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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Shea's board also writes to the Buffalo News

a newspaper clipping
Letters from the Shea's board president and from 12 former Shea's employees, juxtaposed in today' Buffalo News.

Today's opinion page in the Buffalo News is even more intriguing than I anticipated. In addition to a letter from former Shea's staff members in support of current employees who have complained of a toxic work environment, there is a letter from the president of the Shea's board of trustees, Randall K. Best of Gernatt Asphalt Products, Inc., defending the board's handling of the situation. Indeed, in the print edition, the letters are juxtaposed, one above the other to facilitate comparison.

Best writes, "On behalf of the board of Shea’s Performing Arts Center, I want to assure our patrons, fans and the general public that the board thoroughly reviewed the current state of our organization. We do not take lightly the concerns staff members expressed about working at Shea’s. Yet we also must be respectful and appropriate in all our decisions."

What is the exact term for this sort of writing? Public relations? Propaganda? Lip service?

So the board thoroughly reviewed its own decisions and actions and found themselves to be above reproach. That is so reassuring.

Actually, in an interview with Mark Sommer of the Buffalo News, published on September 3rd, Best explicitly stated that the board, not only takes staff concerns lightly, they disregard them entirely. ""Sometimes, when we allowed a group of people to be together, the volume just got out of control," Best said. "So now you wonder, is it the heat of the moment? Is it a mob mentality? We couldn't be sure, and we had to rest our conclusion on the studies we hired and paid for."

Yes, they ignored the staff's impassioned grievances -- partly because they were inconvenient, partly because they were impassioned -- and they went with the happy conclusions of the studies they had hired and paid for. Then they fired Bill Patti, the general manager who had the unenviable task of being the messenger of grievances from employees who, fearful of retaliation, would not give their names. In view of Patti's firing, their fears do not seem unfounded.

The appearance of this letter, months after this situation began boiling over, suggests that the board has not been handling this matter in exemplary fashion. Crisis Communication 101 -- get out in front of the story. Tell as much of the truth as you can, as soon as you can. Instead, this board has operated in secrecy, and has endeavored to delay and manipulate the story. According to the Buffalo News, the board ignored requests for interviews for nearly a month, before finally agreeing to answer questions. Now this, a transparently manipulative op-ed piece.

What we are left with is a board that sees the need to be "respectful and appropriate" to a CEO who is accused of being disrespectful and inappropriate, and that dismisses the grievances of those who suffer under his leadership. They are living in their own reality and willing to be ruthless to enforce that reality.


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