(CORRECTIONS, CONTEXT & UPDATES) La Crosse SOUP founder redirected civic improvement funds

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By: Andrew Londre

Before I say anything else, I just want to say that I genuinely wish I weren’t writing this. I wish I didn’t feel like I had no other choice than to write this. I have tried to resolve this and fix this a dozen other (“better”) ways, but none of them have worked.

So, I see no other options at this point in order to get closure on this and the hope of being able to move on from this than to take this approach.

As I write this, I am left feeling an array of searing emotions — from shame and embarrassment, to frustration and anxiety. And, for reasons you will soon understand — by simply doing what I can to make sure that an accurate and complete version of the story that has, in many ways, defined my life for nearly three years is available — I have genuine fear for the safety of myself, but most importantly, for my family.

With that being said… Let’s get into it.

Over the past two+ years, many people have read and come to accept a highly misleading and inaccurate story published online and in numerous iterations in print by the La Crosse Tribune, regarding La Crosse SOUP, a Kickstarter campaign, and actions I took relating to that campaign.

The story I am referring to is this one 👇

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This “story” — which is almost completely wrong — all but destroyed the life I lovingly and passionately created over the course of my entire adult life, and I simply can’t continue to allow it to stand unchallenged and uncorrected.

To be sure, like any story there a thousand salient details that are hard to fit into a story or a post online, including this one. However, at the end of the day, the story people have come to accept as “The Story” on this subject is inaccurate and/or misleading and/or incomplete in almost every core respect and left an incredibly complex and tangled mess of a situation — somehow — even more tangled and messy than before the story was first published.

And in large-part, the story’s continued acceptance as fact despite significant inaccuracies is a shame that rests on my shoulders. After all, my efforts to correct the story have come up short up to this point.

That said, the passing of time doesn’t change lies into truth, or inaccuracies into fact. However, when the heat of this “controversy” was at its hottest, my closest friends, mentors, and family were all giving me the same advice: shut up and let it go, let the dust settle… And I took their advice. Tactically, the advice they offered turned out to be terrible. But they didn’t know that at the time, and neither did I, and I’m sure they had the best intentions when they gave me that advice. But at the end of the day, I was the one who chose to take their advice. No one *made* me take the advice to “shut up.” I chose to take that advice. That was a mistake, a terrible mistake that I need to acknowledge and correct to the best of my abilities.

That’s why I’ve created this Medium post. To own up to my real failings and offer as many corrections and updates (with supporting proof) and important context as I can to this story.

Truth be told, I knew in my heart from the very beginning what I needed to do, and that was to vigorously defend myself against the things that were being said about me which I knew and could prove were wrong — or put another way, I should have done what the Tribune’s editor told me recently (when I asked him to correct this story) that he would have done if he thought something was inaccurately printed about him, and that would have been to, “fight like hell to get it corrected and protect my reputation.”

Indeed, I should have fought like hell to get this “Real / Full” story out there immediately. But I didn’t and that’s something I get to own and take responsibility for, learn from, and correct — just like each of the many other mistakes I made in the lead up to, during, and after the SOUP Kickstarter debacle.

In that regard, I continue to do what I can to learn from and grow from the situation of a few years ago, and work to rectify the relationships that were shattered by this story.

Of course, most of that work can’t be done online. But one very important thing I can do online is take maximum responsibility for ensuring that the “Real / Full” story is finally known by more than a few dozen people.

And in that spirit of taking full responsibility in that regard specifically, I have provided below, the “Real / Full” story regarding La Crosse SOUP, and actions I took relating to the Kickstarter campaign, in the context of the most-read version of “The Story” that people are familiar with, published by the La Crosse Tribune in late 2016, “La Crosse SOUP founder redirected civic improvement funds.”

Unfortunately, there is no “How To Guide” for a situation like this. So, the best solution I could come up with was to copy and paste the online version of the Tribune’s story (as of June 12, 2019) and offer my own corrections, context, and updates, that I believe the public should/deserves to know, and that should be known by anyone who has — or may someday in the future — read the presently available inaccurate version of the story and use that inaccurate story as a metric to judge my character.

At different points I will also offer references to the Society of Professional Journalists’, Code of Ethics — a document which I found when preparing this Medium post. I included that document here in multiple instances (as you will see) believing that it might serve as a useful and objective barometer to judge the way the Tribune’s version was hastily and haphazardly written and approved for publication in a way that seems —at least when applying the Society of Professional Journalists’ standards — to fly in the face of many of the most fundamental principles of professional, ethical journalism.

Additionally, I have offered many relevant primary documents to validate the most significant claims I am going to be making; while I certainly have far more evidence (text, emails, etc.) than what I am offering in this post, I think that what I am offering here should be more than enough evidence to support my claims.

Want to finally read The “Real / Full” Story you probably came to this link for?

Here it is. 👇

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A La Crosse entrepreneur and community organizer is facing questions about his use of thousands of dollars in donations earmarked for community improvement projects.

Andrew Londre, a former La Crosse County supervisor and founder of a local crowd-funding project known as SOUP, admitted this week […]

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Re: “Admitted”

I take great issue with the use of the word, “admitted.”

It seems easy to see why the word was used though; “Admitted” sets the tone for the rest of the article which paints a really ugly and sinister picture of me and my motives.

In that regard, I also find it curious — though unsurprising then — that while the Tribune mentioned that I was an elected official at one point, they chose to leave out the fact that their paper had named me a finalist for Person of The Year the year before they published this story.

But, specifically regarding the word “admitted” … Consider that if a more accurate description were offered instead, such as, “Londre described this week through a private message to project donors why he redirected money donated…” … while that would have been a far more honest and accurate description, it would have made the story’s salacious angle too hard of a sell.

