CHAPTER XII. RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
Cooney got verbal approval to at least have his Mission Statement and Reorganization paper read and considered by a committee to be appointed on that subject. While saying yes, there was just no move to appoint such a committee, and this in spite of Cooney continuing to pursue the matter despite the non-cooperative attitude.
Clemants especially became a person interested in throwing obstacles and roadblocks in the way of the consideration of the Mission Statement. Under Dr. Leck we had held a conference to determine what kinds of things we wanted to do as a society. There were myriads of suggestions, many of which simply could never be done because there just was not the manpower available. For instance, the talk of TBS members going out to the high schools to talk to the students about botany would probably never get off the ground. But, in spite of our limited labor power, there were some definite things that could have been done in field botany. But Clemants kept saying that we would have to hold another meeting like that of Leck to reconsider what we should do. In other words, let's delay considering the Mission Statement some more.
Cooney became exasperated with Clemants' opposition and told him at a meeting of the Science Council of the NY-NJ Trail Conference that he felt he (Clemants) was standing in TBS trying to do something with the botany of our local flora. Cooney added that Clemants was in a classic situation of a conflict of interest: that he worked for BBG and had a local flora project there and did not want to see TBS doing anything in local flora. Clemants became highly upset at the charge of "conflict of interest" and denied that he was in such a situation, no matter how many times and how many different ways Cooney explained his predicament to him. (What really showed his conflict of interest was his question to me as to what I thought of moving TBS to BBG and away from the non-cooperative NYBG.) And does NYBG know (or care) of the plans, however preliminary, to move TBS to Long Island and BBG?
Much to my surprise, Clemants resigned as Local Flora Chair saying he did not want to stand in my way. Of course, he also totally misinterpreted my stand in an attempt to undermine my credibility so that the Mission Statement would never get a hearing. Furthermore, Steve called on the members of the council to write in to confirm that he (Steve) had never done anything that was not in the best interests of TBS (in spite of his conflict of interest that he denied -- but, of course, then why did he resign?).
The e-mails to the Council Members flew back and forth between Clemants and Cooney and some members of the Council. The Council members who wrote did not really take sides, but rather asked us to quit this public fighting, which then happened.
Cooney felt he was making progress and would get a hearing for his Mission Statement, but then Clemants took up a new and very nasty tactic. He started attacking Cooney's work in the Council Meetings. Cooney found himself being interrogated by Clemants so that I could not make any further progress. Cooney faced one such challenge willingly to try to show Clemants there were no hard feelings on my side, but this just emboldened him for the next interrogative mission.
Meantime, Clemants and Mori had selected a new president without consulting anyone else in the Council. (I should have been suspicious when I saw Dr. Eric Lamont start suddenly appearing at our council meetings, whereas he had never come previously, at least not while I was on the Council. His presidency was just announced one day to my shock. So, once again, a comrade of Clemant's was chosen for the Council. Lamont and Clemants went way back, in school at NYBG and with mutual work on the Long Island Botanical Society.)
This is not to say that Lamont is of bad character. He actually is a very honorable and sweet man. But he had no idea of the battles he was walking into. All he knew was that Clemants to him was a good man who had been his friend for many years. Well, good man or not, a man with a conflict of interests has only one alternative -- to step out of the way. Of course, with virtually the entire Council being related to Clemants in one way or another, my complaints fell on death ears.
At the last Council meeting I attended, I took another brow beating from Clemants without Lamont saying one word to stop this waste of time (and this with Council members obviously rolling their eyes in disgust at Clemant's tactics). I later e-mailed Lamont to take my name off the agenda for reports on the web and field at the next Council meeting because I did not want to give Clemants another return shot at me. Lamont put my name on the meeting agenda anyway and I decided never again to attend a Council meeting.
I did not hear from Lamont until some six months later saying that the Council was very upset with me. I had written a statement at the end of the field trip reports for 2000 explaining the history of field and praising the field members for doing something historically unique and important. This method was used by past field chairs, but I had not made use of it previously, even though I had a right to. Clemants turned this relatively harmless report into a condemnation and demonization of me saying that I was some wide-eyed radical that was trying to change TBS into a radical organization. (I am on record in my political writings as opposing radicals and radical politics -- just don't care for them or think they are effective.) Clemants also claimed that I had deliberately taken advantage of my position to sneak in an article pushing my private agenda. Well, this is office politics to the extreme. Poor Lamont was given the task of accusing me of being an environmental radical with my own agenda (when Lamont himself with his Long Island Botanical Society does ten times as much environmental work as I ever did).
Lamont told me the Council had decided I would either have to resign or write an "apology" for my written remarks. At first I said o.k. because I felt I would not have any trouble in explaining the purpose of my remarks and why I wrote them. But over the next several days I got madder and madder at the travesty of Clemant's actions and sayings (which basically constitute libel) and decided to quit, which I did. And so now I have my own web site on which I can say things like this without being censored.
New York - New Jersey - Connecticut Botany Online
In January, 2002 Cooney started his own web-site once again for studying the botany of the greater New York Metropolitan Area, NY-NJ-CT Botany Online (www.nynjctbotany.org). He started it because this would free him from the politics of the BBG-influenced clique from trying to take-over TBS and, more importantly, to him, to take over the TBS database, largely built by Cooney himself.
By restarting his own botany site, Cooney was freed from the politics involved with TBS, NYBG and BBG. It also, thereby, freed him from censorship from people with political agendas of their own and therefore conflicts of interest with NYBG itself.