September 13th, 2011
Legion of Tech got screwed. Let’s help unscrew them.
[Full disclosure: Just like a bunch of other people in Portland, I've supported the Legion of Tech and their efforts as a participant, a volunteer, a regular sponsor, and an advisor.]
This is a difficult post to write. Well, that’s phrasing it nicely. To be honest, this is a shitty post to have to write. But the Legion of Tech was such a strong presence and core to our tech community that it deserves a post and discussion. Especially in hopes that other well-meaning organizations not repeat similar mistakes.
The Legion of Tech—an organization that served as hub for a burgeoning new generation of technology and startup types in Portland—is, for all intents and purposes, unable to continue functioning.
Don’t recognize this organization? Well, if you’ve moved to Portland recently, you might not. Several years ago, the organization was composed of volunteers who managed local tech events like BarCamp Portland and Ignite Portland. It has been all but dormant for two years.
Roughly two years ago, the organization had been severely hamstrung and weakened by the act of a lone board member, Todd Kenefsky, embezzling from the organization. In reparation, Kenefsky admitted to the theft of funds, apologized for his actions, and agreed to a plan to repay the organization plus interest—a debt totaling approximately $29,000.
[T]he most severe hardship we’ve faced is the substantial embezzlement by a former board member. The financial harm to our organization has been nearly fatal. We incurred several thousand dollars in legal fees during the process of responding to the embezzlement. Also, because a large portion of the embezzlement occurred through improper use of a credit card, Legion of Tech assumed and is still paying off a significant amount of debt. All of these things have depleted our financial reserves in a very detrimental way. The monthly payments required to keep our debt in good standing means that our basic operating overhead is very high compared to what it once was.
Now the LoT has revealed that the organization has been further crippled by Kenefsky defaulting on the payback plan established for the restitution of those stolen funds.
It’s a death spiral from which the Legion of Tech is not likely to recover.
It’s true that we could continue to raise funds for programs as we have in the past, and try to over-fundraise in order to cover our administrative overhead (including debt incurred as a result of fraud). However, we feel that to do so would be disingenuous at best, and unethical at worst. We don’t want a single penny of the community’s money unwittingly going towards debt incurred via embezzlement or to legal fees.
What this means is that Legion of Tech will cease its programs for the foreseeable future.
A number of people in the Portland tech community poured their hearts and souls into this organization. And given that it’s an organization that did so much to help bring the tech community together, its demise is even more gut wrenching.
Question may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where do we go from here?
One of the most impressive components of the Portland tech community has always been its sense of, well, community. This would be a good time to show off that collegial attitude.
We have friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who have been fucked over by trying to do good. And that sucks.
If anyone has creative ideas on how to help the organization deal with this debt, please don’t hesitate to contact Legion of Tech.
This organization helped the community. And they did it for free. And they got completely screwed. If we could help them—by literally repaying the favor—it would save a number of members of our community a bunch of undue stress.
Obviously, it’s the people most hurt by the situation are the ones who are stuck with this burden.
It’s not much but I’ll be contributing all on-going job board and advertising revenue from Silicon Florist to the Legion of Tech. And I’m more than happy to promote other efforts to help this organization out of its current predicament.
Right now, it sounds like every little bit will help.