Apart from that practical implication, let’s also be honest with ourselves about the times we live in and how that likely influenced the way this “story” was handled; in this most challenging age for local print news media — including at the Tribune, a newspaper that a high-level Tribune-insider recently described to me as currently being “a complete mess” where staff is feeling pressured to and struggling with that pressure to “sensationalize everything” — non-salacious angles don’t get clicks and don’t sell ads, and so local news sources have increasingly turned to tabloid-style storytelling as a means of survival instead of straightforward professional reporting and journalism which used to be the norm.

It is also worth noting that this scandalous word choice of, “admitted” was also used numerous times in printed issues of this story by the Tribune as well.

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… [Londre] admitted this week to redirecting money donated to fund student-generated projects to pay for a video promoting a handful of local businesses, i̶n̶c̶l̶u̶d̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶o̶w̶n̶.

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Re: “a handful of local businesses, including his own.”

The funds at the heart of the Tribune’s reporting did benefit a small handful of local businesses. That part is true.

However, THESE FUNDS DID NOT BENEFIT MY BUSINESS… for TWO reasons:

1 — The funds at issue did NOT benefit MY business because I (apparently) never was an actual partner in the business I believed I was a partner of. (Explained below)

2 — The funds at issue did NOT benefit MY business (even while I thought it was my business) because I had already contributed MY share to cover MY cost of MY part in the show.

I have explained all of this to the Tribune’s editor, but they have, to this point, refused to update and correct these critical inaccuracies.

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While I have provided updated information and pointed out incorrect aspects of this story to the Tribune’s editor, they have not updated and corrected the story.

While I, and many others — including the Tribune and the general public — were led to believe that I was a true (legal) partner in the urban design firm known as Urbanlocity — which has, to my knowledge, successfully executed one project (that one project being The Uptowne Summit that I was involved with and which will come up later) — it was later revealed to the Tribune by the firm’s founder that I was never actually a partner in the firm as I, and many others, had been told directly or led to believe.

Below is an article published in the Tribune several months before the SOUP Kickstarter issues were chronicled in the same paper; in this article I was described as a “co-founder” and “partner” of Urbanlocity — these words were chosen for publication after ‘my business partner’ and I sat down to be interviewed by the author of the story for nearly an hour at the cafe pictured below; in other words, the reporter used these words because they were communicated to her by my ‘business partner’ and I together.

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SIX DAYS AFTER the first La Crosse SOUP Kickstarter story was first published on the Tribune’s website (on December 16, 2016), the Tribune then published a story (on December 22, 2016) which contradicted the most core aspect of the SOUP Kickstarter story (which was that I was supposedly a part owner of Urbanlocity) when the December 22 story said, in part, “Lipscombe said Wednesday she founded Urbanlocity before moving to La Crosse from Austin, Texas, and that as sole proprietor she had control over the funds raised for the Uptowne project. She said Londre is no longer with the firm

* Meaning, I couldn’t have used these funds to benefit my own business because it wasn’t mine. *

Interestingly, I recently spoke with someone close to the Tribune who said they noted this contradiction in the Tribune’s reporting and pointed it out to the story’s author shortly before it was published. However, that glaring issue fell on deaf ears; they went ahead and published that contradiction anyway and never bothered to pursue a follow up story on this matter or point out the contradiction to their readers in any fashion.

So, to be clear on the facts…

Yes — the firm (“Urbanlocity”) was founded by Lipscombe in Austin, Texas, that much seems to be true. However, that’s only half of the story.

After moving to La Crosse, Lipscombe incorporated the business anew *in Wisconsin* and did so as a sole-proprietor *again* despite what she told me were her intentions to incorporate as a partnership with me AND despite what the paper and many others were led to believe. Meaning, the business I thought I was a part owner of, was only ever owned by ONE person, and that one person was NOT me.

Then there’s the timing of the critical omission…

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Above timeline created and offered to help illustrate the bizzare sequence of events related to what my “business partner” had revealed to the press and the broader community — a series of events which felt like the most ruthless stab-in-the-back I have ever experienced and could ever image, but which was met with crickets by the press and anyone else.

So yes, it is true that Lipscombe founded a company in Austin, TX, before moving across the country to La Crosse, WI. However, the business — as a corporate entity — did not come with her. She left the first iteration of Urbanlocity in Texas, came to Wisconsin with the promise of incorporating Urbanlocity-2 anew in Wisconsin (same name, but for all legal intents and purposes, a completely different corporate entity) and doing so as legal business partners with me.

But what actually happened is, of course, a different story.

If you read the story above (“A Passion for Planning”) you will see that ‘my partner’ asked me on multiple occasions to join the firm as a co-founder and partner. And, eventually after she chose to move from Austin to La Crosse and bring Urbanlocity with her, with the expressed need to re-incorporate the business in Wisconsin (which she did) and that when she did she would file all the necessary paperwork to make sure we were incorporating as a partnership… she didn’t — but told me she had, which is why it was printed that way in the paper.

Let me be very clear about this…

If I thought for a second we weren’t actually partners, I wouldn’t have been in Ambitious Adventures in the first place. Afterall, it was a show about young business owners, and without Urbanlocity, I was no business owner)…

If I thought for a second we weren’t actually partners, I wouldn’t have endured day-after-day of reputation shattering and life-crushing media coverage about “my own” business via this series of Tribune Stories…

Now, a reasonable person might say, “Ok, that’s all pretty awful… BUT that doesn’t make you look any better. You’re saying then that you thought you were an owner of the business and so you still *thought* you were moving these funds to benefit yourself.”

No. I still didn’t move those funds at that time for my own benefit.

