New Owners of Homeschool Today

James McDonald agrees to give Homeschool Today to Mr. Smith

My wife and I met with James and his wife Stacey on February 25 to further discuss my taking ownership of the magazine and to close the deal. (I had been discussing taking the magazine since early February). It was agreed upon by all parties that I would become the new owner pending a few minor details that needed to be worked out.

What was strange was that Stacey interrupted James at one point to remind him that he could not sell the magazine to me. James brushed her aside, telling her that it was ok. We ended up shaking hands over the deal and leaving to go our separate ways. Zelda and I were excited because now we would have a business that would employ each member of our family and felt certain that we would eventually be able to finance our Germany mission. If my present sales volume continued we would be in fine shape in no time.

The following morning, February 26, I emailed Chris Klicka, Mike Smith, and Mike Farris, HSLDA attorneys in leadership positions and trusted confidents to give them a heads-up that the Smiths would become the new owners of Homeschooling Today magazine.

I wrote, “Well, a new turn in my situation. James McDonald has agreed to step aside and give me Homeschooling Today Magazine. My plan is to use it to instill in the next generation of homeschoolers a vision to carry on the work of their parents. You can count on me to promote HSLDA and PHC in all that I do. I will keep you informed.”

Mike Farris responded in an email on February 27: “What good news!!! Congratulations. I will look forward to working with you even more closely”. Mike Smith and Chris Klicka did not respond to my email.

Instead, Chris Klicka acted behind my back, calling James in the afternoon to remind him of what he had told James before I arrived to begin my employment with James. February 26, in the afternoon James called me to complain that his selling of the magazine was now known outside of Houston. We had never agreed to keep this confidential. In fact, I had asked James if I could confer with others about it so that we could already begin to forge partnership relationships.

I emailed and called a former magazine owner and publisher to ask her if she would be interested to go into a full partnership with me. I had asked James specifically if I could talk to her and he agreed that I could. I asked if I could speak it over with James’ bookkeeper and her accountant husband and he agreed that I could.

James never hinted that I should keep confidential that I would become the new owner of the magazine. It was important that I be able to discuss this with others so that I could begin to prepare.

He called me in the afternoon to complain that the word had gotten outside of Houston that he would give up ownership to me. In addition to HSLDA, I had also told one of James’ church members of the agreement we had made with James. This man had visited me and my family in Germany and he and his family took us in when we first arrived in Houston. I thought perhaps that he had mentioned something to someone outside of Houston because his job called for him to travel a great deal.

I certainly did not expect that any of my three friends (trusted confidents!) at HSLDA had said anything. I was certain that they would have contacted me first to talk it over before saying anything to anyone else. Mike Farris’ email of congratulations is more what I would have expected from them. So, I only mentioned to James that I had talked to one of his church members. He never inquired if I had talked to anyone else but told me that for several reasons I should keep it confidential until the actual transaction took place.

James began to tell others that I had lied, and said that I had only spoken to one of his church members (I never said that I had only told this man). He also wrote emails where he accused me of telling him that I had only told this man, and making a big deal about me not being trustworthy (while he himself hid from me the preposterous charges against me told to him by HSLDA attorney, Chris Klicka).

Following my phone call with James and honoring his request, I immediately called the church member and asked him to keep the news confidential. I also emailed Mike Farris, Mike Smith and Chris Klicka with the same request.

James offers contract

James acted angry toward me for telling others that I would become the new owner of HST. February 27 he sent me a contract draft. I looked it over and called and told James that I could not sign it because it just was not what we had agreed to before I started to work for him.

The next day was payday. I was told that I would be paid less than $4,500 because this is all that had come in from the advertisers. It would be somewhere around $3,600 after paying taxes on it. James knew that I needed $5,000. I called Brenda and told her the problem and she said that I could keep most of the money if I was a private contractor and claimed many deductions. I emailed her that I didn’t have a private contractor license so needed to be placed on the company payroll.

She talked it over with James and he told her that I didn’t need a contractor’s license to work in this capacity. He said that it was up to me which way I went. He knew very well that in order for me to pay my bills for March I needed close to $5,000.

So, I thought to be paid this time as a private contractor would enable my family to get through the month so I decided to do it. By the end of the next month, James would surely have my employment contract ready. And besides, I soon would be the owner of HST. I simply could not understand what was taking him so long with the contract he had promised. After all he had told me already when I was in Germany that he would have it ready to be signed when I arrived.

James sent his son, James Jr. to my office with a contract that he wanted me to sign before he would pay me. It was a bad contract. I was upset with it but James assured me that it was only a “placeholder” contract until he could “work up an employee agreement” (I am certain now that James had no intention at that time to ever work up an employment agreement because he was still of the opinion that I was a scoundrel. He told his church elder during this time that he was going to get rid of me).

When his son visited me with the contract I told him that when I would officially become the new owner I would like to ask him to continue on with me as the graphic designer for the magazine. I believe that I had also told the bookkeeper that I would like to keep her as my bookkeeper. Now it must be understood that I still had no inclination that anything was going on behind my back. I believed I was working for a moral and honest Christian and more than that, he was a Pastor.

My friends at HSLDA were not only attorneys but they were confidents and Christians. I would never have suspected anything like what was going on behind my back between James and HSLDA. If someone would have told me I would have been unbelieving.

It was only when I overheard the elder of James church on March 3 in his telephone conversation with Chris Klicka that I began to suspect there was something gravely amiss. If I had not overheard a portion of this conversation but would have been told of it instead I would not have believed it. In Germany, my wife and I knew who we were dealing with when we dealt with government authorities so we were watchful. But here we were among friends, friends whom we had entrusted with our lives. Christians! Pastors! Attorneys! To make it more dramatic, these were Christian attorneys who were personal family friends! Why shouldn’t we trust them?

A meeting with one of James employees

February 28, an employee of James, who along with her two daughters had lived with the McDonald family and worked in their tea shop but who had recently left off living with them and were presently staying with the elder of James church and his family, called to tell me that I should meet with this elder. When I inquired why I should meet with him, she wouldn’t say. I asked her if I could first meet with her.

A meeting was scheduled for March 2. She and her two daughters visited me in the morning. I had had a discussion with James around the middle of January and told him that this mother and her young daughters were working far too many hours. From what I had seen with my eyes and heard from my daughter, Minka who worked together with them in the tea shop, it was clear to me that they were being overworked and would soon become overly exhausted and quit. I was told that other families had come to work and left, so I believed the pattern would continue with this family if something was not changed.

During this meeting, this lady told me why she and her girls had moved away from James. Her father urged her to leave in haste because he feared for their safety. I was dumbfounded to hear this. I still believed then that the McDonald’s were upright people. (I remember thinking that this lady was right. I needed to talk to the elder of James church who I believed was very close to James. If anybody would know anything it would be this elder). Sitting here and telling me this was a mother and two daughters James had said he had rescued from Katrina and provided them with jobs and allowed them to live in his house.

She wouldn’t tell me what James was saying about me, only that it was not good. I promised to call the elder to schedule a meeting with him to try to get to the bottom of this. Whatever could be the problem? Why was James saying bad things about me? My sales far exceeded anything James could ever have dreamed.

Was he still angry at me for informing others that I would become the new owner of the magazine? But he told me I could talk to others about it in order to forge partnerships. I knew from the past several years that relationships and partnerships were important in this market if you wanted to succeed. Needless to say, I and my family were puzzled.

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