How an Office Romance Went Off the Rails and Brought Down the NCPA's John Goodman
So it came as a surprise, to put it mildly, when the think tank announced in June that its board of directors had dismissed the 68-year-old Goodman as president and CEO. Goodman told the Dallas Morning News the charges weren't true, insisting that his ouster was the result of "trivial stuff." Reached by phone, one board member agreed that Goodman's dismissal was a "shocker," but declined to comment further. Very quickly, an iron curtain of institutional silence fell over l'affaire Goodman. The NCPA appointed an interim CEO, corporate-governance expert and talk-show host Dennis McCuistion, who said that business at the 501(c)(3) nonprofit would continue as usual while a permanent replacement for Goodman was sought.
What really led to the upheaval at the venerable conservative organization, though? According to documents, emails, and interviews with multiple sources familiar with the situation, Goodman's firing stemmed from an extraordinary arrangement that was made with an NCPA employee named Sherri Collins, after Collins accused Goodman of assaulting her in a Southern California hotel room in 2012, D CEO has learned. To avoid threatened litigation for violating "both state and federal discrimination laws" over a period of many months, Goodman agreed to promote Collins from an assistant's position to be the NCPA's director of human relations, at a yearly salary of $85,000, plus a guaranteed annual bonus and other benefits, for at least three years, sources say. Collins had done "aspects of HR work" at previous jobs, NCPA spokeswoman Catherine Daniell says.
When another employee came forward this spring to protest her treatment by the HR director, as well as the "relationship" between Goodman and Collins, sources say the relationship became the focus of scrutiny by the group's board members. For many if not most, this was the first they'd heard about it. At least one of the directors, John Strauss, raised questions about Collins's professionalism and the California incident, asked that his six-figure contribution to the NCPA be returned, and resigned his position on the board. Eventually the HR director left the organization.
In early June, Collins, then 47, was arrested at a house in Frisco for assault and criminal mischief. According to Frisco police, Collins had assaulted a "boyfriend" (not Goodman) by trying to hit him with a fake plant and throwing things across the living room at him. It wasn't Collins' first brush with the law. Texas Department of Public Safety records show she had been arrested four times in North Texas between 1997 and 2009, on charges ranging from assault and theft to criminal mischief.
According to the group's latest Form 990, filed for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2012, the NCPA had $4.13 million in revenue and expenses of $4.92 million, while Goodman's total compensation was $587,337 (see accompanying chart).
Goodman and the NCPA, which has a full-time staff of 22 plus a number of interns and part-time workers, hired Collins in 2011 as a "temp secretary," a former employee says, through the Recruit Texas employment agency. No background check was done on Collins. "John liked her," says the ex-employee. "He would rub her leg. She would smile. It seemed like two people in a relationship."
Then came the alleged altercation in Southern California. There, the source says Collins later told her and other NCPA employees, the "hotel room was torn up" after Goodman became jealous and upset with Collins and "apparently choked her." Afterward Collins phoned an NCPA official in Dallas about the incident, crying, and later threatened to file assault charges against Goodman, the source says.
"Settlement and release" and employment agreements resulting from the alleged incident gave Collins new status and freedom at the NCPA, the source says. Stipulations of the November 2012 agreements said that, unless the parties mutually agreed, Goodman would refrain from having any contact with Collins that wasn't related to the duties of her job--and that he would not act or speak in any way that could be construed as discrimination or sexual harassment. As the months went by, the source says, Collins "started to display a different personality around the office." According to the source, the HR director became increasingly "hostile, combative, and disrespectful" toward the source and other NCPA employees. That caused the source to complain in an email to Goodman, Collins, and the think tank's chief operating officer, Richard Walker, that the NCPA had become "a hostile work environment because of the ... harassment relationship that is taking place" between Goodman and Collins.
Not long afterward, the source says, she was fired. In March, she filed a complaint with the Dallas district office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The source added that Collins also had been let go following a "meltdown" in the office and was threatening legal action against Goodman and the NCPA, aiming to be paid for three full years of work, as stipulated in her employment agreement. In a document prepared by lawyers to rebut Collins' claims, the HR director was portrayed as the aggressor in the relationship with Goodman. The report also said Goodman believed Collins was suffering from a "multiple personality disorder."
So a woman with some criminal background (at least multiple arrests) gets hired as an office temp, plays herself into the foolish CEO's undies, manages to get (allegedly) "choked" by him, then uses this (alleged) event to blackmail the CEO into giving him an executive position with a big raise and an aptly named sweetheart deal
, turns into an office dragon, manages to ruin the position she played herself into ...