That’s because, though I *thought* Urbanlocity was my business at the time this article was first published, the funds that are at issue in the Tribune’s article were only used (and used with the expressed intention that they only be used temporarily) in order to benefit the OTHER three featured businesses (Pearl Street Brewery, Wyatt Bikes, and Full Circle Supply) and NOT my supposed stake in Urbanlocity, because at the time these funds were used (in July, 2016), I had already raised my share of the required funds needed to pay for production of the show, and so these funds (which weren’t being used for anything else — and hadn’t been for a very long time) were used “JUST AS A LOAN FROM LAXSOUP” (see email screenshot below) to give those other three businesses more time to raise their shares needed to pay for the shows production.

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This screenshot shows an email sent many months prior to when the Tribune began their stories on the subject. You can clearly see that, as far back as August 23, 2016, I stated that the funds in question were “JUST A LOAN” from LAXSOUP /// The Cambridge Dictionary defines a LOAN as: “ 1. an amount of money that is borrowed, often from a bank, and has to be paid back” … Meaning, it was always my intention that these funds be paid back. /// In this email, the $10K I am referring to is the sum total of actual cash provided to the show’s producers. In addition to the actual cash being referenced here (which was mostly LAXSOUP funds and funds from my personal Savings), I had lined up several thousands more in donor commitments to cover more than my share by the point the LAXSOUP fund were utilized.

Unfortunately, even though the money that was borrowed on a temporary basis bought the other three businesses several months of extra time (between when the SOUP funds were initially used and when the Tribune began running stories about the funds) the other three businesses hadn’t raised any additional funds or contributed any funds of their own to cover their share of production expenses.

And, as of writing this… none of the other businesses have made financial contributions toward the show despite all being in the show which aired roughly a year ago.

As a result, a show I thought I’d be paying a couple thousand dollars to be a part of, ended up costing me around $10,000 + my good name + any sense of a normal life. Meanwhile, it cost everyone else: $0.00.

To be fair to the other featured entrepreneurs though, the producers of the show — for which these funds were being temporarily used to pay — made a huge mistake in not having the entrepreneurs that were to be featured in the show sign even the most basic of contracts. Worse still, none of the featured entrepreneurs were even ever invoiced for the amount each owed the production team — noteworthy here is that I asked the producers on multiple occasions over the course of the last two years to invoice every featured business, and each time I asked I was told that they were going to or that they had. But, after talking with one of the La Crosse entrepreneurs featured in the show recently, as well as the individual associated with the production team who was in charge of the financials of the show (a guy named, Mike) it became clear that no invoices were ever sent out even after I was told definitively that they had been.

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(To their credit, one of the featured La Crosse entrepreneurs recently asked to sit down with me and acknowledged that, as they put it, they “let [me, Andrew] get thrown under the bus for trying to do [them] a favor, and we [the other featured businesses] just looked the other way. And I am so sorry.”)

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In October 2015, Londre used the online site Kickstarter to raise money for 10 civic projects proposed by business students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Among the proposals: an ice skating rink at Riverside Park, solar-powered waste bins for the downtown and new clothes for homeless people to wear to job interviews.

By December, the campaign had raised more than $11,000 from 96 backers.

On Tuesday, Londre posted a 4,179-word update detailing reasons the students had been unable to see their projects through before informing donors that he had instead used the money to help fund a local segment of “Ambitious Adventures,” a video series that aims to highlight the work of young entrepreneurs.

The creators of the show, which is to be distributed through web streaming services, said they planned to highlight businesses in half a dozen cities while promoting the idea that millennials can change the world. Producer Brandon Adams said the La Crosse segment will be available in March and features Londre, along with the founders of Pearl Street Brewery, Wyatt Bikes and Full Circle Supply.

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Re: “…the La Crosse segment will be available in March and features Londre, along with…”

This line fails to mention that, at least at the time that the show was filmed, it was also due to feature my “business partner” as well, who gladly showed up to be filmed to have “our” business highlighted in the show. This, despite the fact that — by the date of filming or any time thereafter — my “partner” had not contributed any of their own funds towards the show or lined up any sponsors, and despite knowing that I was apparently raising funds and we were being filmed for a business I thought was at least partially mine, but which they knew the whole time actually was not…

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“The funds originally raised were meant to support efforts that will promote more arts and culture in La Crosse, promoting a biking and appreciation for the outdoors, promote the use of business in a way that’s a benefit to the broader community, promoting the growth of new businesses owned by local people, and promoting a greater sense of community in the home we share,” Londre wrote in his Kickstarter update. “Now, millions of people will get to see how truly awesome our city is.”

C̶o̶n̶t̶a̶c̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶T̶h̶u̶r̶s̶d̶a̶y̶,̶ ̶L̶o̶n̶d̶r̶e̶ ̶d̶e̶c̶l̶i̶n̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶e̶r̶v̶i̶e̶w̶e̶d̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶a̶n̶s̶w̶e̶r̶ ̶q̶u̶e̶s̶t̶i̶o̶n̶s̶ ̶a̶b̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶j̶e̶c̶t̶.̶ Londre said his “primary responsibility” is to his project funders and that he would provide more information through updates to the Kickstarter pages.

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Re: “Londre declined to be interviewed or answer questions”

The reporter who authored this story contacted me late on a Thursday night and asked me a number of questions, several of which I did answer — including, critically, that the rumored amount of funds at issue was not right. I told the reporter that the correct number was “around $8,000 but no more than $10,000 and definitely not $25,000 (as an incendiary online post I will discuss later had been alleging).” I told the reporter further, that I would like to get back to him that following morning so I could have time to go to the bank and get the exact amount to share with him so it didn’t get misprinted and require a later correction. He said, “that’s ok.” … Well, then I saw that the following morning (just a few short hours from when I spoke with him — due to how late the call was received) the reporter went on to publish a story online and then several times in print over the next two days, that said that, “more than $10,000” was moved. Salacious, but also entirely untrue, and knowingly so… because I did answer questions… So, to say I did not answer questions is patently false.

