Attempted Mediation

Mike Farris had suggested when this whole thing had come to light that we should allow Peacemaker Ministries to mediate between us and HSLDA. Still believing that we needed to know more before entering into such an agreement, we waited until August 2006, before making our decision. We sent a letter to Mike Smith requesting that HSLDA enter into a Peacemaker mediation agreement with us.

In a show of good faith, we asked that the mediation be binding. Mike Smith emailed back that inherently; mediations are not binding and requested that an attorney from Texas, Tom Sanders, HSLDA’s go-to attorney in Texas, be employed as a mediator instead of Peacemaker Ministries. Mike assured us that Tom would be neutral. Since this was not to be a binding mediation, and since we knew that we could prove our innocence beyond a shadow of a doubt and HSLDA’s guilt, we agreed to this meeting.

A few days before this meeting was to take place, Chris Klicka interfered by calling and emailing Armin Eckermann to tell him that he had told us on numerous occasions that the money HSLDA had raised and sent to Germany was for attorneys and not for the Smiths. He told Armin that we just never “translated” it to Armin. Armin speaks English well enough that Chris could have called him. Chris certainly had his telephone number.

But the truth is that Chris had never said anything to us of this nature. He had always been supportive of us and the work we were doing. We sent him progress reports so that he would know that the money being sent to us was being wisely spent. And of course there was never any attorney fees mentioned in our reports.

Whatever funds were being used to support a case were used by me and my wife to travel and meet with families who had been summoned to appear in court. We would encourage them and help them to prepare. We would gather information for the attorneys who were taking their cases. But the attorneys were not being paid from out of the money HSLDA had collected for us.

The Meeting

Now keep in mind that Chris supposedly admitted in Mike Smith’s investigative report on May 24, that he knew that we were authorized to receive the funds HSLDA was sending to Germany. Here he says that we were not authorized to receive it.

Present at this meeting were Tom Sanders, Mike Smith, Chris Klicka, Joseph and Zelda Smith (not our real names). The evening before this meeting was to take place, we met with Tom, who wanted to inform us of the rules of the meeting. We were surprised to learn that the only representative from HSLDA scheduled to attend was Mike Smith. We asked that Chris Klicka be also present.

Tom left for a moment to call Mike Smith and returned to tell us that Chris would be present. By now we did not expect anything of truth to come out of Chris’ mouth. Especially I wanted Chris to tell us to our face what he had done. He would only attempt to attack my person and was not confessing what he had been telling others, namely that I had embezzled donated funds.

During the meeting, Chris claimed that from the very beginning he had had a difficult time working with me. He stated that he had great personal conflicts with me (This certainly is not true and the many emails between me and Chris do not reflect this in the least).

Chris attempted to make it appear to be a personal issue between himself and the Smith’s. He spoke many lies during this meeting, which I sometimes corrected in a nice but firm tone. He claimed that he had never told anyone that Joseph had a bad character nor that the Smith’s had taken money that did not belong to them. When Joseph mentioned an affidavit from an elder in James church, both Chris and Mike rose in their chairs, asking to see this affidavit. Tom had seen the affidavit so he knew that Chris had not been telling the truth.

HSLDA Board Unaware?

Since HSLDA was not willing to satisfy our demands at this meeting, we requested that they be allowed to present their grievance to HSLDA Board of Trustees. Mike was adamantly against this proposal and said that it could not be done. I then suggested that this could be settled quietly between HSLDA’s liability insurance carrier and us, which Mike also said would not be possible.

Following this meeting, I wrote to Mike Smith and Mike Farris, again requesting that we be allowed to present our claims to HSLDA’s Board. Following this letter, HSLDA’s Board attorney, James Mason, wrote to inform us that the Board would grant us a hearing. Our demands at this October mediation meeting were that our name be publicly cleared of all charges and that HSLDA give us $500,000 to cover some of our damages, and if it was in the hearts of these men to give us more.

I reminded Mike that if I understood it Biblically, HSLDA would be responsible to give us the $500,000 amount x 4 (Ps. 101:5; 2 Sa. 12:1-6; Lu. 19:5-10), but that the Smith’s would not demand the times 4-part. Mike responded that not only does HSLDA not have 2-million but they don’t have $500,000 and not even $200,000. Well we didn’t have the money either to offset what HSLDA’s actions against us had caused us to lose.

Lost in Translation?

End of September, beginning October 2006, only days before our mediation meeting was to take place in Leesburg, Virginia, Chris called the president of Schuzh, Armin Eckermann, to tell him that he had told the Smith’s on numerous occasions that the monies HSLDA raised and sent to Germany were designated only for attorneys. Armin disagreed with Chris and Chris emailed, “The Smiths were informed by me numerous times. They probably never translated it to you.”

Translated? Armin spoke English well enough to communicate with Chris and Chris had his phone number. Armin sent a letter to Chris on May 1, 2006, where he recalled a conversation between himself and Chris in the fall of 2004, while Chris was driving home from his church, accompanied by Armin, his wife, and Gabriele who were in Virginia visiting with the Klickas. Armin pointed out the minutes to Schuzh Board meetings of 2003, 2004, 2005. Chris had participated in these meetings either personally or by phone conference. He was sent these minutes in advance of these meetings as drafts so that he would know the topics to be discussed.

