jeff McFerrin, Don Learned, and the Laff Stop.

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