It is worth nothing that while the “more than $10,000” mischaracterization was acknowledged by the paper, they certainly did not follow the industry standard of how to ethically and appropriately handle corrections and clarifications, particularly ones as significant as this, which would have been to offer necessary correction or clarification in a medium reasonably likely to reach substantially the same audience as the publication complained of if it is published in a later issue, edition,or broadcast of the original publication.

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Londre said late Saturday that he had secured a personal loan for $8,500 and would work to refund any donors who want their money returned.

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Re: “Londre would work to refund any donors who wanted their money returned”

Important Update …
In the weeks that followed the publication of this story, I electronically surveyed every SOUP Kickstarter donor to ask if they wanted their money back. Some did. Interestingly though, among “SOUP Regulars” (regular attendees of our gatherings and therefore individuals who knew what SOUP was all about and what kind of person I am) almost none of them did request refunds. However, everyone who said they did want their money back, received a handwritten check in the appropriate amount.

This information (of the successful offer and return of funds) was posted on the La Crosse SOUP facebook page and was widely circulated online, and yet, the Tribune never informed the public of this…

I wonder why?

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Kickstarter does not list the donors who contributed to the project, but Altra Federal Credit Union put up $2,000 in matching funds. Business loan officer Walt Smanski said he learned that the funds had been re-purposed through the Kickstarter page update Tuesday night.

“We wished we would have had the opportunity to work with him on redirecting the funds,” said Cheryl Dutton, vice president of marketing. “We did the match and donation based on what the original purpose of the funding was for. … We would certainly have helped redirect the funds in the community to do good projects like the UW-L students were proposing to do.”

In 2015, Londre launched a monthly funding effort known as SOUP, events where people pay $5 for a bowl of soup and bread and listen to proposals for community improvement projects. At the end, the money goes to the winning idea.

Kelly Nowicki, who teaches business classes at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, said she approached Londre about letting her students help out.

Eleven ideas were whittled to four, which were presented at the O̶c̶t̶o̶b̶e̶r̶ ̶g̶a̶t̶h̶e̶r̶i̶n̶g̶;

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Re: “October gathering” … This should read, September gathering
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… the winners received more than $2,000 to put bar codes on signs in Hixon Forest to allow hikers to download maps to their cellphones.

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Re: “the winners received more than $2,000 to put bar codes on signs in Hixon Forest…”

It’s interesting that no one has asked:

What happened to those funds (those $2,000)?

The answer is vitally important here…

After the roughly $2,000 was raised at that September SOUP event and was awarded to the winning student duo, the two winning-students and Nowicki told me that they thought it would be best if she took those funds home instead of the students and put it in her personal safe. The idea made plenty of sense: let’s not put two college students in the position of trying to keep $2,000 in cash safe-and-sound in their dorm or apartment.

(The concern wasn’t that the winning students weren’t trustworthy. The concern was about things like theft by others — which made a lot of sense not to put these two students into that position of advertising to a campus of poor college kids that these two guys had $2,000 somewhere in their dorm/apartment).

Unfortunately, as was the case with many of the other student recipients of SOUP funds, this Hixon Forest project didn’t materialize — despite a great deal of effort by the students and others—and so, roughly $2,000 in cash was sitting at Nowicki’s home in her safe... much like how there was roughly $8,500 left over from the Kickstarter project sitting safely but unused in an account at my credit union. That’s where those roughly $2,000 funds remained UNTIL she and I talked over the phone about Ambitious Adventures and temporarily using the $8,500 of student funds I had sitting unused in an account at Altra Federal Credit Union. At that point we began discussing the roughly $2,000 she had at her house. She said she would be happy to get it off her hands and have it used for something good for the community. So we arranged for me to pick it up at her house and put it to good use by using those funds for the show’s production as well. And that’s what I did, all with her support — but you’d never know that based on the way the story was published.

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Londre then came up with the idea to use Kickstarter to fund the remaining ideas.

“Andrew said he wanted all 10 student ideas to be implemented,” Nowicki said.

Nowicki said she warned Londre that the students would be graduating in December or May and might not be around to follow through. Only one project was completed before the end of the school year.

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Re: “she warned Londre…”

The potential issue of students graduating prior to completing their projects was a concern shared and discussed by Nowicki and myself. This characterization is very misleading. The use of the word, “warned” suggests that it was simply not a concern for me, but only for Nowicki. That is just not true.

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In July, Nowicki said, s̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶a̶s̶ t̶r̶y̶i̶n̶g̶ to help another student complete a proposal to put a mural on the wall of a downtown business when she spoke to Londre.

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Re: “she was trying to help another student…”

An accurate sentence here would read, in part, “she AND LONDRE WERE WORKING TOGETHER TO TRY to help another student complete a proposal to put a mural on the wall of a downtown business when she spoke to Londre.”

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“That’s when Andrew said to me there is no money,” she said. “He used it for ‘Ambitious Adventures.’”

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Important Correction, Clarification & Context … Re: “That’s when Andrew said to me there is no money,” she said. “He used it for ‘Ambitious Adventures.’”

I can’t tell if this is something needing to be corrected or just clarified because the way the reporter wrote this section and the way Nowicki is quoted is very confusing. However, it seems like it is being suggested that Nowicki asked me randomly one day for SOUP funds and I said “No can do. There’s no money. Surprise!”

I know for sure though, I never said anything like that. I certainly never said, “there is no money.” There was one occasion where I reminded Nowicki via text message that the money was “tied up” in the show for the moment. And if memory serves, when I sent that message to her, I was left wondering to myself, “Did she simply forget somehow that she had just assisted me in moving these funds to serve a new purpose temporarily?”

There certainly wasn’t any sort of a follow up text on her part to my message where she said anything like, “What do you mean the money is tied up? We never talked about that!” In fact, after my text about the money being tied up, she gave no indication there was anything causing her upset. So, to whatever extent she was upset about it, the Tribune’s publication of those feelings were the first I ever heard of them, which caught me completely off guard as you might imagine.