After the meetings, he was sent these minutes as decisions that were approved of by Schuzh Board, which included Chris. Armin then went on to say: “Perhaps you remember the discussion between you and me in your car driving back from your church to your home together with my wife Gabriele and most of your children at one of the last days of October 2004. The main object in this conversation was the remuneration of the Smiths. You expressed that the monthly sum the Smiths ask for is too large and that in small associations such as Schuzh the work usually will be done on the side. You agreed, it should be possible that perhaps Rich Smith earns money and Zelda makes the Schuzh work.” My wife and I were not aware of this conversation until we read Armin’s letter to Chris in May 2006.

In a report that Mike Smith sent us in May, 2006, Chris had lied saying that he knew nothing of an agreement that the Smiths were to receive money sent from HSLDA. He said that he operated under the belief that the money sent was being used to pay attorneys taking our cases.

Preparing for HSLDA Board Presentation

February 12, 2007, five-days before we were to present our case to the HSLDA board, Chris Klicka called a German homeschool leader, Joerg Grosselumern, to offer him and his 501C3 organization money from HSLDA. During the course of this phone call, Joerg asked Chris if he was still in contact with the Smiths. Chris then proceeded to tell Joerg that he was personally disappointed with the Smith’s because “among other things, HSLDA collected much money for Germany, but that the Smith’s used this money mostly for themselves, even though it was intended for homeschool families.”

Earlier, Chris had been telling others that the money HSLDA raised and sent to Germany was for attorneys and that the Smiths had misappropriated it. Now he tells this leader that the money was intended for German homeschool families and that the Smiths misappropriated it. We learned about this telephone conversation between Chris and Joerg from Armin Eckermann, president of Schuzh. Joerg was troubled about his phone conversation with Chris and called to talk about it with Armin.

When we visited Germany in early March, we procured a statement from Joerg and emailed it to HSLDA. HSLDA Board attorney James Mason responded: “We understand that you believe that you have been wronged and deserve compensation. Based on our understanding of the facts and the law we do not agree with your claims.” HSLDA’s claim is that the whole thing is a personal conflict between the Smith’s and Chris Klicka and therefore HSLDA is not responsible for Chris’ actions.

For crying out loud, Chris Klicka is an HSLDA attorney and employee! He was acting in an official HSLDA capacity when he contacted people concerning us. Who wouldn’t believe him, a poor soul with MS, and a Christian attorney? Beginning in the year 2005, HSLDA began to enter into the remarks column of their electronic transfers: “To German homeschoolers.” Before, the remarks column had been left blank. When HSLDA sent money for me and my family to relocate to America in December 2005, the remarks column of their electronic transfers stated: “To German homeschoolers.”

They made two transfers in the amount of $2,000 each. In Mike Smith’s report dated 24 May 2006, he states that “HSLDA provided $5,000 to relocate to the United States”, whereas in truth it was $2,000. Gregg Harris had pledged to match HSLDA’s contribution for our relocation to Houston. HSLDA offered $2,000, Gregg sent $2,000 to HSLDA who forwarded it to us for a total of $4,000. We were thankful for their help. Why would we suspect anything underhanded to be going on behind our back between our friends who were helping us and with James McDonald, a pastor?

February 16, 2007, we met with HSLDA board members in Palm Springs, California. We saw to it that all of our children were present because we wanted Mike Farris to look in their eyes considering what HSLDA had done to them also (Our children had close contacts with both Mike Farris and Chris Klicka and had trusted them completely). When James Mason came to escort me and my wife into the meeting room I asked that we be allowed to bring our children along and introduce them to the board members. James denied this request, stating that there was not enough seating in the meeting room (this was not true as we saw upon entering the room).

So we asked if our oldest son, Klaus could attend. This request was also denied. As we were walking to the meeting room, I chatted with James. I asked him if he by chance had had my oldest brother, Dr. Ronald Smith, for a math class at Oregon State University. I knew that James had attended OSU so thought to make it more personal with him. He was nervous and brought us to the wrong door. The board had given us exactly one-hour to present our case. We wrote our presentation so that it would consume the entire hour.

We certainly did not want to be grilled by two attorneys, a trial lawyer and a judge, Kenneth Johnson. We were merely laymen. One of the questions the board had submitted before the meeting was “what would it take to make the Smith’s whole?” I responded that nothing could make us whole since I now have cancer, our good name was destroyed, job and business opportunity was lost, and the Smith’s now have bad credit due to HSLDA’s interference.

I stated that “we believe that a sum of $5,000,000 is needed to compensate us for our losses, and for the pain and suffering our family has been put through, and to secure the future of our family and ministries.” We did not expect HSLDA to pay us this amount, but wanted to let them know the seriousness of what their actions against us had caused. And I admit that I was angry that Chris Klicka was still operating behind our back. I was hoping that throwing out this sum would cause these men to wake up.

HSLDA’s board attorney, James Mason, responded a few weeks after this meeting that the HSLDA board was not willing to pay 5-million. However, they would like to look at how they could put us back into our ministry in Germany. I sent them an amount of $2.2 million that I had calculated would get us through ten-years of ministry in Germany. Later, I would send them a detailed report of how I arrived at this figure.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are not talking here about giving the Smiths money for their personal expenses over a ten-year period but rather money to be raised and spent to help realize a freedom of education in Germany and in effect a freedom of education in the entire EU. This is not a lot of money for such an endeavor. HSLDA has an annual budget of over 8-million. We were willing to forgo personal losses caused by HSLDA’s treacherous actions against us in order to complete our mission in Germany.

So returning us to our ministry in Germany was worth more than any money they could have paid personally to us for our living. We were dedicated to Germany and to helping poor families there to be able to preserve their children for Christ.


Legal Mumbo Jumbo

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