Dear Shambhala Community Member,
A number of significant events have occurred since our last letter to you and we hope that you can take the time to read this update. You can also find more detail in recent updates to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on our website.
Interim Board Decisions:
- Requested the Sakyong to appoint the Interim Board (IB) as the Board of Directors of Shambhala with designated authority for two years. Please see below for details.
- Closed on the sale of Marpa House for $4.9 million.
- Paid off all Shambhala USA and Shambhala Canada long-term debt with the proceeds from the Marpa House sale, including the Sakyong Potrang promissory note secured by Marpa House.
- Initiated a search for a Director of Community Care and Conduct.
- Hired a Colorado law firm with extensive experience in helping organizations address allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct to investigate Shambhala’s involvement in child abuse allegations concerning a former member of Shambhala.
- Worked with all land centers to institute background checking for children’s and youth programs.
Interim Board Meeting with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
Seven of the eight members of the Interim Board were able to meet together at Karmê Chöling during the second weekend in August. At the same time, the Sakyong was nearby doing retreat practices including the 49-day ceremonies connected with the passing of his mother, Lady Könchök. During this time, the Sakyong met with two members of the Interim Board to discuss the future of the Board of Shambhala, as his consent to a Board resolution was necessary for the present board to continue past our current one-year term which ends on October 17, 2019. The next day, he invited all the board members to practice with him, and then afterwards affirmed his intention to grant the board continued authority over the organization for another two years, with the board having the authority to appoint new board members during that time period.
The next week, on August 17, the Sakyong as sole member of Shambhala USA and Shambhala Canada signed a resolution extending the term of six members of the Interim Board for three years and acknowledged the retirement of two of our members, Martina Bouey and Sara Lewis, effective October 17, 2019. For the next two years, he has relinquished his authority to replace or add board members after which time the Sakyong would regain his authority to hire or replace directors if he chooses. The resolution acknowledges that effective October 17, 2019, this group will become the Board of Directors of Shambhala, a change from our current interim status. Please see these signed resolutions by clicking here.
We will very much miss the involvement of Ms. Bouey and Dr. Lewis who have given so much to the IB. We wish them all the best as they leave the board to be able to focus on their careers.
The IB recognizes that work continues by the Process Team to address governance issues within Shambhala for the longer term. Our proposal to the Sakyong was not intended in any way to curtail those discussions and potential proposals for future governance structures. The IB, however, believed that the expiration of the IB’s term and authority on October 17, 2019 would occur too quickly for a major proposal about governance to be made, discussed and accepted. Second, a period of two years would provide sufficient time and allow for continuity and stability in governance for such a process to occur in a meaningful way.
The IB proposed that there be created a Mandala Nominating Committee, similar in purpose to the Transition Task Force, that would find, vet and propose candidates to the Board to replace outgoing Board members during this period. The Board will now begin a process for establishing a Mandala Nominating Committee.
The Sakyong also said that this would be a period for him to continue to focus on practice and abstain from involvement in the administration of Shambhala. We did not receive guidance from him on how to run Shambhala or how to relate to the community, nor did he share his plans for the future, other than that he would be returning shortly to Nepal to be with his family.
As a board, we feel it is our role to hold space for the community, to support dialogue and work toward understanding how we can sustain Shambhala now and in the future. We expect that this next year will be a time of reflection and focus on many key questions, including what it means to be a Shambhala Center and a Shambhala practitioner.
Marpa House and Related Financial Matters
On August 7, we closed on the contract with a third-party buyer whose offer we detailed in our July 30 communication to sell Marpa House for $4.9 million. We share in the community’s sadness to have to sell such a well-loved and significant property that has been a part of our mandala. We are also relieved to be able to resolve the overwhelming and unsustainable debt burden carried by Shambhala with the proceeds from the sale and to have the financial capability to support the initiatives that many have called for to take our community forward.
We were moved by the response many in the community expressed in their support of the Community of Marpa House proposal. Working directly with the Community of Marpa House (CoMH) group, we saw clearly how much time, energy and effort they put into preparing a backup offer that could have been considered only if the contract with the developer had fallen through. To better explain the contractual obligations that Shambhala operated under once we accepted the outside offer in May, we are providing more detail in the FAQs on our website. If you have questions about those obligations, or questions about why we did not pursue the offers from the CoMH, please read these FAQs.
Since the closing, the IB has used the proceeds from the Marpa House sale to retire liabilities of Shambhala USA and Shambhala CAN in the amount of USD $2,359,495. Shambhala USA and Shambhala Canada are now debt free, and the liens associated with these obligations, including Marpa House and Dorje Denma Ling, have been released. After payment of costs connected with the closing and transitional matters, the remaining balance will be approximately $2.5M. A detailed report of those payments will be made in the third quarter financial report.
The IB is working on a plan for the balance of the proceeds that will incorporate feedback from the community, Shambhala leaders, and the Process Team. It is the IB’s commitment to preserve these funds and not to use these one-time funds to aide recurring annual operations, except in exceptional cases where the need is critical and no other source of revenue is available. One immediate use of a portion of the proceeds will support Care and Conduct initiatives, hire an administrator to oversee the organization’s operations and provide urgently needed support for the Shambhala information technology infrastructure. We intend to create a protected endowment fund with a significant portion of the proceeds.