Also… I was dumbfounded when I first read this part of the story because of what I knew about the $2,000 in September SOUP funds… Think about it, if the ~$2,000 in Hixon funds hadn’t been touched, there would have been more than enough money available to Nowicki for the mural project… But of course, she chose to offer those funds up to help pay for Ambitious Adventures, too. So, to then suggest that “Well, the first I heard of it was when I found out I had no way of paying for the mural because Andrew moved these funds and I was totally unaware of any of it…” that just doesn’t make any sense. She obviously knew about it. Maybe she forgot when the reporter asked — I assume that’s what happened, but I have no way of knowing for sure.

IF ON DESKTOP CLICK “SHOW EMBED” TO SEE TEXTS SHOWING THE FACULTY MEMBER’S SUPPORT OF USING STUDENT SOUP FUNDS TO TEMPORARILY ASSIST IN PAYING FOR THE TV SHOW’S PRODUCTION /// OR /// CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINK TO SEE THE FULL TEXT EXCHANGE IN ONE IMAGE FILE: http://bit.ly/32qLwid
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Nowicki said she was concerned but didn’t know what to do.

“I was concerned about the ramifications of not supporting him,” she said. “I didn’t feel comfortable disagreeing with Andrew publicly.”

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Important Correction, Clarification & Context … Re: “She was concerned but didn’t know what to do.” … and … “I didn’t feel comfortable disagreeing with Andrew publicly’”

Here again, because of the way the reporter wrote this section and the way Nowicki is quoted, it is hard to really know what the subject of “concern” and “disagreement” actually was.

Here’s what I do know for sure… Not only did Nowicki never disagree with me publicly, she never disagreed with me privately about any of this either.

In fact, privately, as well as publicly, she was nothing but exuberantly supportive of the SOUP project and later on the filming of Ambitious Adventures as well — not only did she assist in the temporary usage of her student’s funds to support the show’s production, she also made a significant personal contribution to the show, too, and even helped line up other donors to the show’s production as well.

So, these quotes completely blindsided me when they were printed.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t say that I also found this part of the article to be one of the most deeply insulting and hurtful. The suggestion seemed to be some sort of sexist insinuation: That I was a big bad macho male bully that intimidated a lovely woman who was “too afraid” to disagree with me. Anyone who knows me, including Nowicki, knows that I am hardly a stereotypical aggressive misogynistic macho man. In fact, I’m about the furthest thing from it. I am a proud feminist, a proud father to a young daughter (3-years old) who I am also proud to say, refers to herself as a “strong, independent woman.”

That aside, I never got a hint of concern from Nowicki regarding the temporary movement of the funds to support the show’s production.

Before publishing this Medium post, I went through all of the hundreds of texts and emails I exchanged with Nowicki to make sure I wasn’t misremembering things. And it doesn’t appear I misremembered any of this.

In fact, she was so supportive in private of the whole thing that she asked me, regarding her latest class (not the same ones for whom the Kickstarter funds were initially raised for, but a new class) if they (the new class) could be involved with the show in some way and meet the hosts of the show as well.

And so, when it came time to film the show, I invited the students over to serve as “extras” in one of the segments and to meet the shows hosts and Nowicki happily brought her entire class over to the filming location to be in the show. And when the show aired, her students were in it.

With all that in mind, you can imagine how confused and dismayed and hurt I was when those quotes ran in the Tribune.

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Kickstarter says there are no guarantees projects will come to fruition.

“Backers must understand that Kickstarter is not a store,” the site warns users. “When you back a project, you’re helping to create something new — not ordering something that already exists. There’s a chance something could happen that prevents the creator from being able to finish the project as promised.”

However, the site’s terms of use specify that creators “must make every reasonable effort to find another way of bringing the project to a satisfying conclusion for their backers.”

The company did not respond to interview requests.

Lisa Schiller, director of investigations and media relations for the Better Business Bureau in Wisconsin, said crowdfunding has inherent advantages: “It provides immediate assistance. It helps donors make an emotional connection to the cause. It provides donors with a sense of impact.”

But online sites have little ability to vet projects or to account for how money is spent.

“It’s kind of like the Wild West of fundraising,” Schiller said.

A̶l̶l̶e̶n̶ ̶K̶a̶n̶t̶o̶w̶s̶k̶i̶ is a downtown business manager who last week posted a̶ ̶m̶e̶s̶s̶a̶g̶e̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶F̶a̶c̶e̶b̶o̶o̶k̶ ̶p̶a̶g̶e̶ ̶ questioning Londre’s use of funds, although he did not contribute to the campaign.

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Re: “Allen Kantowski” — That’s not his real name and should be corrected.

This is where the “Real Story” gets really weird… Yes, it gets stranger and more tangled than it already is.

“Allen” didn’t post anything on Facebook using “his” Facebook profile about me.

In fact, it recently came to my attention that his name most likely isn’t even Allen — a critical fact that a local reporter recently looked into… but we’ll get to that in a moment.

First, understand that no profile with the public facing name of Allen Kantowksi posted anything about me on Facebook as the Tribune falsely reported. Someone named June Carter did, however. A fact concealed from readers of the story, and a fact which was known by the Tribune reporter who published this piece. (This is also one of the many facts I have shared with the Tribune that they have refused to correct to this point.)

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So, wait… June who?

June Carter? Johnny Cash’s wife? That, June Carter? No.

As it turns out, according to two long time owners of a downtown shop on the same block as the one managed by “Allen,” the “June Carter” profile was set up, accessible to, and owned by, “Allen” and his longtime girlfriend, Kahya Fox — who, according to the same business owners referenced a moment ago, was present when “Allen” used their phony Facebook profile to harrass me several times many months earlier and presumably when they began posting falsehoods about the SOUP Kickstarter which became the driving source of the Tribune’s reporting on this subject.

