MESSAGE FROM THE REFUGE RECOVERY BOARD OF DIRECTORS
A large percentage of the Refuge Recovery community has a 12-step recovery background, and this issue is one of the main justifications for their Tradition 12, which advises to always place principles before personalities. As seen on this video, Mr. Levine’s response to these concerns was to treat his role as a temporary one, even conceding that eventually his name needed to come off the book.
When the sexual misconduct allegations surfaced, the Executive Committee of our board asked him to step down as a director to protect the non-profit as much as possible under the circumstances, and he reluctantly agreed. The work of the Asset Sharing Committee then took on a sense of urgency.
In effect, this would create a Refuge Recovery lineage of teachers. This new vision of Mr. Levine’s created another enormous conflict of interest and directly contradicted a number of earlier statements he’d made to the Refuge Recovery board.
In fact, Mr. Levine participated a few weeks prior in a meeting of our Teacher Committee to share his thoughts on how the non-profit should manage retreats and never once said he planned to unilaterally do the work himself for profit.
We believe Mr. Levine’s action threatened the very existence of the non-profit. We explained our concern to Mr. Levine in July and told him that if he didn’t reconsider using the Refuge Recovery name in this manner that we felt we had no choice but to take legal action to protect the non-profit. We gave him every opportunity to change his mind, but talks broke down in October.
At that time, Mr. Levine also hired Tuller as the executive director. A few months later the board was greatly expanded through a solicitation and application process much like AA’s, and today there are nine members.
We have not added any additional board members since Mr. Levine left our board, so all nine of our current board were selected by Mr. Levine. Mr. Levine’s lawsuit against the Refuge Recovery non-profit is his attempt to delegitimize a board, consisting of nine people he hand-picked for the job, simply because he disagrees with them.
- a major network producer in New York, who was an editor for Random House,
- a treatment center CEO,
- an IT professional and past president of a Zen community,
- a manufacturer’s rep for the largest cosmetics company in the world,
- a theatrical production specialist for Blue Man Group,
- a tech entrepreneur and MBA with experience in intellectual property law,
- a retired CFO and Internal Auditor, who practiced law for 25 years,
- a government planner with a law degree from UC Berkeley,
There are very strict laws about what directors of a non-profit can and cannot do (legally speaking these are “fiduciary duties”). These laws are usually enforced by either the IRS or the Attorney General’s Office of the state where the non-profit operates.
When an officer or director of a non-profit breaches their fiduciary duty, it can result in fines and the revocation of the charity’s non-profit status. Our lawsuit against Mr. Levine and his business entities details a lengthy history of Mr. Levine treating the non-profit like a personal business, and several acts that we believe were illegal breaches of one or more of his fiduciary duties.
However, once Mr. Levine refused to cooperate, he put us in a position where we had no choice but to pursue judicial intervention. If we had not, this would be a breach of our fiduciary duty to protect the rights and assets of the non-profit. It not only would have been morally and ethically wrong, arguably we might have exposed ourselves to legal liability.
It is our belief that rebranding would undo this progress; in fact, the basis of the lawsuit rests on the principle that the “brand” has value in and of itself, which is being diminished by the for-profit actions being undertaken by companies with the same name.
For this to happen the meeting needs to be listed somewhere, and there needs to be a shared understanding of what the basic elements of a meeting actually are. For AA to be where they are now has required decades of outreach and education and very well thought out requirements built into their regional licensing. In addition, AA has a very careful and thorough process to develop, adopt, and distribute literature in support of its mission. In Refuge Recovery, we are just at the beginning of this process, but if our organization is not allowed to continue its work, the possibility is very real that the term Refuge Recovery could become completely meaningless, and if that happens, it might be very hard to find a meeting.