CBLDF Tries to Rebuild Image After Brownstein Scandal, But is New Appointee an Improvement?

Publisher’s Weekly wrote about what the CBLDF is doing now that director Charles Brownstein’s resigned for his past sexual misconduct, and who their new interim director is:

 

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has appointed Jeff Trexler its interim director, effective immediately. He succeeds Charles Brownstein, who resigned from the position in June after allegations of assault leveled against him resurfaced. […]

Trexler will oversee and update the CBLDF’s operations and its mission. He will also be charged with restoring the organization’s credibility and stature in the comics community after the departure of Brownstein, who held the executive director position at CBLDF for 18 years.

 

Trouble is, Trexler’s got some pretty questionable connections himself, namely, to Comics Beat’s Heidi MacDonald, as she revealed on August 13. Although a different writer for her site posted news about the Brownstein resignation, she herself did not seem to originally address it in the several weeks after it was announced, and while she does write about it this time, she avoids any mention of her apologia from 2006. What she does tell about Trexler, however, could be cause for concern:

 

While the group attempts to move forward, they have named lawyer Jeff Trexler as interim director. Since Jeff is not only a longtime contributor to the Beat but has also represented me personally in several legal matters, I’ll let the PR below speak to his background and qualifications. I will say that he certainly knows the law, ethical standards and comics, and if the CBLDF is to be relevant to today’s industry and regain the trust of the community, it’s a solid first step — but only a first step.

 

Yeah, I’ll bet. Why should we fully trust somebody who’s been employed by a such a dishonest propagandist? She’ll certainly need his counsel if the Whisper Network faces legal action over their shady activities. Or, if he doesn’t want his credibility questioned, he’d do well to distance himself from MacDonald for a change, because her past conduct, right down to her aforementioned apologia for Brownstein 14 years back, is embarrassing.

As a result, there’s no telling if Trexler will have much luck in restoring CBLDF’s reputationNon-Profit Quarterly said:

 

CBLDF’s board nonresponse has alienated supporters and highlighted concerns with the organization’s structure, policies, and procedures. Three board members have retired or resigned since Brownstein’s departure: Paul Levitz, a former president and publisher at DC Comics; Jeff Abraham, president of Penguin Random House Publisher Services; and Katherine Keller, a librarian at the University of Nevada Las Vegas’s College of Education.

Even now, the response has been wanting. The June press release regarding Brownstein’s resignation was formal and rote, omitting Brownstein’s reasons for leaving. Subsequent press releases sought to address what CBLDF itself characterized as “stilted and clumsy” communications. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, CBLDF President Christina Merkler’s attempt to explain the board’s inaction reads more like an abdication of responsibility than an admission of failure […]

But even with a leadership change, rebuilding trust in CBLDF will be an uphill climb. The organization has seen an exodus of comics professionals and individual supporters who’ve publicly disavowed it. Corporate members, including publishers Boom! Studios and Dark Horse Comics, have dropped from the organization’s website.

“I’m feeling pretty pessimistic about the CBLDF’s ability to change,” said comics artist Tyler Crook. “I think our industry might be better served with a new organization built on stronger foundations and with a stronger moral compass.”

While Merkler argues the current board had no knowledge of the allegations toward Brownstein nor the use of nondisclosure agreements to gag former employees, it doesn’t absolve them of complicity. Further, Merkler’s statements to the Hollywood Reporter claiming innocence due to board members’ limited level of engagement diminish the value of the nonprofit’s board of directors.

 

 

All valid arguments, I’d say. It reminds me of Temple University’s board of trustees, who were accused of failure to take action against Bill Cosby after Andrea Constand went public with her accusations against him. And there’s a vital point to make that having a woman as president of an outfit does not guarantee they’ll act responsibly. Just look at how things turned out in Germany under Angela Merkel. Or what it was like in Britain when Theresa May was premier. So if Merkler bears any accountability on her part for failing to get rid of Brownstein when they had the chance, this should be no surprise. Women can be just as Orwellian double-thinking in their conduct as men, and just as desensitized to violence. Only a good education teaching responsibility and altruism ensures a safer workplace.

 
Maybe Trexler will try and make things better at the organization, and he’ll even keep afar from MacDonald in the future. But if not, the chances of the CBLDF collapsing are much higher.
 
 
Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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