This is both ironic and disturbing. Ironic in that I was being accused of being a fraud by someone who was themselves using a fake facebook account to hide their true identity while they made their accusations that I was a-fake/a-scam/a-fraud.

This is also disturbing for a number of reasons:

1 — When I finally learned who was behind this account, I was struck with the immediate realization that I had never met or spoken to this “Allen” person who so reviled me.

Furthermore, when I asked the few people I knew who had interacted with him before if I should know anything about him, I was warned on multiple occasions that something struck them as genuinely worrisome about him. Whatever that meant, I had no way of knowing at the time. All I know is that it had a terribly chilling effect on me and my ability to feel safe in refuting what he was saying about me in a more direct way.

2— That this individual and their bogus Facebook post was treated with such tremendous credibility and not subjectEd to appropriate journalistic rigor. The sourcing here says, to me, a great deal about how far the standards for our news media have fallen. This is all even more unsettling given that we live in an era where the President of the United States regularly descries unfavorable coverage as “fake news” and describes professional journalists as “the enemy of the people” — because, when the free press is under attack in this way, they need to be held to and hold themselves to a higher standard than ever before, not a lower one, because failing to do so will allow the forces who do not value a free press to validate their diminishment of that free press.

3 — While I had never met “Allen” before, I had certainly met his girlfriend who allegedly had access to the Facebook profile that accused me of fraud. In fact, for several years, she and I worked together in the same small department at the same nonprofit in town. And significantly, she also served alongside me on the Board of Directors of a significant nonprofit organization I started shortly after graduating from UW-La Crosse, The La Crosse Neighborhood Development Corporation (LNDC); I would eventually resign from this board in an effort to insulate it from any future attempts by individuals I had learned were leaking information from organizations I was involved with to the press (they were leaking things that they tried to make out to look bad, but upon inspection by the press, never turned into a story because “there was no ‘there’ there.”) And low-and-behold, the day following my resignation from that board, *SOMEONE* leaked confidential Board documents to the press about me. At the same time, I was told that the executive director of the nonprofit I was working for at the time had been “getting calls from an LNDC board member, encouraging to have [me] fired.”

To that end, there is no way of knowing for sure, if it was “Allen” or his girlfriend who wrote the bogus post about me on Facebook, or if it may have been both — however, if the firsthand accounts I have received are correct, even if it was only one of them who wrote the post, both of them had the capacity to take it offline and neither did.

However, since “Allen” told the Tribune reporter that it was him who wrote the post, and that he then became the core, driving, source behind the story, let’s assume for a moment that he was — at least—the primary author of the post.

This is where it becomes really significant that “Allen’s” real name is Kent A. Kantowski Jr. (again, this is something that a studious local reporter looked into), (Allen appears to be his middle name) and Kent (Kent being his first name) was the primary driving source of this story…

So, what should we know about Kent? And why, has the Tribune chosen to keep this information from the public, too?

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Let’s also stop and ask ourselves for moment, “Why would someone obscure their real identity, not just once (by hiding “Allen” behind “June Carter”) but twice (hiding Kent, behind “Allen” and then“June Carter” as well)?”

Presumably because if you look up Kent A Kantowski on Wisconsin’s Circuit Court Access system online, and if you look up Kent A Kantowski on the Alaska’s Circuit Court Access system online you’d realize that he's probably the furthest thing from a reliable source you could find given his legal history, which includes a number of charges and guilty pleas— including to Class A Misdemeanors (the most serious crimes apart from felonies) — like Battery, Possession of a Switchblade, as well as Larceny (theft of personal property), Theft in the 2nd & 3rd Degree, as well other crimes like drunk driving (charged on two separate occasions), 3rd Degree Criminal Mischief, disorderly conduct, and drug possession.

See court records below 👇

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HD VERSIONS OF WISCONSIN COURT RECORDS CAN BE VIEWED HERE: https://srv2.zoomable.ca/viewer.php?i=img19c4814af8bf4d0d_wisconsincharges
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HD VERSIONS OF ALASKA COURT RECORDS CAN BE VIEWED HERE: https://srv2.zoomable.ca/viewer.php?i=imge424d7d1238150ab_alaska3charges

At the end of the day, I was being falsely described as having engaged in criminal conduct… by an actual criminal, and not a petty criminal either. I was having my morality and my record — which includes a spotless criminal record by the way, a decade of public service, and many local + regional + statewide + national awards and honors for my service and my work — described and determined by someone with a very different kind of record.

And, quite frankly, I can’t stand for that anymore.

Now, while considering the source, let’s break down the particular absurdity of June/Allen/Kent’s online accusations about me…

While the Tribune reported that June/Allen/Kent posted a “message” on “his” facebook page, they didn’t let people see the post. Probably because if they had, readers would have seen how absurd it is to describe what he actually wrote in such rosy terms.

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“USE ORIGINAL SOURCES WHENEVER POSSIBLE”

The “facts” of what he actually wrote were — perhaps unsurprisingly — completely wrong. And the manner in which this false information was presented was incendiary and vulgar — note the insinuation that the community should tell me to “go f*ck myself” and that there should be “fraud charges” brought on me.

The post is not the kind of thing that would be befitting of a wholesome “manager of a downtown business” (as the Tribune characterized him) but certainly seems consistent with the kind of ramblings you’d expect from the sort of person who actually wrote it.

Here is the actual post that you wouldn’t have seen if you only just read the Tribune’s coverage in-print or online:

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Re: “Hustled ” & Defrauded & Scammed
— — — No one was “hustled” or defrauded or “scammed”

The suggestion seems clearly to be that I raised money through SOUP with the intention at the outset that after raising the funds I would covertly take all that money and stuff my pockets with it. That would be fraud. And that is a disgusting and ridiculous assertion for reasons that should be obvious and for reasons already described.