Care and Conduct Initiatives
We have several important efforts under way in this area:
I. Investigation into Child Abuse
The IB has engaged a third-party investigation firm, Employment Matters LLC Flynn Investigations Group, to help us better understand what occurred in the Michael Smith case. Smith has been arrested on allegations of sexually assaulting a minor with whom he had contact through the Shambhala community in the 1990s. A second woman came forward shortly after. Those girls, now adult women, came forward independently of each other after reading about the arrest of another former Shambhala member.
This investigation runs parallel to the ongoing criminal cases in Colorado and Vermont and is aimed at examining how Shambhala handled its knowledge and reporting of child sexual abuse internally. If any member of the community has information related to this case, please email Mark Flynn at email@example.com. If you know of any former members who have information related to the Michael Smith case, please encourage them to write to Mr. Flynn.
As a reminder, if you know of any incident of sexual assault, please contact your local law enforcement authorities.
In the case of Michael Smith, this investigation is something the Interim Board has chosen to do on top of, and in addition to, the ongoing criminal case so that we have the information needed to take appropriate action within our organization.
II. Care and Conduct Survey
As part of building a culture of feedback, we sent out our second survey on the topic of Care and Conduct on July 18. The survey closed on August 7, and is focused on understanding what the awareness of the Code of Conduct Policy is in Shambhala, which includes: how to find the policy; how to report harm or misconduct; and an opportunity to give feedback on the experience of going through the Care and Conduct process. This survey was sent to more than 12,000 current community members and former members who have left since 2015. We have received more than 3,000 responses, which is considered an excellent response rate for this type of survey. Thank you very much to everyone who took the time to complete this survey. While many of the responses are sobering, this is a very rich data set that we are already using to inform our Care and Conduct process. Members of the Process Team are working with the board on a preliminary report of the survey that we will publish next month.
If you didn’t receive the survey, please check your Shambhala Database profile to confirm that you have a valid email address and your preferences are set to receive emails from us. If those are both the case, then check your email spam folder or trash folder for the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
III. Director of Community Care and Conduct
As we announced last month, we are currently fundraising to hire a full-time Director of Community Care and Conduct who will oversee background checks, vetting of teachers, policy, reporting and training across the community. It is not appropriate or sufficient for an organization’s board of directors to manage these initiatives. Rather, the IB feels strongly that the organization needs to make it a priority to hire an appropriately compensated and qualified professional to oversee this area.
As soon as we are able to make this new hire, this individual will be responsible for implementing changes to our existing Care and Conduct Policy and Procedure. The data generated from the recent survey will inform these changes as well as ongoing efforts from a dedicated group within the Process Team. The salary for this position is planned to be funded by donors for the first year. In the 2020 budget, there will be a permanent line for this position. The director will work collaboratively with existing entities including the Care and Conduct Panel, the Dorje Kasung, Process Team groups, and others devoted to care.
IV. Code of Conduct Work
The Code of Conduct Task Force, a group comprised of Process Team members and members of the Care and Conduct Panel, has been working hard to develop a Code of Conduct and Complaints Procedure for the global Shambhala community. The work includes an Anti-Discrimination Policy, a Child Protection Policy and a Policy to address Sexual Misconduct. The results of the recent Care and Conduct survey are being analyzed and informing this new policy work. We expect to report more progress next month.
Appointments and Departures
We are delighted to announce that Betsy Henshaw-Railla has accepted an offer to become the new Executive Director for Karme Choling. Ms. Railla currently lives in Denver, Colorado and has been a student of Shambhala for eleven years. She has a Masters degree in International Environmental Policy and Non-Profit Management. She brings a professional background in development, community outreach, project management and staff training. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to departing Executive Director, Myra Woodruff who held the post fearlessly and wisely for the last six years and who plans to leave her post on November 1. Myra and Betsy will have a period of overlap before Betsy takes her seat.
- Boulder: Sarah Sutherland stepping down as Private Secretary to the Sakyong Wangmo.
- Denver: Glenn Austin stepping down as Shambhala Center Director after completing a three-year term.
- Minneapolis: Katherine Engel stepping down as Shambhala Center Director.
- Shambhala Europe: Katrin Stelzel stepping down as Secretary to the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo, Potrang Representative for Europe, Co-Managing Director for Shambhala Europe and as a member of Shambhala.
- San Antonio: Vinny Dorazio stepping down as Shambhala Center Director.
- Victoria BC: Silas Rose stepping down as Shambhala Center Director.
Finance Office and David Brown’s New Addresses
The Shambhala Global Services staff working in Halifax have now moved out of the Kalapa Centre, enabling us to find less expensive office space.
David MacLellan, Finance Officer, and John Shaw, Donor Relations, both with Shambhala’s Finance Office, moved to Kalapa Publications’ offices at 2178 Gottingen Street, Halifax NS B3K 3B4. David’s phone number is +1 902.425.4275 extension 1 and John’s is +1 902.425.4275 extension 2.
David Brown, Executive Secretary to Shambhala, has moved to the Halifax Shambhala Center at 1084 Tower Road, Halifax, NS B3H 2Y5
Canada. David’s phone number is +1 902.420.118 extension 129.
Thank you for your many messages. Please continue to email us at email@example.com.
Kind regards to all,
The Interim Board of Shambhala