Church Elder talks with Chris Klicka

Though neither the elder of James church nor I remember who initiated the call, we spoke on the phone around noon on March 3 to schedule a meeting between us. I knew that he had been suffering from laryngitis and so told him that this meeting was not urgent. I was very surprised when two-hours later he knocked on my door. I hadn’t expected him.

I sensed that there was something wrong. I knew that he knew me and James were having problems. I led him into the living room area and invited him to be seated and went to my home office to retrieve letters of recommendation I had received in late 2004 from national leaders across America for fundraising purposes. My intention was to show him that I was a trustworthy individual so that when I addressed to him the problems I was having with James he might believe me.

He glanced through the letters and then asked if I had Chris Klicka’s telephone number. He then asked me to call Chris so that a phone conference could be arranged between Chris Klicka, James McDonald, him and me. I was happy to accommodate his request and immediately called Chris in his presence. My telephone conversation with Chris was cordial as always. I always made it a point to get Chris to laugh when I spoke with him on the phone. Chris offered that he would be available all afternoon for a conference call.

The elder immediately left and went outside (for what I believed to make a private phone call) and I remained in the living room awaiting his return. Once outside he called James McDonald and asked him to come to my house where we would all call Chris together. When James arrived (me being unaware of what was going on outside), James called Chris, and then handed the phone over to the elder.

Chris told this elder that I “had used funds for private living expenses that HSLDA had raised to be used exclusively for attorney fees associated with defending German homeschooling families.” Because of this Mr. Klicka did not consider Mr. Smith to be a trustworthy individual. [The elder] reminded Mr. Klicka of the command of Matthew 18 to confront a person caught in sin before telling others in the Church.

Mr. Klicka acknowledged that command but said that if he followed such a course, Mr. Smith might make the issue public to the great detriment of HSLDA’s mission and the greater homeschooling movement. [The elder] reminded Mr. Klicka that Christ commands our obedience regardless of the outcome we expect.

Mr. Klicka indicated, “Mr. Smith was not a stable person and that Mr. Smith’s management style was not compatible with his.” This is quoted from an Affidavit signed by this elder.

In the middle of this conversation, the elder ran into my house and asked me where the letters of recommendations were that I had shared with him a few minutes earlier? I gave them to him and he told me that he was looking for the ones from HSLDA. I told him that I only had only one and that was from Mike Farris. He glanced over it and left to go back outside, leaving the door open. I now saw both the elder and James in the driveway. The elder was talking to someone on a cell phone.

I was amazed to see James there and the elder on the phone so I went outside to find out what this was all about. I overheard the elder confronting Chris that it was his biblical duty to confront Joseph personally. This caused me to become suspicious about the whole matter. What in the world did Chris have to do with all of this? The elder ended the conversation shortly after I arrived and handed the phone back to James who walked away out of hearing distance, continuing his conversation with Chris.

I asked the elder what was going on? He responded that I had no credibility until I would straighten things out with Chris. I pleaded with him to tell me what this was all about. How could I make things right with Chris if I didn’t know what it was I needed to make right? He held fast to his position of refusing to tell me. He continued to say that I first needed to call Chris and make things right with him.

After he and James left, I immediately called Chris to inquire of the matter. Chris would only offer that he and I had a difference in management style. His voice had changed from a friendly tone in which we had always spoken to a very low and hostile tone. I had never before heard him speak in this tone and was taken aback.

I began to recollect with him the history of the relationship between the Smiths and the Klickas. He remained silent. When I could no longer get a response, I believed the phone connection was lost so I hung up and tried several times over the next half hour to reach him so that we could continue our conversation.

Surely there was something that I did not understand. When Chris failed to answer I became very distressed. What in the world was going on? There had to be a mistake. I couldn’t imagine what the problem might be. The Smiths relationship with HSLDA attorneys and especially Chris Klicka had always been very warm and cordial. I could think of nothing I or any one of my family could have done. This was all perplexing.

Now James began to tell me that he was looking for an exit strategy. That he could no longer have me around. I was frantic. I had a family to take care of. I had signed an eighteen month lease agreement for our house. I had signed an agreement to buy a car on a payment plan. James had fooled me into signing a “placeholder” contract, which would cut me off from the revenues of my sales with termination of the working relationship. What in the world was happening here? Why was this happening?

Eventually the elder shared with me the accusations against me. Zelda and I were speechless. We were dumbfounded. We felt betrayed. But at least we now knew why James and Stacey McDonald had acted toward us as they had since our arrival in Houston. The elder asked us to gather documents that would exonerate me of the charges, which I did and which convinced this man of my innocence.

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