And, it seems clearly defamatory given that it is false, injurious, was made with clear malicious intent, and not made in a setting offering privileged protections.

Re: Repeated $25,000 Figure (by “June Carter”)
— — — I have no idea where this figure came from. However, it found its way into the paper in the form of a false statement of fact by the Tribune’s reporter/editor who printed on three separate occasions and then online uncorrected for several days that “more than $10,000 was moved”

Re: “I need a weekend hacking project”
— — — It’s often hard for me to express the bizarro world it felt like I was living in after this post by June Carter went locally viral… it was like half of the population transformed into different people, including people who I thought are supposed to be held to a higher standard than the Average Joe or Jane.

But this comment by “Jon” offers a great illustration of what I was really dealing with… Here, someone who appears to be a local public school teacher (who, perhaps ironically or disturbingly, appears to teach local students about Law and Government) seems to be offering up his services as a ‘weekend hacker’ to — presumably — help June/Allen/Kent tell me to “go f*ck myself” by hacking my electronic devices.

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“I have absolutely no stake into it other than the fact that I don’t like to see hard-earned money leave our community for something other than it was intended for,” Kantowski said. “I couldn’t be quiet about it.”

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Re: “I have absolutely no stake into it (other than good-hearted intentions)”

Besides the obvious “F” that his “absolutely no stake” comment registers when considering the “Sniff Test” at this point… one must understand that he was obviously being fed *just enough information* from somewhere — and it obviously wasn’t coming from me—in order to disseminate that (mis)information to the public (but not before jazzing it up with a bevy of egregious falsehoods and suggestions and statements of supposedly-known sinister intentions on my part) in order to make my life a living hell.

So he obviously did have a stake in this other than those ‘good-hearted’ intentions, and that stake seems to have had much less to do with me than with who he seemed to be doing this dirty work for.

And who might that be?

And what was their stake in all of this?

What kind of person would engage in that kind of covert manipulation?

And why was Kantowski willing to disseminate this information for them?

And if Kantowski’s intentions were so good, why did he never once reach out to me about any of this before leveling such insidious accusations against me and inciting such incredible outrage over something he was so clueless about?

And why, when I told the reporter who authored this story, “You might want to do a bit of research into the person who made that post about me…” why didn’t the reporter ask any of these seemingly obvious questions? Or did they, and they just didn’t bother or want to report it to the public? And if so, why?

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Some have also questioned whether other funds have been used as intended, including the $24,465 raised for a second Kickstarter campaign to rebrand the city’s Caledonia Street business district as Uptowne.

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Re: “Some have also raised questions…”

Some?

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“Some have said…” is a common trick used by biased political commentators on cable news networks. However, true professional journalists are supposed to refrain from that kind of stuff and ought to be held to a higher standard.

Readers shouldn’t have to do their own investigations to find out who is being referenced through such vague sourcing. However, after doing some looking myself, the one instance I could find of someone publicly raising these “questions” was by one person who raised it in Kantowski’s post; one person who — for the sake of context — pitched at a previous SOUP event, didn’t win, and grew increasingly hostile towards me afterwards despite me having no interactions with them, positive or negative, after they used the SOUP platform for their pitch; one person who was certainly not “in the know” about any of the things they were commenting on, but who then presumably started spreading these unfounded and baseless rumors around the “Uptowne” project.

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Londre said none of that money went toward the video.

North La Crosse Business Association president Nick Roush, who partnered with L̶o̶n̶d̶r̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶f̶i̶r̶m̶ Urbanlocity to hold a three-day brainstorming summit, said the planning phase of the project is actually under budget, and any remaining funds will go toward implementing the proposals that emerge from the report.

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Re: “Londre’s Firm” … This should read, “Lipscombe’s” firm Urbanlocity

As previously described, while I, and many others — including the Tribune and the general public — were led to believe that Lipscombe and I were genuine partners in the business known as Urbanlocity— Lipscombe later revealed to the paper that I was never a partner in the firm as I had been told I was. So, I can hardly blame the reporter in this case for getting this fact wrong initially. However, once he published a story (days later) stating that I was NOT a partner in that firm and never was, this should have been updated/corrected and brought to readers attention immediately, but never was.

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Also, context is needed here, too…

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Re: “North La Crosse Business Association president Nick Roush, who partnered with L̶o̶n̶d̶r̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶f̶i̶r̶m̶ Lipscombe’s firm Urbanlocity…”

This line fails to mention the financial relationship between Roush and Lipscombe. The following ought to have been a very obvious disclosure: In addition to being President of the North La Crosse Business Association, Roush is also Lipscombe’s landlord. Lipscombe’s other business filled a long vacant storefront owned by Roush.

While Urbanlocity appears to have been dormant for the last two+ years, Lipscombe’s other business appears to be doing just fine, which would also be good for Roush’s property development business financially.

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“From what I see the funds that came through Kickstarter have been in direct accordance with the proposal,” Roush said. “I don’t think dime one has gone to anything but that project.”

Note: This story has been updated. An earlier version incorrectly stated the amount of money redirected from the Kickstarter campaign to Ambitious Adventures. Londre announced late on Dec. 17 that he had taken out a loan for $8,500 to replenish funds used for the video. It was not immediately clear how that money would be used.

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Now that you’ve had the chance to read the “Full / Real” Story, I want to conclude by acknowledging a few things…

At this point, you may have a few — very reasonable — questions in your mind (which I have offered short answers and longer detailed answers below), like:

#1 — Why are you making these corrections and not the Tribune?

Short Answer: Because even though there are plainly evident and absolutely critical inaccuracies in the story, and even though I met privately with the Tribune’s editor and offered evidence to the Tribune to corroborate my requests for corrections and updates, when I asked the Tribune to make these corrections to the presently available online version of this story, their Editor mocked me and my request and said, “I see no corrections to be made.”

It has been my preference all along that I not be the one to bring the issues I just covered into the spotlight, because obviously I am biased. And if these issues are going to come to light and come under scrutiny and I am the only one who wants that, I would obviously want them to be brought to light by a respected and unbiased neutral party with a reach big enough to justify the risks and emotional stress and time involved with bringing this “story” back into focus. That’s why I started by going to the La Crosse PD 2+ years ago, then the DA, then various attorneys, then local “servant leadership” icons, then WKBT, then national nonprofit directors, and then finally back to the Tribune. But when every one of those far more neutral parties either said, “it’s too complex” or “that sounds awful but it’s not in our wheelhouse” or flatly rejected me, or when professional journalists at local press outlets wanted to cover the story but were rebuffed by their managers, there was no option left but to suck it up and do it myself.

This medium is far from perfect and it is far from ideal. I am not a professional journalist. I am not even a public figure any more. I just want to live a normal peaceful life, and I simply can’t do that unless I owned my truth and respected myself enough to tell it.

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The Society of Professional Journalists is clear on how ethical, professional journalists are to handle situations like these. Unfortunately, as of now, the Tribune has chosen not to follow these guiding principles.

See more thorough answer here.

#2 — Why did you wait until NOW to say something?

Short Answer: The truth is, I haven’t waited until Now to say SOMETHING.

I have tried to get the Tribune to correct their story numerous times and in a number of ways over the course of the last 2+ years — including, most recently, spending close to five hours with Tribune staff, and meeting one on one with the paper’s editor.

Using the Medium platform in the way that I have was the last option I could conceive of after having given the Tribune ample time to correct their work, for people who were involved in the story to correct what they could, and after having exhausted all other options I could possibly think of.

I have been trying, for — literally — years to get the full story out. Unfortunately, I don’t own a huge newspaper or have well connected and powerful friends, and can’t afford to hire my own PR team.

But, I still have my voice. And, I have the comfort of knowing that what I am saying is true. And that’s why I am willing to say it.

See more thorough answer here.

#3 — Didn’t you write a book that included a lot of this stuff? So is this stuff even necessary?

Short Answer: Sort of. My book was about more than this topic. Additionally, a lot has happened and changed since then. And for many additional reasons, a book just is not a good format for offering a clear side-by-side of “The story most people know” and “The full and more accurate story I know to be true”

See more thorough answer here.

#4 — Are you saying you did nothing wrong? Is that why you wrote this Medium article? To broadcast your view that you did nothing wrong?

Short Answer: Heck no! If I could do this all over again, would I change things (most things)? Absolutely! But at the time, I really was just trying to better the community I live in by supporting people’s hopes and dreams of what our community could be.

I suppose that in the moment, my passionate, youthful excitement got the better of me and led me to make choices and build relationships I wouldn’t make again if given the chance.

But, at the end of the day, supporting people’s hopes and dreams of what their community could be and should be, is what gives me purpose and fills me with life. I think that the totality if my life’s work would show that that’s true, and that despite the occasional misstep or two along the way, that my heart has always been in the right place.

I hope that people can see that I have and continue to learn from and grow from this, and I hope people can see that I did not do these things for my own benefit or with sinister intentions, but rather with the best of intentions — chief among them, to benefit the community I loved… I am sorry it didn’t always appear that way to many people.

See more thorough answer here.

#5 — What do you want people to do with the information you’ve offered about others referenced in your version of events?

Short Answer: I want to be clear what my intentions around this post most certainly are NOT… I did NOT create this post in order to precipitate any action(s) related to anyone mentioned in this post.

I had to share what I knew to be true. That was my one true intention: to share what I know to be true. With that being said, in the context of a story that involved a lot of people, that meant — inevitably — that I had to write a post that mentioned other people.

I did my best to leave emotion out of this and focus on the facts.

Do I still feel pain when I think about and talk about these past events that almost exclusively involve people who were once very close friends of mine? Of course I do. However, the pain is a particular kind: it’s the kind you feel when you relive an experience — something I try to avoid doing, but which I can’t avoid doing when writing about the experience I had years ago.

But at the end of the day, this debacle — which was born out of a community project that was conceived out of genuine love for a place that I have called home for my entire adult life — has caused enough pain already; it need not create any more for anyone else if at all possible.

At the end of the day, I made lots of mistakes and a lot of other people made mistakes. And, I would hope that despite the mistakes I made, that people can understand that that doesn’t make me a bad person. AND, if I am to hold that one simple hope, then I MUST extend that hope to everyone else — that if anyone I mentioned in this post should show the courage of acknowledging that they too made mistakes here in the SOUP Kickstarter Debacle, that people will be grateful and gracious to them for saying so, and realize that despite the mistakes they made and are acknowledging, that doesn’t mean they’re bad people, either… that includes people described in this post and many many others not mentioned in this post.

In fact, if ANYONE mentioned in this post does step up to acknowledge any mistakes they made, I will immediately add that to this post, AND I will be the first person to thank them and defend them from any unfair treatment.

See more thorough answer here.

#6 — What if someone denies details or aspects of this Medium post?

Short Answer: I hope they would reach out to me, let me know what I got wrong, ask for a correction, and if I got it wrong I would correct it.

What I have presented here and in my longer piece are the facts of the case, as best as I can recall and verify with primary source documents. However, if I got anything wrong, I want to know so I can get it corrected.

If anyone has any questions or concerns, feel free to send an email to:

SOUPKickstarterStory@gmail.com

Everyone deserves forgiveness, loving-kindness, and to be judged on an accurate depiction of the totality of their life story rather than by the occasional slip-ups they’ve made along the way. That includes me. That includes you. That includes everyone.

That’s the Real / Full Story.

And now you know.

Accomplished public servant and former elected official turned civic & cultural commentator and consultant 🔗 andrewlondre.com